After two years of sub-regional tournaments due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it was great to be a part of a robust 2022 USAFL CENTRAL REGIONAL TOURNAMENT again. Fourteen teams were represented in Minneapolis, Minnesota across the weekend, and your Nashville Kangaroos made their presence felt and proved the 2021 National Championship was no fluke.
The sky was crystal clear, and the Sun was already high in the sky upon the morning arrival at the exquisite ground. The air was electrified as the hundreds of players, supporters, and admins began to mill about, having a kick or a hand to warm up. This day held the promise of some intense, exquisite footy, and it did not disappoint. The flavor of the day for the Nashville side was never give up. It’ll be clear why that was the flavor as you read on.
Match 1 - Des Moines Roosters
Your Kangaroos, who added several guns from the Chicago Swans Football Club to elevate numbers (the SwanneRoos), began the day with a morning tilt against a formidable Des Moines Roosters side. Des Moines were key for payback as they'd lost a tight game to the Roos during the 2021 National Tournament. Indeed, the Roosters came out hot, and slotted a couple of points before your Kangaroos had a chance to even assess the context. But it didn’t take long to even out. Back came your Kangaroos in a frenzy of goals, going up just before the half.
The second half slowed a bit in pace, but not in intensity. Hard hits were the hallmark of the second half, with bone crushing tackles, bumps, and good old fashioned hard contests at the ball. If you know anything about Nashville footy, you know that THAT is exactly our wheelhouse. With 2 minutes to go to the final siren, the Roosters had gone up by a score of 20-17. As time began to tick down to the end of the contest, your Kangaroos refused to give up. Battling hard down in the offensive zone, Des Moines kept turning away chance after chance, until with only a minute left to go, your Kangaroos sent one through the major posts, and as the ball came back to center for the Roosters’ last chance, the Kangaroo defense stiffened, and rejected their last three tries. Nashville 22, Des Moines 20! The day was just getting started.
Match 2 - Austin Crows
Next up for the boys from Nashville was the team known as the Beast in the USAFL: the Crows of Austin. With some of the best talent, numbers, and coaching in the league, it’s no small wonder why the Crows are accustomed to smashing pretty much any team that sits in their path to tournament victory. Your Kangaroos were in their path that day. And your Kangaroos were not there to be smashed.
Through the first twenty minutes of play, the tide ran sure and strong in both directions. The Crows would connect to their tall and very talented full forward Nolan Cox, who is the brother of AFL’s star forward Mason Cox, and likewise your Kangaroos found lots of daylight out of the middle and flank areas, enough to keep the score tight. At the end of the first half the Crows were ahead by 2 points. This alone is a statement of strength, that your Kangaroos were in a heavyweight battle with likely the best team in the country, and not only were they not backing down, they were in position to win the match.
The second half was brutal and aggressive as both teams sensed important things were happening on opposite ends of the spectrum. Austin, feeling the heat of your Kangaroos coordinated offensive and defensive efforts, looked at the scoreboard with 6 minutes to go, and saw that there was only 4 points separating the clubs. FOUR POINTS. Accordingly, their efforts jumped to DEFCON-5 to repel the approaching earthquake of an upset. Your Kangaroos, realizing that they were about to make history, elevated their game as well.
Crushing tackles, hard shepherds, and absolute gutting physical efforts were everywhere in those closing minutes, and unfortunately two of your Kangaroos’ significant players went down with injuries, rendering them unable to return. Despite the loss, your Kangaroos never gave up and kept the pressure and heat on the Crows as the minutes kept shrinking. Although only 4 points separated the clubs with 6 minutes to go to the final siren, the Crows were able to put on a very late rally, and slotted a final score of 47-21. Big respect to the Crows for holding steady and getting the win. MUCH bigger love and respect to your Nashville Kangaroos for the extraordinary effort, and for never giving up.
Match 3 - Oklahoma Buffaloes
The final match of the day saw your Kangaroos take on the Oklahoma Buffaloes. By that time the heat had caught up with all the players, and both teams suffered several personnel losses due to injury, fatigue, and heat injuries. But for those who could still walk, it was on. The match was marked by the Buffaloes going up early, and by a lot. The first break saw the Buffaloes taking it to your Kangaroos, while the Roos tried to get a grip on the flow of play. Even into the second half, your Roos just couldn’t catch a break. Giving all credit to the Buffaloes, who added players from the Houston Lonestars club, yet your Kangaroos were just looking for a spark.
With about 10 minutes to go in the game, the Buffaloes were up by 16 points. And through sheer determination and grit, your Roos kept up the pressure on offense. Slotting minor after minor after minor goal… it finally happened. Spark. BOOM. A beautiful sprinting cross body kick by one of our Swanneroo mates from 40m away THROUGH THE MIDDLE! Ball back to center. Won from the middle, your Roos send it down again, and with disregard for their own safety, sanity and otherwise, BANG another major. The Buffaloes were now feeling what the Crows and earlier the Roosters had felt: Nashville does not give up, ever. And we did not.
With one minute to go, the ball goes up. The Buffaloes sat at 32 points, while your Kangaroos were at 29. The Buffaloes win the toss up, and penetrated down into their offensive zone. Desperate defensive efforts and tactics finally rejected their push, and your Roos were able to send it up the boundary as only seconds remained. Hands to hands, kick to kick, the ball found the ready hands of our best SwanneRoo mate, who found himself under high and heavy pressure as he raced past the 50m arc and toward the goal. Unaware of how many ticks were left on the clock, your Roos gave voice and heart as he approached… KICK! KICK! KICK! HOT! HOT! HOT!
Perfect drop, perfect line, head down, the ball goes off his boot and toward the goal. As it flew through the air, all seemed to go silent, except for the siren. As the loud shriek of the horn called, the ball never wavered and flew directly through the middle of the major posts. As our best SwanneRoo mate was mobbed by his 20 or so guernsey brothers, the scoreboard changed to: Your Kangaroos 35, the Buffaloes 32.
What a game! What an effort! What a tournament!
This is why we play footy. This is Nashville Kangaroo Football.