Challenges for the Kangaroos at USAFL National Tournament
The Nashville Kangaroos will travel to the 2017 USAFL National Tournament determined to win the Division 3 championship. First they must win Pool A for the opportunity to play the winner of Pool B in the final.
Pool A includes an opponent from each USAFL region: the Seattle Grizzlies from the Western Region, Philadelphia Hawks from the Eastern Region, and the Columbus Jackaroos from the Central Region. The Columbus Jackaroos played in Division 1 of the 2017 Eastern Regional Tournament rather than playing Nashville at the Central Regional Tournament, while the Hawks were in Division 2 at Eastern Regionals, further obscuring comparisons.
Top seed Seattle have ascended the ladder over the last couple of years by recruiting very well. They are bringing two men’s teams to Nationals; the Grizzlies’ top team will take the field against the Kangaroos, and they have an entire Division 4 team keen to be called up.
Watch for Max DePina, who developed remarkably quickly after joining the Grizzlies in 2014. DePina drew the attention of Australian football journalists when playing for the USA Revolution at the 2017 International Cup. With his elite speed and high marking ability, DePina can dominate a wing. Kiel Rasp, the former Washington Huskies punter, is another former Revo selection the Roos will need to curb.
The Grizzlies strong forward line helped them win Division 2 at the 2017 Western Regional Tournament with a high-scoring style of play.
Philadelphia are another improving team. Although they’ve had ups and downs, their 2017 season includes their first win in Boston over the Boston Demons, and a recent win over Div 1 team Baltimore-Washington in Baltimore. Jon Loring, the longest-tenured American coach in the USAFL, is a very athletic and skillful player who has pulled on the USA Revolution jersey.
Philly’s Ryan McGettigan has a ton of high-level experience, representing the US with the USA Revolution since 2009, including the 2017 International Cup. McGettigan will be particularly hard to match up as he plays smart and can contribute from any position on the field.
Veteran defender Pat Miller leads a strong, underrated defence, along with notable veterans Bradd Gower and Chris Casey.
The Columbus Jackaroos have been consistently strong Division 2 performers from the time they took the championship in 2013 to their runner-up result last year. The absence of a couple of key players has led them to Division 3 for Nationals despite their strong Division 1 performance at Eastern Regionals.
US Revolution player Clyde Simpson will return to the Jacks after finishing the footy season in Australia. Simpson is one of the of the most physical players in the USAFL, with a huge motor and the ability to make the right decision in close quarters.
The Nashville Kangaroos have played the Jackaroos often, this year going down by 27 points at the John Harrell Cup in Louisville back in May. More recently, several Kangaroos visited Columbus in July to help Division 2 team Chicago Swans give the Jacks a thrashing, an event that the Jackaroos will be determined to avenge. Plenty has changed since May, but the return of Simpson might be the spark that Columbus needs.
The Kangaroos are training hard to overcome these challenges and win their way to a fourth game, the USAFL National Championship Division 3 game on Sunday, October 22.