Nashville Kangaroos at USAFL Nationals

The 2019 USAFL National Tournament, a.k.a. The World’s Largest Footy Tournament, is upon us again, and this year it’s bigger and better than ever. Nearly 50 teams, bringing with them thousands upon thousands of players, fans, support staff, and fans, will descend upon the scenic, lakeside vacation spot of Racine, Wisconsin, with one thing in mind: win a national premiership. Seven divisions, including two full women’s divisions, will battle it out across five ovals on Saturday and Sunday, October 13 and 14, with the champions being crowned at the closing ceremony on Sunday afternoon. The scenery promises to be breathtaking, the fellowship will be stellar, and as always, the footy will be even better.

Because teams will compete in four games over the two day period, it is not just the footy skills and fitness that are required to come out on top. Indeed, this tournament is a battle against attrition. Put simply, footy is a full contact, fast, hard hitting sport. Teams are accustomed to having a week or two weeks rest between big contests. Not the case at Nationals. You must be ready to go hard, then go harder, then again. Then tomorrow, go again, and then again. As Saturday changes over to Sunday, often the teams on top are the teams whose players have maintained their bodies across the brutal pounding.

No worries mates. Your Nashville Kangaroos are up to the task. A mob of first year Kangaroos, along with a battalion of battle tested veterans, will make the journey up to the land o lakes and cheese to take part in winning Nashville’s first National Championship in the 21 years of the club’s existence. We’ve interviewed each one of our new players so you and we can get to know them better as they earn their footy stripes at Nationals this year. We asked a battery of questions, and we got some awesome answers. Here are the basic questions:

1. How many years have you played footy?

2. How did you hear about footy?

3. What’s your sports background?

4. What’s been the biggest surprise about playing footy? Pleasant? Bad? Unexpected?

5. Where are you from?

6. Will you be returning next year?

7. What’s your best memory from this season?

8. What do you like most about playing footy?

9. Favorite post game meal?

10. Favorite post game adult beverage?

11. Pregame pump up music? Band? Song?

Without further ado, let’s meet the new Roos!

Exploding onto the scene in 2018 is the first ever Nashville Kangaroos Womens’ Squad. Heading North among our Roo sisters are the following:

Natalie Smith

1. Less than a year (3months?)
2. Found it by accident after playing a soccer game at Elmington Park
3. Played soccer since I was three and continued through to play at a D1 collegiate level
4. I fell in love! I thought it would be fun to try, but never imagined to be playing like I am today with such an awesome group of people!
5. Soddy Daisy, TN
6. Absolutely!
7. Scoring four goals in Columbus!
8. The competitiveness, the family, and of course tackling
9. Mexican (Not Carlos, hehe)
10. Gatorade
11. Anything Beyonce or hip hop music

Natalie has emerged as a first year footy prodigy, and has her eyes set firmly on making the US Freedom Squad to represent the USA at the International Cup in Australia in 2020. She definitely has the right stuff. Her skills seem as polished as a veteran, she’s fearless, and her game awareness is as good as we’ve ever seen. We are fortunate to have this lady kicking footies for the Roos!!

Alexa Roncancio

1. Less than 1!
2. Played soccer one field over and was just curious about what you guys were playing.
3. Soccer since I was 3. Played for my high school team as well as travelled for club soccer and then intramural for college.
4. How much your heels hurt at first! I have had a fair amount of injuries throughout my life but I’ve never had my heels hurt so bad when I first joined. It was so weird.
5. Springfield, IL.
6. Definitely!
7. Honestly all of the sunsets over the hills behind us at practice. Every practice was a Kodak moment and made me enjoy being there even more. It was the perfect way to end the day.
8. Being a part of something new and playing with my good friends while doing it. Being able to say you were a part of the making of the first Nashville Roo women’s team is awesome!
9. Oooo Chick-Fil-A for sure.
10. Don’t usually like drinking after a game but Blue Moon is my go to.
11. So many different ones to list, um, I’ll Find You by Lecrae ft. Tori Kelly. Anberlin, Paramore, Circa Survive. I’m an alternative rock person.

Alexa “Leka” has demonstrated that she has the skills and the mindset to be one of the best players in the country. She has excellent hands and she sees the field as if she’s been playing more than a decade. A consummate teammate, Leka makes plays that will make your jaw drop. We expect high honors for Leka now and in the future.

Lauryl Desch

Although we haven’t had a chance to sit down with Lauryl to batter her with our idiotic questions, we know enough about her having watched her execute her skills on the field. She is fearless in the contests, and her kicks and hand passes are as accurate as we’ve ever seen. No doubt Lauryl will be attracting the attention of scouts from the US Freedom squad, as are our two sisters mentioned above. We are excited and proud as can be to have these three women representing our city up in Racine this coming weekend.

Now for the first year men who will head north of the border to do battle with your Nashville Kangaroos.

Kersei Davis

1. First year
2. Getting drunk in a bar and running into big red. Talked me into it
3. Basketball, track
4. How fast pace it can be and how much technique is involved without the ball.
5. Northern Illinois (no, not Chicago)
6. Absolutely
7. Buffalo Ben
8. Meeting great people
9. Chicken and broccoli
10. Cold beer
11. “Win” by J Rock

Kers has set the bar high for first year players. Despite having very little contact sports in his background, he has demonstrated a love for the physicality of the game of footy. Superior athletic skills and intelligence has lifted Kers’ game from exciting in the beginning of the season, to spectacular as the season has gone on. Representatives from the US Revolution (the US Representative mens’ team for the 2020 International Cup in Australia) have their collective eye on this fella. He promises to make waves in Racine this year. We believe him.

Nicholas Hibshman

1. This is my first year playing for Nashville, but I played for about 6 months when I studied abroad in Australia.
2. My brother taught in Australia for a while, and that where I heard about it. I also played when I studied abroad later.
3. Mostly football and baseball through high school.
4. How out of shape I am. Definitely unpleasant, though not entirely surprising.
5. lkhart, Indiana - Land of Sadness and RVs
6. 100%
7. Winning the 1% award in Cincinatti and ending up with two 64 oz margaritas
8. The camaraderie and getting out and being active.
9. A ton of water, I’m usually not hungry, just really thirsty.
10. Yazoo Gerst, or just whatever beer is around
11. “Coming of Age” by E-Dubble

Nick has been an amazing acquisition for the Roos. Having spent time in Australia, he’s learned the game from the people who do it the best. Throughout the year he has demonstrated sticky hands and an uncanny ability to be where he needs to be to contribute. Nic always seems to be the catalyst for good things on the field. That means he kicks ass. Great to have Nick on board for Racine.

Caleb Von Hammerstein

1. 2018 will be my 1st season playing.
2. The National kangaroos president invited me out for tryouts.
3. Baseball mostly. I was 7 when I made the Allstar Team. Played it all the way through up to the collegiate level until I threw out my arm as a pitcher.
4. The wide age range in most clubs, definitely unexpected.
5. Family origins are Scandinavian and German, But I was born in Tennessee.
6. Yep.
7. My worst memory? Clearing the ball to the out of the the wrong end. We won the game but still…
8. The physicality of the sport, the skill level needed to play at higher levels, the teammates definitely.
9. Is this a PG rated interview? If not, then it would have to be chicken ‘n dumplings with apple or pumpkin pie, depending on the season.
10. Extra dirty Russian vodka martini with three extra large cream cheese stuffed olives
11. Motley Crue, Kickstart My Heart

Hammer has a physical presence that is nearly unmatched in the entire country. Imposing height, strength, and intensity are the hallmarks of his first year game. He has shown flashes of dominance, and once he gets going, no one in the country can stop him. He’s one of the most competitive blokes we’ve ever encountered, and he is destined to be one of the best in the entire country. Hammer is one of those guys you may see in a USA team jumper in 2020. Stay tuned folks!

Carlos “Taco” Villicana

We haven’t been able to sit down with Tacoman to get the interview done, since he’s been on holiday down in the Redneck Riviera. But no worries, because we already know him well enough based on his efforts on the training and playing fields. Carlos has a strong background in soccer, which has helped him develop one of the biggest kicks out of fullback in the entire league. Match that 60 meter leg with sure hands, good strong, physical presence, with a nastiness that is the envy of every defender and the fear of every full forward, and you’ve got one of the best full backs in the league. We are fortunate to have Tacoman thwarting forwards for us in Racine this year.

Steve Van de Kamp

Steve has been abroad as of late, as he and his lovely new bride Samantha were recently married in his homeland of Tasmania. While he was flying across the world with his lovely new wife, we were unable to sit down and interview him for this article. But that’s ok because Steve is no greenhorn at this game. Hailing from Tazzy, he grew up playing footy, and is a strong player and leader on the team. His contributions to this year’s campaign have been too many to list. We know he will continue to dazzle up in Racine. Congrats on the nuptials, Stevey and Sam!

Colin “Stitch” Fulgenzi

Colin, like Steve, has been lucky enough to avoid us for our terrible interview process, but for reasons quite different from Steve. At the home game where your Roos beat the Cincinnati team to a figurative pulp, Colin injured his hand in a bizarre fashion. Catching a footy that must have been kicked by Superman, the football split Colin’s hand open upon impact, nearly ripping two fingers apart. The gash required a bunch of stitches to close. Hence the nickname “Stitch.” Gnarly! But in true Kangaroo fashion, Colin has rehabbed the injury, and is ready to make a HUGE contribution to the National Championship effort. He’s fearless and he’s fearsome. Glad to have him on our side up there this weekend

Cody McLain

Last but certainly not least among first year players for your Roos is Cody McLain. He’s very new to the sport, having only played in a couple of games this season. But team admins knew that he had the right stuff for the sport and the team at first blush. The guy jumps like a tiger and catches footballs like a giant venus flytrap on steroids and meth. In short, the guy has the goods. We’ve seen what he can do in small doses this year. He has an opportunity to emerge as a star this weekend. Trust me, you’ll see his name all over the place. He’s a major asset to the team and will figure deeply into the quest for the club’s first premiership title.

That does it for first year Roos attending the USAFL National Tournament up in Racine this weekend. A motley crew indeed.

And here are your mean, nasty, gritty, handsome, fit, skilled, and FOCUSED veteran Roos who will be anchoring the effort to hoist a cup up in Racine:

Joel Thornton

Joel is the rock upon which the house of the Kangaroos is built this year. He’s Mr. Everything on the field, and it’s high time we say so. When we win the title, it will be largely because of his skills, stamina, and intensity. 21 career games played for your Nashville Kangaroos.

David “Frosty” Harris

Frosty has seen a few of these tournaments come and go over nearly a decade of playing 94 career games for your Kangaroos. He says this year is different because we are HUNGRY, loose, and focused. To win a premiership, the Roos must play shutdown defense. That’s Frosty’s game. He’s a nasty physical presence in the back half of the field, and he’s known to be one of the best and hardest tacklers in the country. As Captain, he says he has a plan that will lock the Roos in this year, and that he does not plan to leave Wisconsin without a trophy. He’s not kidding. Lead on El Capo!

Tim Dunn

Tim has one of the biggest kicks in the league, and having had some significant play time in Australia, his footy smarts are unparalleled. He sees the field like a raptor sees its prey, and he can goal from anywhere near the 60 meter mark and in. A consummate teammate and leader on the field, he is a key part of any hope we Roos have to get that title. As goes Tim, so goes us Roos. Heading into Nationals, Tim has played 34 career games for your Nashville Kangaroos. Get it Timmy!!

Damian “Damo” Serong

How does one describe a legend in just a handful of words? Simple answer. One doesn’t even try. Damo has kicked hundreds upon hundreds of goals back in his homeland of Australia, and right here in the US for the Nashville Kangaroos as well. He is a large, looming presence in the full forward area, and he catches footballs as if his hands were slathered in glue, and as if he had 14 arms. If Damo kicks a goal in Racine, he will kick 20. He’s played 62 career games for your Roos, and he just keeps getting better. To you we shall deliver the ball Damo. You do the rest. Get up!

Jeff “Peeps” Persson

While we’re discussing legends, let’s go ahead and discuss another one. Peeps has assumed the role of coach of the men and women Roo teams this year, and has done an outstanding job. He has played the game for more than 20 years, has played AND officiated in Australia, and accordingly has seen just about everything footy related under the sun. Heading into Nationals, Peeps – at 202 games - is second only to Wee Man Vsetecka in career games played for the Roos. On top of all that, he’s still a highly skilled player on the field, and always finds a way to contribute when we need it the most.

Dee “Wee Man” Vsetecka

Yet another legend on the 2018 Kangaroos Nationals roster. Wee has played this game for more than 20 years, and has played at the highest level here in the States, AND over in Australia in the International Cup. In fact, heading into this year’s Nationals, he’s the Kangaroo with the most career games ever played at 205. Incredible! He’s fast, he’s strong, he’s skilled, and he’s so full of knowledge of the sport, he’s like a general on the field. He knows footy. He plays like a legend because he is one.

Saul Camarena

Saul is a second year player who came to the Roos with a deep background in soccer. It’s obvious that he was very good in soccer once we saw that he can kick the footy 60 meters and more. He has amazingly good hands, and he’s strong enough to take down the biggest, fastest opponents out there. Saul can play in all three areas of the oval: back, mids, forwards; and he is among the best in the country in each. Like his mate Carlos, Saul enjoys a nice taco or nine before, after, and during the game. Saul has competed in 17 career games for the Nashville Kangaroos.

Logan Monday

Logan is back with the Roos after some years serving the cause of GOOD in the Peace Corps. Although full of peace and tranquility having seen many parts of the world that most of us will never see, he is also a fierce, competitive monster on the footy oval. He has quickly become one of (perhaps the) most dynamic player on the field at any given time, and if he gets anywhere near the ball, the ball is going our way. The man is fast, strong, and skilled. Match that with his intensity, and you have one of the very best American players in the country. Watch him in the middle this weekend. You won’t be sorry. Hard to believe this bloke has only played 12 career games with the Roos, considering he’s already one of the country’s best. The sky’s the limit!

Maurice “Mo” Howell

Mo unfortunately significantly injured his Achilles tendon in the game against Cincy. We mourn the loss for many reasons. First, we hate to see any of our brothers or sisters take such a heavy injury. Second, Mo was likely our best and most vaunted player heading into the National Tournament. He will be with your Roos in body and spirit, although he will be assisting with coaching duties from the sidelines. No doubt having him there will be a huge difference maker, as he pushes the players to be better than themselves. Mo, we’d love to have ya in boots out there on the oval, but we love having you there with us on the sidelines just as much. We love you mate.

Alex “Lilo” Dreifke

Alex, like Logan, has become one of the most dynamic players on the team and in the entire country. He’s strong and fast, and he’s fearless in pursuit of the ball. He will be anchoring the middle of the field for your Roos this weekend, and he will almost certainly be around or with the ball every time you have a look. He’s an excellent teammate, and he has a motor that has never stopped across his 12 career games with the Roos. We wish we had a dozen Alexes, but we know he’s one of a kind. With his best effort this weekend, that giant cup is coming home to Nashville. Alex got his nickname by way of being good buds with Colin “Stitch” Fulgenzi. We may be rough and tough footy thugs on the outside, but we’re just a bunch of Disney-hearted softies on the inside. GO LILO and STITCH!

Eric Toepfer

Eric has had to overcome a lot of injury adversity this year, but it hasn’t showed in his skill level. He’s blossomed into a gun forward, with a ridiculously strong kick and hands that catch everything near him. Add that to his tall timber status and you have a force to be reckoned with. Indeed, if he performs like he has in his best efforts this year, he will definitely be a major factor in your Roos hoisting that premiership cup. Heading into Nationals Eric has 36 career games played for your Roos.

Phil “Two Foot Phil” Lavis

Phil is an Aussie who’s been around the game for his entire life. He’s tall, tall timber, and is a threat to goal from anywhere in the forward area. He’s what’s known colloquially as a ‘goal sneak,’ which means he will creep up on defenders and snatch one up and dink in through before anyone knows what happened. That there is skill my friends. Phil will kick a bag of goals for your Roos this year as they lay claim to that premiership. Phil has 15 career games under his belt with your Nashville Roos.

Brad “Chambo” Chamberlain

Chambo has battled a few injuries this year, which isn’t uncommon for someone who plays as physically as he does. He’s become a feared defender in the league, and his footy skills and intelligence have grown by leaps and bounds. He’s never far from the action, and he’s at his best under fire from the opponents’ best gun. There’s no one in the league Chambo can’t defend. Glad to have him wrecking guys in the backlines this year. Heading into Racine, Chambo has played 19 career games for your Roos.

Gilberto “Chimi” Ortiz

Yet another storied veteran of nearly 20 years and 76 career games played with your Roos. Chimi is the ultimate goal sneak, as he plays low to the ground and crumbs ground balls better than any player we’ve ever seen. His lateral quickness can leave defenders looking foolish, and his hands and feet are weapons. Put him in the forwards beneath our tall timber and you’re guaranteed at least 3 goals per game.

Brian Domin

Brian cuts an impressive figure on the oval, and we have used him effectively in nearly every area of the game. He’s been an indomitable ruckman, he’s been a killer full forward, and he’s been equally good as a defender. The guy has pure athletic talent, and his skillset has grown immensely over the past few years. You may see Brian in any area of the field this weekend, and no doubt, wherever he is, the opponents better find him lest they pay the price. Brian has played in 18 career games with your Kangaroos.

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