The Los Angeles Dragons headed down I-5 for the weekend to San Diego for the annual USAFL Nationals. For the first time all season, the Dragons were boasting two full sides in the men’s — one in Division 1 and another in Division 4 — while also fielding a women’s side.
The boys from LA managed to snag their first 3-0 Division One performance in the pool stages at Nationals, winning a dogfight over the New York Magpies by only one point, while also posting a massive 44-point thumping of the Baltimore Washington Eagles and a 25-point victory of Austin, the reigning USAFL premiers. The Dragons were coming into the D1 Grand Final on Sunday afternoon with a ton of positive momentum but were unable to finish the job, falling to the Golden Gate Roos by a final score of 6.4.40 to 2.1.13. Despite leading by a goal at the main break the boys ran out of puff to fall one win short of history. It was a tough pill to swallow after an incredible effort all around from all of the boys, but we know we’ve built an awesome foundation for 2018 and beyond.
Some of the honorable mentions in the Dragons’ D1 included our own Pat Nicholls (Tournament MVP) as well as captain Chris Bagot, ruck Donald Lee, forward Justin Hall, and Coach Justin Kenna, who battled as hard as anyone all day despite dealing with persistent ankle problems. Robert Descant was rock solid as usual in defence, while the Hitch brothers, Matt and Ryan, were up to their usual form in the midfield. Club veterans David Dollar and Joe Silvio were featured in more utility-type roles suited to their athleticism, and they both came through effectively, with Dollar crumbing to the ball up in the forward line and Silvio making some ferocious tackles. Sam Murphy — sporting a black eye from Saturday’s action — worked tirelessly in the Grand Final, as did plenty of others such as Gary Green, Gabe Martin del Campo, Paul Ioakim, Chase Bryant, Lachie Macpherson, Chris Salvatore, Paul Jackson, and Cam Freeman.
In Division 4, the Dragons again had an ambition schedule, featuring the reserve squads from Austin, the Baltimore Washington Eagles, and Seattle. In the end, the D4 Dragons finished with a 1-2 record, beating Seattle and falling to both the Eagles and Crows. Co-captained by James Drummond and Trevor Osterholm, the Dragons reserves were a hard-running side who used clever ball movement and relentless pressure to harass opponents.
Some notable players who were influential in D4 play were Dennis Boyle, Chuck Stumpf, Karl Unterlechner, Matt Morgan, and Darrin Olsen. Drummond also took a courageous mark in the game against Austin that led to a nice goal, and club leader Srinand Yalamanchilli played through injury to be an effective target on the ground. The Dragons were also pleased to welcome back Chris Adams, a founding member of the club who came out of retirement for Nationals.
The Dragons women, as coached by David Morrow and Andy Moulden, were competing in their first ever Nationals. With not enough numbers for a full squad, the Dragons were combining with ladies’ players from Des Moines, Arizona, and San Francisco, among others. The Dragons came out and gave a great effort in each contest, scoring a 31-point win over the Houston Lonestars, as well as the Baltimore Washington Eagles and the Columbus Jackaroos. The Dragons’ lone loss was to a very competitive Portland Sockeyes team who were the undefeated champions of the competition.
The Dragons’ most veteran players, Lani Silvio and Aileen Yoon, were consistently around the ball and gave a spirited effort in every game, while Shayla Chalker, Yui and Arizona’s Melissa Armstrong were also vital to the squad’s success.
Congrats to the Dragons women on a great season — a 3-1 record at Nationals in their first year of existence is certainly something to get excited about!
Once again, we’re disappointed to not be D1 champs, but 2017 has been a season to remember for many reasons. We’re also deeply grateful for everyone who made the trip down for the weekend to see us in action. Whether it was players’ wives or girlfriends, former Dragons, or family members, it truly means the world to all of us at the Dragons. We couldn’t survive and thrive as a footy club without all the support we get week in and week out.
A big thanks to all sponsors who assisted with the strong financial position the club is in including Gerbrudder Weiss, Zanity USA, Busby’s West Santa Monica, Hard Korr Lighting, ID Athletic & Del Playa Tax Services for their financial support in 2018.
With a strong foundation of both American and Aussie athletes, a great core of SoCal supporters and a growing women’s program, there’s plenty of reasons to get around the LA Dragons in 2018!