The 2018 season began in earnest this past weekend with the inaugural Rob Dollar Cup in Tempe, Arizona. Twenty players participated as the Los Angeles metro sides (Sharks and Outlaws) in the cup, which was named in honor of former LA and Arizona player Rob Dollar, who tragically passed away last October.
With games running all afternoon on two separate fields, the Dollar Cup was played in the new AFLX format — seven-on-seven on a rectangular field, with shorter halves and unlimited bench rotations (among other modifications). Both the Sharks and the Outlaws had ambitious schedules, playing three games apiece before culminating in the tournament’s grand final.
The first action for the Sharks was at 1 pm, when they took on the Las Vegas Gamblers. While there was a bit of a learning curve in the first half due to the unique AFLX rules, the Sharks moved the ball better down the stretch. Late inclusion Jake Ryan used his toughness and footy IQ to boot a handful of goals moving through the midfield, while also setting up Justin Hall for plenty of shots in the forward line.
Despite sweltering desert conditions, the Sharks kept their foot on the accelerator in the second half. Team captain Paul Ioakim turned in a scrappy performance alongside hard-nosed American Joe Silvio in the midfield. In the backline, James Drummond was useful in defense on the Gamblers’ small forwards, while recruit Ryan Lorseyedi showed plenty of promise in his LA debut. Helped by a couple of “zuper” goals (another AFLX invention), the Sharks coasted to victory number one, defeating Vegas by a score of 10.16.76 to 2.3.15.
Up next were the Outlaws, facing the Oklahoma Footy Club. Key forward Pat Nicholls picked up right where he left off in last year’s Nationals, when he was named best on ground. Nicholls took plenty of high-flying marks and kicked several goals as the Outlaws took an early lead. With Chris Bagot and Paul Jackson patrolling the backline, Oklahoma found it difficult to get many contested marks. Meanwhile, the Outlaw midfield featured a wealth of experience, including David Dollar, Aussie recruit Nathan O’Brien, and Freddy Schulin, who missed the majority of the 2017 season with shoulder problems. In the end, LA cruised to a big win.
At 3 PM, it was a battle of Outlaws — LA vs Arizona. The hosting Outlaws boasted a quality midfield, but it was no match for the boys from LA. Schulin, Dollar, and O’Brien dominated the clearances and disposals, moving the footy forward effectively and quickly. While Nicholls kicked a bag again, it was far from a one-man show. Small forward Billy McGovern took pressure off Nicholls and booted a pair of goals himself, as did David Dollar, who received roars from the crowd after going back-to-back in the second half. American veterans Andrew Loewen and Lukas ‘Fridge’ Golson also made the most of their possessions. The LA Outlaws won in a rout, 14.12.96 to 1.0.6.
The Sharks were up next, playing the Arizona Hawks at 3:40. The trio of Ryan, Hall and Ioakim proved to be a big factor in the first half again, kicking the first several goals of the contest to march out to another early lead. Darrin Olsen, Rick Shaibani and Paul ‘Chooka’ Francis provided a spark off the bench for LA, while Silvio shined again in the midfield. Ruckman Donald Lee showed excellent ball skills in the game while battling a rib injury, and also played a few minutes up forward when needed. The Hawks didn’t quit, kicking a couple of late goals to make things interesting, but the Sharks prevailed once more, 13.12.90 to 6.4.37.
The Outlaws had to re-group quickly in order to take on the undefeated Austin Crows, who had already chalked up big wins over Oklahoma and the Arizona Hawks. The Crows’ height and ball skills proved to be formidable against the Outlaws, and a back-and-forth affair ensued. The LA backline worked tirelessly in numerous marking contests, never letting Austin get too comfortable. But ultimately, the Crows prevailed by 19 points, securing a grand final berth in the process.
The Sharks had a ton to play for in Game Three, with a spot in the grand final on the line. This time, the opponent was the Arizona Outlaws, who showed plenty of aggression around the footy. Helped by some sharp handballing and defensive pressure, the Sharks managed to hold onto another late lead, winning 9.12.66 to 6.6.42 and punching their ticket to the grand final.
The Sharks-Crows grand final was hotly contested from the very first ball-up. The Crows’ long and athletic forward line was difficult to contain, but the Sharks never gave up. The trio of Ryan, Ioakim and Hall was influential as per usual, taking advantage of opportunities to punch the ball forward and kick long. Unfortunately, a valiant effort in harsh conditions wasn’t quite enough, and the Crows took home the grand final with a 42-point win.
Despite the end results for both the Outlaws and Sharks, there were many positive things to take from the weekend. Both LA metro teams will officially begin the SCAFL season next Sunday, May 13th in Riverside.
The club would like to thank the Arizona Outlaws and Arizona Hawks for hosting us. We are also extremely grateful to the many footy supporters who made the weekend trip from LA in order to support us, as well as the Dollar family and the Rob Dollar Foundation.