The Washington Junior Australian Football Club took its next first step on Saturday. The Club hosted the DC Eagles in a game of AFLX at Yorktown High School in Arlington VA. With a team made up mostly of teenagers, many of whom are growing up in the USA, the Washington Juniors took on the DC Eagles, a local adult team led by former Collingwood player, Danny Seow. In weather that was more like winter in the home of footy, Melbourne Australia, than summer in Washington DC, the Juniors came within 1 point of upsetting the Eagles.
Prior to the big game, players from the DC Eagles and Washington Juniors helped coach the AFL Auskick program, Saturday Morning Footy. The Saturday Morning Footy program began in 2006 when Junior's captain, CJ Adams, was just six years old. A small but determined group braved the rain to participate in sharks and minnows, specky practice and a non-contact match. As it was the last session of the year, we also had a raffle and Duck Donuts! Big thanks to the Hawthorn Football Club for donating a litho signed jersey and the Washington Nationals Baseball club for donating ticket vouchers.
AFLX is 7v7 with modified rules including no marks from backward kicks, last touch out of bounds, and basketball jumpballs. Saturday's game was played on a regulation American football field with the 25 yard line donating the attacking and defending areas. Kicks from outside the 25 were worth 10 points.
The Juniors got out of the blocks quickly with attacking play from Adams and Jasper Knight. Unfortunately, the early kicks went astray. The Juniors reveled in the wet conditions, getting numbers to the ball and generally clean possessions off the ground. Brothers Hugo and Luka Byrne kept up the forward pressure. The Eagles hit back hard with big kicks from some of their stars like Ryan Kamauff and former North Carolina Tiger Mike Hoffman. The Juniors inexperienced showed as the defense got pulled into the contest, leaving them exposed when the Eagles were able to turn the ball over. Big Harry Griffiths and former Albany Danes forward, Sam Rowley, dropped back to sure-up the Juniors defense. Despite some issues, the half ended with the Juniors only 4 points behind.
The second half saw the Juniors take the lead with a great goal from Knight. Even thought the Juniors were playing way out of their weight class, they pressured the Eagles with the ball and provided teammates with excellent shepherds. The Eagles had Coach Danny Seow playing loose in defense. Seow was able to slow the Juniors attack and allow the Eagles to reload. With both sides peppering the goals, the game went right down to the wire. At the end, the Eagles were able to hold on to a 1 point lead.
Big thank you to field umpire, Tom "T-Bone" Barrett, and goal umpires, Steven Carty and Jason Sherlock.
Thank you to Coaches Matty Byrne, Sam Rowley and Mike Gilbart and huge thank you to the DC Eagles men's team.