After a tumultuous day of travel full of delays, being lost in the airport, some questionable fish and chips, and a late night scurry for food, the Arizona Hawks and Lady Hawks set their eyes on a 12 hour onslaught of matches in both Division 1 and 2 of the men’s competition, as well as the women’s division at the USAFL Western Regional Championship held in Sacramento, CA. Unfortunately, the Hawks were unable to field a complete side and instead sent players to San Diego (Div 1), Portland (Div 2), Sacramento (Women), and Golden Gate (Women). These opportunities to form relationships with other clubs and get experience at a high level of competition is important for the long-term development for the Hawks as they grow as a club. The trip out to California can be seen as a success for the Hawks nonetheless as they walked away with laughs, a heightened sense of comradery, and most importantly, wins.
Division 1 – San Diego Lions:
Barry, Dan, James, PJ, and Matt had the opportunity to play for the San Diego Lions in the Division 1 competition. This is the first taste of Division 1 for the Hawks in several years, and while high paced and intense, the boys enjoyed their time playing against some of the best teams in the country. First came the defending National Champion Golden Gate Roos. While the scoreline was not pretty, the lads held their own. The second game didn’t get much easier as San Diego took on the LA Dragons (runner-up National Champions). Unfortunately, the game ended in another loss. In the final game, the Lions defeated the Seattle Grizzlies in a hard fought and chirpy contest. Leaving on a high was fantastic for the guys who went out there and busted their gut against stiff competition. Barry, Dan, and James showed exactly what hustle and heart are all about. PJ and Matt, welcome to footy!
Division 2 – Portland Steelheads (SteelHawks):
The Portland Steelheads teamed up with the Hawks to form a super team; the SteelHawks. After three fantastic games, Pony, Alex, Greg, Justin, Ryan, Travis, and Dad (Darren) walked away as champions of Division 2. We are so unbelievably proud of the effort the boys put in across the day. Pony once again dominated the ruck contests, with Greg, Justin, and Travis dominating the competition with their size. Alex was able to be a little seagull in the forward line, snapping up crumbs left and right. After countless weeks of hard work, Ryan showed off his progress on one of the biggest stages with many complimenting his kicking ability. All in all, this was an amazing chance to see some of the newer players take on some good sides and walk away with the cup. This is what the Hawks will look to build on moving forward. It was a pleasure to watch the boys in Division 2, as they showed what footy is all about; having fun.
Women’s Division – Sacramento and Golden Gate:
Melissa, Dani, and Olivia teamed up with the Sacramento Suns for their games, while Angel, Casey, Cassie, and Leigh played with the Golden Gate Iron Maidens. All of the girls played exceptionally well (seriously, we were getting compliments all day about it) against some established and well-developed teams. Even though Melissa ended the day with a black eye, all of the girls should be proud of everything they accomplished. The Sacramento Suns went 1-2 while the Iron Maidens went 2-1 with their loss coming in the Championship game against Portland/LA. The Lady Hawks are putting together a strong team and this tournament just made them that much stronger. The hope is to see a full-strength women’s team here soon so that the rest of the league can see what the club has witnessed at every practice this season.
Everyone involved played with pride, integrity, grit, and determination. A big thank you goes out to all that took the trip out to Sacramento represent the Hawks. It was fantastic watching everyone get after it on the field, and then turn around and support their teammates in their games. This club is being built on respect and camaraderie and this trip further strengthened these principles. The next contest will be under the lights against the San Diego Lions in September, and then it’s on to Racine for Nationals!