For the first time at the International Cup, the United States will be sending two womens sides to take part – the Freedom and the Liberty. I had a brief chat with their coach Leigh Barnes about how preparations are coming along.
Leigh Barnes is originally from Tasmania, where he was a champion full forward (kicking 100+ in a season twice) with Burnie and North Launceston, as well as playing three games for the state. Barnes would go on to play for a number of clubs in Queensland, where also played for the state before moving to America where he was the founding President of the Golden Gate Australian Football League in San Franciso.
Leigh has been coaching the Freedom since the 2011 International Cup. The Freedom finished third behind Ireland and Canada that year.
The USA sends two womens teams to its games with Canada, and both countries are sending two womens teams to the cup. This will bolster numbers with several countries expected to have teams unable to get teams up – the New Zealand program not quite up to speed, and the New Guinea side unable to get funding.
While the US players are funding the trip themselves, Leigh says that they had no trouble filling the teams up.
The US Womens teams will comprised of about 49 players, and with staff will have a touring party of 60 or more. Leigh says that there are rules regarding teams mixing during the tournament, but much is still to be worked out.
For those who remember the footballers of the eighties – The US midfield coach is none other than John Ironmonger, formerly of East Perth, Sydney and Fitzroy.
Selection for the side comes from 6-8 full womens sides, comprising about 120 players. Final numbers are cut down through the training camp, and then the National championships. The US teams will have no players based in Australia. A team listing can be found here
The Freedom played the Canadian women at the 49th Parallel Cup in Edmonton last year with the Canadians scoring a convincing win. Leigh said he told the girls that everyone has a bad day, and importantly they learnt from the experience.
Leigh expects the Irish Banshees to be the team to beat, with the Canadian Northwind seeded second, and the US third. Newcomers Fiji and Tonga are unknown quantities, while the Australian Indigenous side wont be reappearing.
While the Cup womens draw hasnt been released yet, hopefully the US teams aren’t drawn to play each other as they share coaches, and Leigh says they are flat out as it is. Having two teams will have some advantages, particularly in training and practice.
Leigh says the benefits of being involved in the International Cup are huge. Its a massive experience for the team. In 2011, the Freedom were involved with Collingwood, Sydney and Carlton, and Barnes is hoping to replicate the experience in August – Carlton at least should be finals free!. The women also receive tremendous support from local womens football groups in Australia.
Players to watch out for
- Alexa Blatnick from Sacramento is a dynamic new player
- Haille Lee from Denver, our ruckman is extremely physical and returning from IC 2011
- Lindsay Kastenek, a forward who was in the all world squad in 2011.
The International Cup begins on August 9th with the Womens Grand Final scheduled to be held at historic Punt Road Oval, home of Richmond, on August 23rd. You can find out more about the International Cup here.
For more information on the USA Freedom and Liberty, please visit their fundraising page here or check out their page at the USAFL site. More news and information on womens football can be found at womensfooty.com.