As we head towards the 2014 International Cup, I had a brief chat with Matt Bishop, the coach of the United States mens Australian Football side, the Revolution.
Matt spent some time playing junior footy in central Queensland and on the Far South Coast of New South Wales. Most of his senior footy was played in Brisbane and Sydney. He began his coaching career at the Manly-Warringah Club in Sydney where he coached the reserves. He moved to Washington D.C. where he was involved in coaching their team from 2006 to 2008, before moving to California where he founded and coached the team in Sacramento.
Matt has been coach of the Revolution for the last six years, taking over after the team finish seventh in 2008. He says that the skills of the players and the way the game has been picked up is greatly improved. Geography conspires to make coaching difficult, but technology evens that out somewhat and extensive use is made of google hangouts and well as other video. In addition theres now plenty of AFL football available to viewed whether on tv or over the internet.
The United States men have competed at every International Cup since 2002, with a best placed finish of third in 2005 where they defeated Ireland by 35 points. In 2011, they finished fourth going down to New Zealand in the 3rd place playoff by 35 points. At the Cup they are ranked fourth with a win ratio of 70%.
28 players have been selected for the 2014 tournament, with staff, coaches and family making up a touring party of about 40. The selection process includes a training camp, and national championships.
The United States side is fairly unique in that there are no Australian based players, with all members of the team selected from US teams via the process. Some players may have spent short periods of time playing in Australia while studying.
Matt says the USAFL has considered the prospect of Australian based scholarship players, such as the recently signed Mason Cox, taking part in the International Cup (St Kilda listed Joe Baker Thomas is named for New Zealand) but says they are at present shying away from this from a cultural perspective. Matt believes it would be unfair for local players to work hard to earn a place only to be replaced by superstars from Australian lists. However he says the issue is likely to show up more and more, as greater numbers of players are drafted from combines held in New Zealand, Ireland, Europe and the United States.
Matt says support has come recently from St Kilda, with some US players having the opportunity to get out to the Saints preseason training camps in Colorado, and development coach Paul Hudson has lent a hand in recent times.
The 2014 Fixture sees the Revolution playing Finland, Canada and New Zealand. The USA plays Canada every year there isn’t an International Cup, taking out a 31 point win over the Northwind in August last year, and it seems likely that the real threat in their group is from New Zealand, with Finland are relatively unknown quantity.
Matt says the biggest gains from being involved in the international cup are actually made once the cups are over. Former Revolution players are taking active roles in the USAFL, whether in administatration or coaching, with several USAFL clubs now coached by Americans.
Players to watch out for:
- Andrew “Tiger” Werner – Full forward/midfielder from the Minnesota Freeze. 2011 World XVIII
- Bryan Dragus – Centre half forward from the Golden Gate Roos. 2011 World XVIII
- Steve Fashant – midfielder from the Minnesota Freeze. 2011 World XVIII
- Ben Carpenter-Nwanyanwu – Of Nigerian Descent, won the National Championships with Austin Crows last year.