Some of the United States’ newest women’s Australian rules teams are set to do battle in this weekend’s ‘Stumptown Throwdown’.
On Saturday, women’s teams from Seattle and Los Angeles will travel to Portland, Oregon to take part in the first tournament of the year for sides on the West Coast of the country.
Portland Sockeyes veteran, Heather Serpico told Girls Play Footy the ‘Stumptown’ part of the tournament’s name came from a nickname Portland was given in the mid-1800’s.
Due to the city growing so rapidly, the stumps of trees cut down to make way for roads were left behind until manpower could be spared to remove them.
“It’s a fun one to talk about [the tournament]; seems to get everyone revved up,” Serpico said.
“But the big reason for the Stumptown Throwdown was to give the Pacific Northwest (Seattle & Vancouver) teams a chance to meet and compete ahead of the National tournament in October.
“Regional tournaments are a fairly new addition to the USAFL schedule, so we made our own in a way.
“Over the years, we added to the invite list squads from San Francisco, Orange County, and Sacramento.”
Amongst the men’s matches also scheduled on the day, the women have three matches for the tournament including two nine-a-side matches (Portland vs LA and Portland vs Seattle), plus an 11-a-side match where the players are mixed to create two even teams.
The Seattle Grizzlies’ Valerie Barber-Axthelm said her team was looking forward to the contest, and has even brought along a couple of Canadians to join in.
“We’re sending eight and borrowing two from Vancouver to bring a full squad of nines,” the Grizzlies footballer said.
“We’re really excited the Vancouver women will join us because we have played with them in all of the Vancouver metros, so they feel like team members.”
Barber-Axthelm said the hit-out couldn’t come quick enough for the Seattle women, who are looking forward to a big year of footy in the United States.
“It will be the debut of captain Marian Dickinson, who practiced with us all last year but never made it to a game, and April Lewis, who had never played footy until a few months ago.
“April will ruck her first game as a Grizzly with only a few metro games in Vancouver under her belt.
“A solid 5’10” may be a bit short for a ruck, but she is tough and we expect her to win some taps.
“Additionally, Charlotte Munn can really hold her own and will be starting with me to hold the back line down and swing into mid when we need a little something extra.”
The other team jumping out of their skins to be part of the Stumptown Throwdown is the newly created Los Angeles side.
Co-Founder of the Dragons’ women’s team, Aileen Yoon told Girls Play Footy recruiting had been steady since the start of the new year.
“We’ve had many new players, both familiar and unfamiliar with the sport come out to various practices,” Yoon explained.
“Many of our more dedicated recruits are Aussies looking for a bit of home.
“We are still actively recruiting and doing outreach with rugby teams, football teams, and at wider events such as Pride Festivals.”
The Dragons were hoping to take a full squad up north, but unfortunately had some late withdrawals meaning they will be loaned some players to make up numbers.
Still, it won’t dampen the enthusiasm of those making the trip, with a couple of newbies expected to perform well.
“Definitely watch out for the duo of Ryan Bartz and Darin Kleinsmith. Both are American born hockey players who recently joined our team.
“Bartz first heard of footy over 12 years ago when she studied abroad in Melbourne, and has a sharp knowledge of the sport.
“Kleinsmith is newer to the sport, but has already shown her strong kicking and handballing abilities and even scored the first LA Women’s goal.
“The duo work very well together as a mid/forward combo and have a great knack for knowing how to work with each other and make quick decisions.”
For the host team Portland, their recruitment has seen a boom since the won the Division Two title at the USAFL Nationals last year.
However, some of the Sockeyes’ recruits have come from a sport that wouldn’t necessarily be at the front of mind for most.
“A large part of the recruitment boom is due to our recent additions of former roller derby players to the squad, Raven Mahoney and Megan Moffatt,” the Sockeyes’ Heather Serpico explained.
“Jessica Detwiler-Powalski has been going hard at trainings and truly has a knack for this game. She’ll certainly be a force to be reckoned with for our squad.
“We are also incredibly lucky to have had Lucy Parrington, a premiership winning footballer and member of Australia’s National women’s ice hockey team, fall into our lap – which has been an added boost to our veteran core.
“I’m really looking forward to seeing the newer players take direction from Lucy.”