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Bengal Tigers win back title – National Championship 2019

Posted on Monday, February 25, 2019 by ARFAI,


The Bengal Tigers Sr & Jr teams with their trophies along with the Australian delegates

The seventh annual National Championship of Australian Rules Football in India, organised by Australian Rules Football Association of India (ARFAI / AFL India) between 4th to 6th January 2019 resulted in the West Bengal Tigers winning the senior grand final in style by defeating the defending champions – the Jharkhand Crows, by 09-06-60 to 01-02-08. The junior division saw a successful title defence once again by the Jharkhand Crows. Junior Crows won against the Bengal Tigers by 05-02-32 to 02-01-13. The Jharkhand Crows (Jr) domination over the National Championship continued – five time champions in a row!!

ARFAI National Championship 2019 was organised at the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan School ground in Salt Lake, West Bengal, one of India’s oldest and biggest educational trusts. Each year, the tournament witnesses an increase in the level of competition, interest and development of the sport. The organising committee was responsible for the planning of the smooth running across the three-day carnival that involved participation of the best Footy players from across India.

A crucial touch-point for the tournament’s success is the strong support displayed by the Australian delegation that flies over every year from Victoria to help organise the National Championship’19. The delegation included Paul Byrne – reputed accountant from Bendigo, Bruce Claridge – AFL Chaplain from Bendigo and Bruce’s granddaughter Azhia Claridge – rising soccer star playing for South Melbourne FC among others.

Jharkhand Crows Vs Telangana Saints

Added to the group above, ARFAI had the privilege to host Xavier Moloney, AFL’s Head of Diversity who had flown over from Melbourne and helped identify talent and the individual award winners at the tournament. “Fantastic to be here finally and very much enjoyed it and fantastic to see the great participation and some really good competitive football” Xavier said.

ARFAI also had AFL Community Ambassador and Berwick North FC committee member Nagarjuna Vajrala travel over from Narre Warren, Victoria to support the Telangana Saints making their debut and to get a feel of the development of Australian Football in India. Mr. Nagarjuna had travelled over to India earlier in 2018 to help start Footy in his native part of India – Telangana and Andhra Pradesh and guided the local leaders through the process. While Telangana made its debut in their first year itself, Andhra Pradesh Footy Association was represented by their Secretary General Jayaram Kadiyam who participated in the official workshops organised on the 4th January and looks forward to Andhra Magpies making debut in the national championship in 2020.

A testament to the success of Footy in India is that almost every year, there is a debutant state in the National Championship.  A senior division debut was made by the Telangana state team – Telangana Saints alongside Jharkhand Crows, Bengal Tigers, Maharashtra Giants, Kerala Bombers, Rajasthan Eagles, Odisha Swans and Bihar Bulldogs. All though the Saints failed to register a win, their efforts were loved and appreciated by all.

Kerala Bombers Vs Rajasthan Eagles

A major highlight for ARFAI is the increasing media attention being received by the tournament every year. Before the tournament started this year, a press conference was held at the Calcutta Sports Journalists’ Club and the tournament was covered by multiple media houses across India including the national channel of India DD News along with The Telegraph as the official media partner for 4 years in a row. AFL India has been able to achieve these milestones due to the constant efforts made by all the support staff and the backing of the community development partners.

The Bengal Tigers juniors put on a valiant effort in the Grand Final to face arch nemesis Jharkhand Crows. The Jharkhand boys led by their captain Sachin Kachhap and coached by Ravi Samuel Minj emerged victorious for a mind blowing fifth time in a row.

The Senior Division Grand Final saw these two powerhouses of Indian footy facing off each other again. The Tigers led by captain Sudip Rajbanshi and coached by former Indian team player Biswajit Das capitalised on all their chances and emerged victorious by thumping the Crows.

Like every year, ARFAI handed out numerous prizes for the players and officials after the tournament. The prizes were handed over by Xavier Moloney from AFL, Mr. G.V. Subramanian – Director for Eastern India – Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Melissa Wicks from the Australian High Commission in India and Mr. Dhruba Mukherjee – Vice President, The Telegraph. The following participants were recognised and rewarded for their individual excellence along with 25 players each who made it to the All Stars teams in both junior and senior divisions –

Player of the Tournament – Banshi Nayak, Jharkhand Crows (Jr) & Sudip Rajbanshi, Bengal Tigers (Sr)

Best Goal – Abhishek Dhanapandian, Tamil Kangaroos (Jr) & Abu Bakir, Bengal Tigers (Sr)

Best Mark – Senthil Kumar, Tamil Kangaroos (Jr) & Wilson Nadar, Maharashtra Giants (Sr)

Best Defender – Sachin Kachhap, Jharkhand Crows (Jr) & Arun Rai, Bihar Bulldogs (Sr)

Best Development – Footy Association of Odisha (FAO) – development in 10 districts of the state

Best Official – Amit Roy, Umpire from West Bengal

Sudip Rajbanshi – Player of the Tournament (Sr) receiving his award from Xavier Moloney from AFL

ARFAI would like to thank all the sponsors who made the tournament a success including Essendon Football Club, Victorian Government, SRK Transport, Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Hume Bombers FC, Peregrine Accountants, Digitory Labs and Golden Square FNC along with the AFL, North Melbourne FC, Western Bulldogs FC, St. Kilda Saints FC, Richmond FC, Sydney Swans FC and Adelaide FC for their support for the tournament.