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Jharkhand Crows back on top – NC20

Posted on Saturday, January 18, 2020 by ARFAI,

Winners (Sr) of the eight annual National Championship – The Jharkhand Crows

The eighth edition of the annual National Championship of Australian Rules Football in India organised by Australian Rules Football Association of India (ARFAI), resulted in the crowning of a new national champion in the senior division with Jharkhand Crows winning back the national title from Bengal Tigers by 05-02-32 to 03-04-22. The Bengal Tigers won the junior grand final for the very first time by defeating the 5-time defending champions Jharkhand Crows by a score of 04-04-28 to 02-05-17.

Each year, the tournament witnesses an increase in the level of competition, interest and development of the sport and this was added to the local crowd that gathered over the two days to watch a new sport they had never heard about. A crucial touch-point for the tournament success is the strong support displayed by the Australian umpires’ delegation that flew in from Bendigo, Australia to help organise the National Championship’2020. The delegation was led by Bendigo Umpires’ Association (BUA) Vice Chairperson Paula Shay and was supported by AFL Central Victoria from Australia.

Added to the group from Bendigo we had the privilege to host Shane Sayner, Treasurer of Port Pirie Football Club based out of the Australian state of South Australia and also a long-term supporter and well-wisher of ARFAI.

The gradual development of Footy in India is proved by the fact that every year, we have a new state debut in the National Championship and this year we had three teams making their debut from three different states.  A senior division debut was made by the Andhra Pradesh state team – Andhra Magpies alongside Jharkhand Crows, Bengal Tigers, Maharashtra Giants, Kerala Bombers, Rajasthan Eagles, Odisha Swans, Telangana Saints and Bihar Bulldogs. All though the Magpies failed to register a win, their efforts were loved and appreciated by all. The junior division also saw debut made by Bihar Bulldogs junior team and Telangana Saints junior team.

Debutants Andhra Pradesh Magpies vs Rajasthan Eagles

The ARFAI National Championship 2020 was organised at the Lalgola M.N. Academy ground in Murshidabad, West Bengal. ARFAI would like to recognise and appreciate the support provided by Footy Association of Bengal (FAB) and the Murshidabad Footy Association (MFA) in helping organise the national championship in the small country town of Lalgola, organised outside a big city for the very first time.

Day one saw a mix of very competitive league matches added to a few games where some of the more experienced state teams dominated over some of the newer states. The few hundred spectators gathered were all impressed by some of the high scoring games. The Kerala Bombers and Odisha Swans played some quality footy, improving their performance from the previous year.

The day also started with an opening ceremony including a march-past around the ground by all participating states letting the local crowd of Lalgola know that they have travelled all the way from their states to showcase their skills in the rapidly growing sport of Footy. They were led by the National Cadet Corps (NCC) troop from Lalgola before the customary national anthem of India was sung together by everyone attending the tournament to kick off the first league game between Bengal Tigers and Bihar Bulldogs (Sr.)

Snapshot from Crows Vs Tigers Grand Final with the crowd cheering for the teams

ARFAI has received increasing media attention every year and this year the interest from media personnel to understand the new sport caught everyone’s attention. We thank all the media houses from the state of West Bengal and Jharkhand along with local media houses from Murshidabad districts for taking interest in Australian Football and sharing the stories with sports lovers in the country.

Day two saw the remaining league matches in the morning deciding the finalists for the junior division along with the semi-finalists for the senior divisions. The Bengal Tigers and Kerala Bombers from Group A of senior division along with the Jharkhand Crows and Odisha Swans from Group B fought it out in the two most exciting games of the day. Bengal Tigers ended up defeating the Odisha Swans 01-08-14 to 01-03-09 in the first semi-final while the Jharkhand Crows defeated the Kerala Bombers 05-04-34 to 01-02-08 to repeat the historic and now traditional Bengal versus Jharkhand senior Grand Final.

The Bengal Tigers juniors led by their captain Selim Raja and coached by the veteran Biswajit Das put on a fantastic performance in the Grand Final to defeat the five-time reigning champions Jharkhand Crows and took the junior division trophy away from them for the very first time. The local crowd gathered cheering for the home state team broke loose and gathered on the ground to congratulate the winning team

The Senior Division Grand Final saw these two powerhouses of Indian footy facing off against each yet again. The Tigers started with intent and took control of the game early on. Led by their captain and star player Mahesh Tirkey (who was also the senior Player of the Tournament), Jharkhand Crows were determined to win back the title they had lost previous year to the Bengal Tigers. The Crows with a lot of experienced players in the side including five international players proved themselves in front of the crow that was supporting the home state.

The Senior finalists Jharkhand Crows & Bengal Tigers lining up with the Umpires before the Grand Final

Paula Shay from BUA was very happy to be back in India for the third time umpiring voluntarily at the ARFAI National Championship again. She thought “the skill level and enthusiasm grows each year and with it we expand the details of our coaching and umpiring. The distance the players can kick has increased dramatically, marking contests see two or three players reach for the sky and the final scores are higher due to increased goals (which can only happen from a kick with no interference)”.

ARFAI would like to thank the supporters for the event, including the Australian High Commission – New Delhi, the Australian Consulate General – Chennai, SEED, NEEDS, Buy Box Online, Bendigo Umpires Association (BUA), Essendon Football Club and the Gamila Nabin Sangha, West Bengal.