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2011 Mile High Challenge


Auraria College Athletic Fields
900 Auraria Parkway
80204 Denver , CO
United States
Colorado US
June 25, 2011 04:13pm America/Denver

The lush green athletic field at Auraria Campus in Downtown Denver was the site for the 2011 USAFL Mile High Challenge.

On Saturday June 25, 2011 over 100 men and women players from around the USAFL converged at the picturesque college campus on a warm sunny Colorado day. Over 200 sun screened spectators lined the boundary line including former Sydney Swans Captain and current Swans Hall of Famer, AFL Ambassador, Brett Kirk. Brett was in Denver as part of his “Captain Kirks Odyssey” world tour.

Friday night saw things kick off with an official USAFL umpires accreditation clinic held at the Crowne Plaza Hotel. USAFL President and accredited umpire instructor Rich Mann led an attentive group of 20 umpires as they undertook the 2 hr classroom session of their Level 1 accreditation course. Brett Kirk attended the session as did visiting guest from Australia, former VFL umpire Cameron Richardson.

After the umpire session Brett, Rich, Denver Bulldogs President Max Eckstein and Vice President James Waddell walked around the corner to Maggiano’s Little Italy Restaurant for the “Dinner at the Captains Table” fundraiser event. Among the guests were representatives from USAFL sponsor Newmont Mining, Denver Bulldogs club sponsor Rob Dawe of The Colorado Pub Company and Denver Bulldogs scholarship holders Brad Van Ooi and Xavier Shiels.

Brett Kirk was a humble, thoughtful and attentive guest of honor. Everyone at the table had a unique opportunity to listen to and talk with one the games most interesting and widely respected figures. He is the real deal. He was extremely generous with his time and never once did he rattle of a “canned” response. Hearing his firsthand account of his Grand Final experiences was dinner table conversation to bottle and open up again another day! He was completely engaged and receptive to the ideas and thoughts bouncing around the room. We hope that some of the positive points from the evening will stay with Brett and reach the right audience at the AFL.

Saturday started at 9:00am at the Fields at Auraria with the on-field component of the umpire’s accreditation course. The umpires, led by USAFL Umpires Director Jeff Persson and visiting umpire guest Cameron Richardson, went through an intensive 2hr course to complement the Friday night classroom session. For our game to grow here in the States we need to support and grow our officials just as we do the players. Congratulations to all 20 umpires who are working toward their Level 1 accreditation.

At the same time the US Freedom team held their training session. Freedom head coach Leigh Barnes welcomed the presence of Brett Kirk and as Brett had shown the night before he was ready, willing and more than able to share his knowledge and passion of the game with the Freedom girls. He took the girls through a series of AFL level training drills and spent time speaking to the girls about the philosophy of footy and how to approach training. Many of the Bulldogs and Freeze men’s players stood by and soaked it all in. Brett worked with the team for 2hrs. Everyone came away with some great ideas and more motivated for success. Good luck to the Freedom team in their International Cup debut in Australia in August.

The Games:

With our umpires all ready to test their new found knowledge and the players raring to go, the first game in the 2011 Mile High Challenge began at 11:00am with the girls from the US Freedom taking on local 2010 USAFL National Women’s Div Champs, The Denver Bulldogs. The game was tough and fast with the local girls proving that last year’s success was no fluke running out winners over the Freedom girls by 50 points.

At High Noon the big boys took the field with The Minnesota Freeze (D2 runners up in 2010) taking on the local boys the Denver Bulldogs (D1 runners up in 2010). The Bulldogs came out hard and fast and seem determined to shake their D1 runner-up tag they have been living with since October. The Freeze played hard and showed why they are in the top rankings in D2. In the end the well drilled and fit Bulldogs ran out comfortable 78 point winners.

The games kept coming and at 1:00pm the Denver Bulldogs women’s team took on the Minnesota Freeze women’s team. The Bulldogs ran out 22 point winners in a hard fought contest showing that they want to maintain their spot as the reigning USAFL champions and led by a strong group of experienced players and an exciting contingent of new recruits, are working hard to do that.

At 2:00pm the teams took a break from playing and helped out the USAFL, Brett Kirk and the folks from SERTOMA to run a very special kids clinic. Over 20 kids including a local group of hearing and speech impaired kids supported by SERTOMA, participated in a 30 minute skills and games session. Each child received a special backpack full of goodies courtesy of our friends at Newmont Mining. The kids were fed by the generous folks from the Baker St Pub. It was great to see so many kids enjoying footy, many for the first time. The whole day had a great family atmosphere.

Back on the field at 3:00pm was the Minnesota Freeze men’s team, this time taking on the Denver Bulldogs Div 4 team (D4 runners up in 2010). The Freeze looked to have the measure of the older & newer Bulldogs but a late second half blitz of goals from Denver saw them run out comfortable 38 point winners.

Even though the temperatures were in the high 80’s all day the players wanted more so a combination of Denver D1, D4 and Freeze players formed a Blue team and a White team for one more men’s game at 4:00pm. Many Denver D4 players used the game to show Denver head coaches Tim Wilson Humphries and Tom Ellis they want to be considered for selection in the D1 team and some Freeze players really stood out in this crackerjack of a game. Blue won by 33 points!

Note: All games were played under the USAFL Nationals 50/50 rule and 2 x 20min halves format.

After the game:

After a full day of footy everyone convened at Katie Mullen’s Irish Pub & Restaurant in the heart of Downtown Denver. The Freedom girls held a team bonding dinner at 6:00pm and then as everyone else started rolling in 7:30pm the night really took off. Best player awards were given out. Denver’s men voted newcomer Brad Van Ooi their MVP for the day and the women’s team voted Lara Porter their best. Brett Kirk showed why he was such a big hit with everyone by joining in the festivities and taking the time to talk with everyone throughout the night. He even managed to cut a few smooth moves on the dance floor later in the evening.

In Denver, the pubs close at 2:00am…if they had East coast hours I’m sure many players and fans would still be there.

The 2011 Mile High Challenge was a great success. The Denver Bulldogs would like to thank the staff at Auraria Campus for providing such a magnificent playing surface. Thanks also to Rich Mann and the USAFL for combining the umpire’s clinic and kid’s clinic with the Mile High Challenge. Huge thanks to each and every player, coach and fan that self-funded their trip to Denver….. and a very special thank you to Brett Kirk, his lovely wife Hayley and their four beautiful children.


11:00am: Women’s
US Freedom: 1.0 (6) v Denver Bulldogs: 10.4 (64)

12:00pm: Men’s
Minnesota Freeze: 1.2 (8) v Denver Bulldogs (Div1): 13.7 (85)

1:00pm Women’s
Minnesota Freeze 1.0 (6) v Denver Bulldogs 4.4 (28)

3:00pm Men’s
Minnesota Freeze: 4.4 (28) v Denver Bulldogs (Div4): 10.6 (66)

4:00pm Men’s
White: 2.3 (15) v Blue: 7.6 (48)