Month: September 2016

Why Revenge of the Sith is the only good prequel

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If you know me, you know I love Star Wars. So I decided to do a brief piece about why I enjoy Episode III: Revenge of the Sith and why I believe it’s the only good prequel in the Star Wars canon.

Now, let me say first that I wholeheartedly agree with the majority of Star Wars fanboys and fangirls when I say that the prequels are vastly inferior to the original trilogy. I could rant all day about how George Lucas became a smugly incompetent douchebag who deliberately surrounded himself with yes-men while he alone took full creative control over the prequels. I could also explain how Episode I: The Phantom Menace and Episode II: Attack of the Clones are mediocre films that don’t answer nearly as many original trilogy questions as they could have, and for the most part, flat-out suck.

Let me also say for the record, that as a kid, I saw the Star Wars films well after the fact, and completely out of order at that. Obviously, I was vaguely familiar with the characters – what kid doesn’t recognize Darth Vader’s suit? – but I didn’t actually see the entire saga until I was 10 or so. I saw Attack of the Clones at age nine. Needless to say, it’s my least favorite of any of the Star Wars films and served as a pretty terrible introduction to this universe as a whole. Still, out of curiosity, I took it upon myself to watch all the other films over the summer.

Keep in mind that this was 2005. Revenge of the Sith had just come out in May, and the Star Wars series was potentially done after Lucas said he had no plans to direct any subsequent sequels. So in order to catch up with my peers and upgrade my nerd level, I had to immerse myself in the Star Wars lore.

To this day, I consider Revenge of the Sith to be a quality Star Wars film and the one saving grace of the prequel trilogy. Here are a number of reasons why:

  • It starts fast.

After the opening crawl, Revenge of the Sith wastes no time in throwing us directly into the action. The Jedi, led by Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker, are leading the assault on the star cruiser commandeered by General Grievous and Count Dooku in order to rescue Chancellor Palpatine. This is a fun, action-packed opening that allows us to see a little bit of what we’re in for the rest of the way.

This is in stark contrast to The Phantom Menace, which spent nearly the first half hour talking about the Separatist movement and the Trade Federation and their threat to the planet Naboo. Similarly, Attack of the Clones wasted an insane amount of plot time focusing on the romance between Anakin and Padme, sequences which contain some of the most infamous acting and writing of the entire Star Wars saga.

Give Revenge of the Sith credit for being able to hold our interest from the get-go.

  • The characters are better fleshed-out.

The chemistry among the cast members is handled much better than in the first two prequels. At this point in the story, Obi-Wan is a Jedi Master and Anakin is a Jedi Knight. Therefore, Anakin’s no longer a Padawan and Obi-Wan is no longer his official mentor.

In the original trilogy, the elderly Obi-Wan describes Anakin as “a cunning warrior and a good friend.” That side of Anakin is on full display in Revenge of the Sith, as he saves Obi-Wan’s life early in the film and shows his courage. At the same time, Obi-Wan is still worried about his pupil’s well-being. For instance, he’s careful to warn Anakin about the powers that Chancellor Palpatine has accumulated in the Galactic Senate.

Anakin, being unusually strong in the Force, has definitely progressed, both in terms of fighting skills and his overall maturity. In the end, of course, pride is Anakin’s downfall, which allows him to be seduced to the Dark Side.

In both The Phantom Menace and particularly Attack of the Clones, Anakin was hard to empathize with, constantly grumbling about Obi-Wan, resenting the authority of the Jedi Council, and (of course) embarking on a forbidden romance with Padme. In Revenge of the Sith, however, Anakin’s internal conflict is brought to the forefront and we get a real sense of how he, the Chosen One, allowed himself to be manipulated and turned to the Dark Side.

  • The cunning of Emperor Palpatine.

In the film The Usual Suspects, Keizer Soze (played by Kevin Spacey) famously remarked “The greatest trick the Devil ever played was convincing the world that he didn’t exist.”

The same can be applied to Palpatine in the Star Wars prequel trilogy, where he goes from Senator to Chancellor to Galactic Emperor. Palpatine uses his intelligence and charm to mislead everyone, even the Jedi Council, from realizing his evil plan until it’s too late. Early on the film, Obi-Wan is disturbed by how much power Palpatine has been given during the ongoing Clone Wars. Anakin, meanwhile, believes that Palpatine has been unfairly criticized. In turn, Obi-Wan requests that Anakin be able to keep his distance from the situation and keep an eye on Palpatine while reporting anything suspicious to the Jedi Council.

The entire mid-point of Revenge of the Sith consists of Anakin turning to the Dark Side and helping the Emperor execute Order 66, which eliminates all the Jedi (except Obi-Wan and Yoda) and establishes the Emperor as the sole authority, with Vader by his side.

Ever since the Emperor was introduced in Return of the Jedi, we were all wondering how he was able to gain so much power and turn Anakin into Darth Vader. All of these questions are answered satisfactorily in Revenge of the Sith. In my opinion, the real highlight of the film is following the Emperor as he and his new apprentice begin to put plans into motion that set up the entire original trilogy.

  • Ewan McGregor as Obi-Wan.

The first two prequel films were a distressing exercise into how George Lucas could hire numerous big-name actors – Liam Neeson, Natalie Portman, and Christopher Lee – and convince them to recite lines that were just cringeworthy. The one consistent highlight for me was Scottish actor Ewan McGregor as Obi-Wan.

The prequels are unified by their narrative of following Anakin Skywalker, going from a poor slave boy on Tattooine to the man in the mask. But of equal importance is the evolution of Obi-Wan. Introduced as Old Ben in the original, lots of Star Wars fans were instantly curious about Obi-Wan’s origins and how he became the mentor to Luke in the original trilogy.

In The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones, Obi-Wan is shown to have wonderful skills with the Force and a keen instinct as a mentor to Anakin. Obi-Wan’s wisdom is shown numerous times, especially in Revenge of the Sith. Whether it’s warning Anakin about the Emperor or discussing how he and Yoda can bring down the Empire for good, Obi-Wan’s analytical mind is nearly as powerful as his skills with a lightsaber.

This is consistent with the Obi-Wan of the original trilogy, who first and foremost, wanted to train Luke the right way – to teach him how a Jedi thinks just as much as how a Jedi fights.

  • The lava scene and Obi-Wan’s turmoil. 

The two climactic duels in Revenge of the Sith happen concurrently. In one, the Emperor and Yoda go head-to-head in the Senate chambers; in the other, Obi-Wan and Anakin fight each other in hellish conditions on the volcanic planet Mustafar.

In the end, as most of us remember, Obi-Wan hacks off Anakin’s limbs and lets him fall down the rocky embankment to the edge of the lava, where Anakin then catches fire. Shortly before Anakin burns alive, a distraught Obi-Wan tells his former student that as the Chosen One, he was supposed to destroy the Sith rather than join them, and bring balance to the Force, as opposed to leaving it in darkness.

It’s hard not to get emotional during the dark moments of Revenge of the Sith, especially when the Jedi are double-crossed and executed or when the Emperor officially names Anakin his apprentice. But the image of Obi-Wan crying over the loss of his friend – after seeing his former student join the Emperor and destroy the galaxy – hits the emotions raw. Throughout the prequels we’ve seen Obi-Wan do so many things right in an attempt to guide and teach Anakin, but in the end, it was all for nothing.

In the final scenes of Revenge of the Sith, Yoda admits that he has failed and that he must go into exile, and Obi-Wan does the same. At the same time, the newborn Luke and Leia are transported to their respective planets, where we find them in the original trilogy years later.

Conclusion

There are a lot of bad things to say about the prequels, and that includes Revenge of the Sith. Say what you will about George Lucas, and by all means, say it. But I feel like he got it mostly right with Revenge of the Sith. You could say that the third time was (mostly) the charm.

Fight On?

I’ve lived here in Los Angeles for a little less than two months. That has certainly given me a gauge on this sports-crazy city. For the most part, I’m surrounded by USC fans, even though I currently live in closer proximity to UCLA’s campus.

As a fan of college football, I’ve certainly noticed that USC has fallen on hard times. Granted, the 2016 season is still young, but the Trojan football team is off to a 1-3 start (their worst opening month since 2001) and does not look to be among the national favorites.

Sure, the Trojans are capable of rebounding under head coach Clay Helton, who is entering his first full season at the helm. But with all the off-field drama in the last decade at USC, is a return to glory on the horizon?

Now let me make myself clear: I have no stones to throw here. I’m not from California, I didn’t go to college in LA, and ordinarily, I have no grudge against either USC or UCLA (although I’m certainly aware of their fierce city rivalry in all sports, not just football). But this is my objective opinion. So you can take it or leave it.

On paper, USC is perhaps the most talented team in the nation. They stockpile the roster every year with four and five-star recruits. They have exceptional facilities. They currently have one of the nation’s most electrifying playmakers in Adoree Jackson – who plays wide receiver, cornerback, and returns punts and kicks. And in terms of school history, USC might be second to none – they boast 38 conference titles and a staggering 17 Heisman Trophy winners.

But so far this season, USC has been embarrassed. In a nationally televised season opener against reigning national champion Alabama, the Trojans were walloped 52-6 in Arlington, Texas. The Trojans then took out their frustration the following week in their home opener at the LA Coliseum, defeating the Utah State Aggies by a score of 45-7.

In Week Three, the Trojans visited #7 Stanford, a team known for a bruising running game and a tenacious defense. Again, USC looked lifeless, losing 27-10 and failing to stop Stanford’s Heisman contender, running back Christian McCaffrey.

And this past Friday night, a bad season got worse. USC was on the road again, this time against a 3-0 Utah Utes team, and the Trojans were in control for the majority of the night. They were up by double digits twice, and were looking to improve to 1-1 in the Pac-12. In the week leading up to the game, Coach Helton had benched junior quarterback Max Browne and given highly-touted redshirt freshman Sam Darnold his first collegiate start.

With under a minute left to play, Utah was trailing 27-24. The Utes were driving down the field and faced a 4th-and-1 at the Trojans’ 23-yard line. Rather than play it safe and tie the game with a field goal, Utah coach Kyle Whittingham decided to go for it. After a successful quarterback sneak, the Utes got the first down. Then quarterback Troy Williams went to the air on the very next play and found a wide-open Tim Patrick in the end zone with 16 seconds remaining. The Utes won, 31-27, and sent the Trojans packing.

USC fans do not have the reputation for being patient. And they shouldn’t be. With such a rich history, combined with an extremely fertile recruiting ground, there’s no excuse for the Trojans not to be national contenders every season. But to understand where this team is now, you have to understand where they’ve been, especially in the past decade.

As most sports fans know, the Trojans enjoyed massive success under former coach Pete Carroll from 2001-2009, including national titles in 2003 and 2004, a long streak of NFL draft picks, and an impressive legacy.

However, after Carroll jumped to the NFL, where he now coaches the Seattle Seahawks, controversy erupted. It was eventually revealed that numerous USC student-athletes – including Heisman-winning running back Reggie Bush – had accepted improper benefits from donors and committed numerous violations of both school and NCAA policy. Although this was not unique to the football program, USC was deemed to have been complicit in ongoing violations involving several different sports and student-athletes. Carroll has fiercely denied any deliberate wrongdoing, but Bush was forced to vacate his Heisman Trophy.

In response, the NCAA hit USC with severe sanctions, resulting in the loss of a number of scholarships and a significant amount of bad publicity. After Carroll left, one of his former assistants, Lane Kiffin, took over.

To put it politely, Kiffin (who is now the offensive coordinator at Alabama) was a horrible fit, and his tenure at USC is now regarded as a failure by the public and a bad dream by the Trojan faithful. Kiffin didn’t win enough, he didn’t call the right plays, and he didn’t hire the right staff. Perhaps most importantly, the mercurial Kiffin did not have the maturity nor the temperament to be a head coach.

After the Kiffin era ended unceremoniously, the Trojans brought in another former Carroll assistant, Steve Sarkisian, in the winter of 2013. At the time, Sarkisian was considered a name to watch after turning around a woeful program at the University of Washington.

In addition to his ties to Carroll, Sarkisian was generally thought of as a great fit for the program – an LA native, an ace recruiter, and a proven offensive mind. With the NCAA sanctions finally being lifted, USC seemed poised for a return to gridiron dominance.

Sarkisian led the “Boys from Troy” to a 9-4 record and a bowl victory in 2014, but it was seen as a disappointment from the fanbase. Last fall, the Trojans looked ready to be contenders once again, but then another public relations nightmare occurred.

It started in August 2015, shortly before the season kicked off. Sarkisian showed up drunk to a booster event held on campus, his speech marked by slurred words and numerous profanities. The embarrassing incident was alarming to many, but USC athletic director Pat Haden apologized on behalf of Sarkisian and things began to go relatively smoothly – for awhile.

On October 11th, the Trojans had a record of 3-2 and were coming off of a bye week when Haden announced that Sarkisian was taking an indefinite leave of absence, effective immediately. (A few days prior, Sarkisian had been noticeably intoxicated while in a meeting with assistant coaches before practice, and he was ordered to go home.) On October 12th, Sarkisian was fired.

It was eventually revealed that Sarkisian had a couple of alcohol-related incidents while coaching at Washington, and that he was going through a divorce before and during the 2015 season, which may have prompted the alcohol abuse. Haden (who by then had announced his retirement) later admitted in an interview that he was unaware of Sarkisian’s alcohol troubles at Washington, and that he had not run a public records check on Sarkisian prior to hiring him. In the subsequent weeks, Sarkisian checked into a rehab facility out-of-state and Helton, who was then USC’s offensive coordinator, was promoted to full-time head coach.

While Trojan players were very enthusiastic about Helton being promoted from within, some fans and boosters started grumbling, saying that they were hoping for a bigger name. Many media experts, including ESPN’s Kirk Herbstreit, believed that keeping continuity amidst controversy was more important than hiring the flashiest name possible. After all, in an effort to recapture the magic of the Carroll era, USC administration had tried to find similar success with Kiffin and Sarkisian, and came up empty-handed both times.

Which brings us to today.

In an effort to bring normalcy back, the USC athletic marketing team created a hashtag: #AllAboutBall. Helton, although he wasn’t the big name that many fans craved, has tried to build more discipline and accountability, both among his players and his assistants. In the offseason, Helton was quoted as saying that he wanted a bigger sense of physicality after the Trojans got outmuscled in several late-season games last year.

But here’s the painful truth: USC football doesn’t have a reputation for being physical. The offense is chock full of glamorous players at the skill positions, but there’s been a shocking lack of toughness up front. Both Alabama and Stanford have exposed the Trojans at the line of scrimmage so far this season, and it’s not pretty. As much as Helton wants to emphasize playing a physical brand of football, his team does not currently have the bulldozing mentality that they need.

Some of that can be chalked up to some early injuries along the offensive line, as well as an inexperienced defensive line. But so far, the verdict has not been good, and the coaches are acutely aware of that. They say that football games are either won or lost in the trenches, and that’s certainly been true of the Trojans this season. Even their running game, which was predicted to be a strength, has been anemic at best – USC is currently 111th in the nation, averaging just under 120 rushing yards per game.

In the most recent loss to Utah, quarterback Sam Darnold did offer a glimpse of why he was such a blue-chip high school recruit. He wasn’t afraid of diving for extra yardage, and he didn’t throw an interception. He has a confidence in the pocket that is admirable, and he still has two of the nation’s best receivers in Adoree Jackson and JuJu Smith-Schuster. So all is not lost for USC’s offense heading forward.

But the Pac-12 is not an easy conference to navigate. The South Division has been unpredictable in recent years, with USC, Utah, and UCLA all looking like probable winners this preseason. Although they’re coming off down years, Arizona and Arizona State look to be in the mix, too. Even a long-dormant Colorado team has shown some life in 2016.

It’s far too early to speculate on Helton’s job security. At a normal school, it’d be ludicrous to ask if a coach’s job is on the line after going 1-3 in the first month. But USC is no normal job, and it’s crystal clear that this team needs to make incremental gains heading forward.

HISTORY OF FOOTY: New South Wales

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Aussie rules is a well-established sport in New South Wales, but has significantly been rivaled by rugby league and rugby union in terms of popularity and participation. For example, the National Rugby League currently fields nine teams in the Sydney metropolitan area, as opposed to the AFL, which only fields two teams in the Sydney region. Therefore, getting footy to be popular in New South Wales has mostly been an uphill battle.

The Riverina region of New South Wales – located along the Murray River separating the state from Victoria – has been a notable exception. Footy has always been a big sport in this rural area, given the proximity to Victoria. The sport of Aussie rules is also developing a slow-but-steady following on the north and south shores of the state, away from Sydney.

The first recorded game of Aussie rules in the state was in Sydney in 1877; however, this was 14 years after rugby was introduced to the area. Some small footy clubs tried reaching out to local rugby clubs to play Aussie rules, claiming that it was a more exciting and fast-paced game, but were repeatedly turned down. The rugby authorities also rejected appeals to play Victoria-based footy clubs in alternate years under a different set of rules. In response, the New South Wales Football Association was formed in 1880, but immediately lacked the funding and the quality players to be competitive, and the competition didn’t really begin until nine years later. The league went bankrupt in 1893.

The New South Wales Football League was founded in February 1903 in Sydney. The Victorian Football League (VFL) began promoting the sport in Sydney and started hosting neutral-site matches at footy ovals in the city, as well as getting the word out and establishing the sport in local schools. Although footy was growing in popularity, the rugby powers-that-be were none too keen, and repeatedly squashed efforts to build a passionate Aussie rules community in Sydney. Sometimes, they even went to great lengths to deny the use of training grounds to Aussie rules players, or attempt to poach footballers away and invite them to play rugby exclusively.

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In 1933, the Australian National Football Carnival was held at the Sydney Cricket Ground. This was a critical turning point in boosting enthusiasm and interest for Aussie rules as a competitive enterprise, and some of the animosity between the footy and rugby codes died down. At one point, the New South Wales Rugby League even suggested combining footy and rugby into one sport called “universal football,” but it was widely dismissed at the time and the plans never came to fruition.

In 1982, the landscape changed. The struggling South Melbourne Football Club, from the VFL, re-located north and became the Sydney Swans. The Swans struggled to capture a major audience at first and nearly went bankrupt in 1985, but began becoming much more competitive in the early-to-mid 90s, after the VFL was renamed the AFL and became a nationally-focused league. However, notable footballers did not start coming from New South Wales until the end of the 80s.

Since 1996, the Swans have made the AFL Finals almost every year, including a premiership in 2005. The success of the Swans has brought renewed attention to footy, and the Sydney public is much more open to the sport these days. In 2012, a new club was established in the western suburbs, called the Greater Western Sydney Giants. The two teams play each other annually in the Sydney Derby.

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Currently, most New South Welshmen still prefer their rugby, but Aussie rules is one of the fastest-growing sports in the state, and over 95,000 people play footy in the state. The game has also received a significant boost from the AFL, who have invested in grassroots development and community events to raise participation rates.

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Australian Football League

  • Greater Western Sydney Giants
  • Sydney Swans

North East Australian Football League

  • Sydney Swans (reserves)
  • Sydney University Students
  • Western Sydney University Giants (reserves)

Sydney Australian Football League

  • Balmain Dockers
  • Campbelltown Blues
  • East Coast Eagles
  • Illawarra Lions
  • Manly-Warringah Wolves
  • North Shore Bombers
  • Pennant Hills Demons
  • St George Dragons
  • Sydney Hills Eagles
  • UNSW-Eastern Suburbs Bulldogs
  • UTS Bats
  • Western Suburbs Magpies
  • Wollongong Lions

Regional Leagues

  • Black Diamond Australian Football League
  • Broken Hill Football League
  • Central Murray Football League
  • Central West Australian Football League
  • Farrer Football League
  • Golden Rivers Football League
  • Hume Football League
  • Millewa Football League
  • Murray Football League
  • Newcastle Australian Football League
  • North Coast Australian Football League
  • Northern Riverina Football League
  • Ovens & Murray Football League
  • Picola & District Football League
  • Riverina Football League
  • Sapphire Coast Australian Football League
  • South Coast Australian Football League
  • Summerland Australian Football League
  • Sunraysia Football League
  • Tamworth Football League
  • Upper Murray Football League

Stadiums

  • Albury Sports Ground (Albury, capacity 8,000)
  • ANZ Stadium (Sydney, capacity 83,500)
  • Blacktown Oval (Sydney, capacity 10,000)
  • Bruce Purser Reserve (Kellyville)
  • Coffs Harbour International Stadium (Coffs Harbour, capacity 10,000)
  • Drummoyne Oval (Sydney, capacity 6,000)
  • Exies Oval (Griffith, capacity 7,500)
  • Lavington Sports Ground (Albury, capacity 20,000)
  • Margaret Donoghoe Oval (Karabar)
  • Newcastle Sports Ground (Newcastle, capacity 20,000)
  • North Dalton Park (Towradgi)
  • North Sydney Oval (Sydney, capacity 20,000)
  • Robertson Oval (Wagga Wagga, capacity 12,000)
  • Spotless Stadium (Sydney, capacity 24,000)
  • Sydney Cricket Ground (Sydney, capacity 48,000)
  • Tom Wills Oval (Sydney, capacity 3,000)
  • Tramway Oval (Sydney)
  • University of Sydney Oval (Camperdown)

Coaches on the hot seat

We’re only a month into the 2016 college football season, which means that many teams are on a hot streak. But by the same token, many are not, prompting speculation about job security for many coaches nationwide. Let’s take a look at who is on the hot seat in 2016:

 

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Mark Stoops, Kentucky

The youngest Stoops was one of the nation’s most respected defensive minds under Jimbo Fisher at Florida State from 2010-2012. Then he jumped to Kentucky, one of the toughest jobs in the juggernaut that is the SEC. Stoops immediately started boosting enthusiasm for the program, began landing blue-chip recruits, and started a much-needed overhaul to the football facilities.

Still, on-field results have been lackluster, with Stoops currently holding a 13-26 record in his fourth season. Last year, the Wildcats had a very friendly home schedule, but had a habit of blowing late leads and eventually lost six out of their last seven games to end the season. Kentucky hasn’t been to a bowl game since 2010.

 

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Darrell Hazell, Purdue

At the end of 2012, then-Purdue athletic director Morgan Burke made the surprising decision to fire coach Danny Hope after reaching back-to-back bowl games. Instead, Burke brought in Hazell, who had a terrific two-year run at Kent State, leading them to their first bowl game in decades.

To put it politely, the Hazell experiment has been a disaster. In three full seasons, the Boilermakers are 6-30 and have been almost completely non-competitive in Big Ten conference play. In the face of lagging ticket sales and little recruiting clout, Hazell might occupy the hottest seat in the country right now.

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Steve Addazio, Boston College

Addazio was brought to Boston College in 2013 after working under Urban Meyer at Florida and then turning around a previously mediocre Temple program. The Connecticut native seemed up to the task at first, leading the Eagles to consecutive bowl berths in 2013 and 2014, before dramatically falling to 3-9 last season.

The fiery Addazio has attempted to mold a blue-collar, take-no-prisoners defense and has had great success there, but the offense has been a completely different story – BC averaged a paltry 17.2 points per game in 2015 and went winless in the ACC.

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Paul Haynes, Kent State

Let’s start with the obvious: Kent State is one of the most challenging jobs in the nation. But, Haynes is an alum and a former assistant who also spent time at big name schools like Ohio State, Michigan State, and Arkansas.

The result have been lacking, to say the least. The Flashes have consistently lacked a go-to playmaker or a steady hand at quarterback, and Haynes has cycled through coordinators on both sides of the ball. His overall record is 10-28 in a mediocre Mid-American Conference.

Tim DeRuyter

Tim DeRuyter, Fresno State

DeRuyter, a former Texas A&M assistant, was hired in 2012 and took over a fairly well-stocked program. He had immediate success, winning nine games in 2012 and 11 in 2013 behind the strong arm of future NFL starter Derek Carr. However, the Bulldogs began slumping, falling to 6-8 in 2014 and then 3-9 last year. DeRuyter’s problem has been a revolving door at quarterback since Carr’s departure, and the fact that Fresno’s defense has been a liability more often than a strength.

The veteran coach is hoping to resurrect things with two new coordinators (Eric Keisau on offense, Lorenzo Ward on defense), as well as relying on a group of young players who were thrown into the fire early last year and took their lumps in a losing campaign.

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Chuck Martin, Miami (Ohio)

You have to hand it to Martin. The former Notre Dame offensive coordinator walked into an absolute disaster when he took over a winless Miami program in 2014. The no-frills Martin has not been taking shortcuts, starting numerous young players and paying the price, winning only five games in his first two seasons. In fact, the current roster features a scant 10 seniors.

The RedHawks are hoping that they’ll have the maturity and experience to go head-to-head with their Mid-American Conference foes this season, but they’re off to a rough start (0-3), including a home loss to FCS opponent Eastern Illinois during a game in which the offense fell flat. Martin’s long-haul approach needs to pay dividends right……about…..now.

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Charlie Partridge, Florida Atlantic

It’s not easy being a football team in South Florida not named the Hurricanes. True enough, the Florida Atlantic Owls have struggled in recent years after the retirement of legendary coach Howard Schnellenberger. After he left town, FAU administration brought in Charlie Partridge, a tough-as-nails defensive specialist who was seen as the guy who could help turn around the Owls’ fortunes in Conference USA.

In Year Three, Partridge is 1-4, having recently lost a rivalry game to previously winless Florida International on October 1st. Partridge’s overall record is 7-22, and he could be looking for work elsewhere unless the Owls make a marked turnaround in the latter half of the season.

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Trent Miles, Georgia State

It sucks to put him back on the list. Miles is a genuinely likable guy who turned around his alma mater’s woeful program (Indiana State) in record time and used that success to take over a similarly stagnant Georgia State program. The ball bounced the Panthers’ way in 2015, when they won their final four games and got to a bowl for the first time in school history. Miles was named Sun Belt Conference Coach of the Year for his work, despite holding an overall record of just 7-30.

In 2016, the Panthers are off to an 0-4 start against a brutal early schedule, including Appalachian State, Air Force, and Wisconsin. But there seems to be little chance of the Panthers rebounding anytime soon, as they’ve dug themselves a hole quickly. It could mean that Miles’s tenure in Atlanta is coming to a close.

 

Getting Warmer

  • David Bailiff, Rice
  • James Franklin, Penn State
  • Mark Hudspeth, Louisiana-Lafayette
  • Brian Kelly, Notre Dame
  • Sean Kugler, UTEP
  • Derek Mason, Vanderbilt
  • Tommy Tuberville, Cincinnati

HISTORY OF FOOTY: Northern Territory

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The remote outback is far from the glamorous floodlights and roaring crowds of the Melbourne Cricket Ground, but Aussie rules has one of the most passionate groups of fans and players alike, tucked away in the Northern Territory.

Although it was only introduced in 1916, decades after other areas of the country, the Northern Territory produces more AFL footballers per capita than any other Australian state. It also boasts the highest participation rate of any state – seven percent of the Territory’s population plays footy.

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The first recorded footy match was played in Darwin, the Northern Territory’s capital, in 1916. Quite early on, it was decided that the footy season would be played in the opposite manner of the other states. Darwin’s humid, monsoonal climate – with a wet summer and a dry winter – meant that footy would have to be played in the summer due to softer training grounds.

The game was a smash hit with Aboriginal Australians almost immediately. In 1941, two Catholic missionaries, John Pye and Andy Howley, introduced Aussie rules to the Tiwi Islands, a remote pair of islands located in the Timor Sea (roughly 100 km off the northern coast of Darwin).

Despite having a population of only 3,000 people, footy is a huge deal on the Tiwi Islands. To this day, the Tiwi Islands Football League is one of the most competitive leagues in the area, regularly sending top players to the Northern Territory Football League (NTFL) or even to the AFL. The Tiwi Islands Grand Final is the most important event of the year for these tight-knit tribal communities, and the event frequently draws impressive crowds.

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The NTFL is the primary outlet for aspiring footy players, especially from rural communities. Players are also able to compete for the Northern Territory Thunder, the representative team in the multi-state North East Australian Football League (NEAFL), which also contains teams from New South Wales, Queensland, and the Australian Capital Territory. There’s even a competitive indigenous squad known as the Aboriginal All-Stars.

Because the NTFL’s season begins when other leagues’ seasons are concluding, it’s an opportunity for semi-pro players from other leagues to get more exposure during the rest of Australia’s offseason. There’s also no salary cap, providing another incentive for out-of-state footballers to spend the summer playing footy in Darwin.

The NTFL’s most historically successful club has been St Mary’s, who were founded in 1952 as a way to let Aboriginal soldiers play footy while stationed in Darwin. To date, St Mary’s has won 34 premierships. In 2010, the NTFL merged with the Top End Australian Football Association, accepting the league’s former members in a new lower-tier division.

The Northern Territory’s sparse population and remote location have made it difficult for the AFL to consider expanding to include a Territory-based team. However, in 1991, Marrara Oval – the primary footy stadium in Darwin – was constructed to host AFL matches.

Marrara Oval has hosted AFL preseason games in the past, and is currently contracted to hold two regular season matches per year. Traeger Park, located in the town of Alice Springs, was remodeled and redeveloped to host AFL matches in 2004. In 2014, Traeger Park hosted its first ever regular season AFL match, between Port Adelaide and Melbourne. When not hosting professional matches (both preseason and regular season), both Marrara Oval and Traeger Park are busy with local Aussie rules competitions, which tend to draw significant attendance figures.

As mentioned previously, the Northern Territory boasts a very high participation rate and has produced many prominent footballers, such as Maurice Rioli, Gilbert McAdam, Michael Long, Malcolm Lynch, and David Kantilla – all of whom are of Aboriginal descent.

It might not get the national recognition that it deserves, but Northern Territory football is like nothing else in the country.

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North East Australian Football League

  • Northern Territory Thunder

Northern Territory Football League

  • Darwin Buffaloes
  • Nightcliff Tigers
  • Palmerston Magpies
  • Southern Districts Crocs
  • St Mary’s Saints
  • Tiwi Bombers
  • Wanderers Eagles
  • Waratah Warriors

Central Australian Football League

  • Anmatjere Cowboys
  • Federals Demons
  • Hermannsburg Bulldogs
  • Ltyentye Apurte Saints
  • MacDonnell Districts Crows
  • Pioneers Eagles
  • Rovers Double Blues
  • South Alice Kangaroos
  • West Alice Bloods
  • Yuendumu Magpies

Tiwi Islands Football League

  • Imalu Tigers
  • Melville Island Kangaroos
  • Muluwurri Magpies
  • Pumarali Thunder
  • Ranku Eagles
  • Tapalinga Superstars
  • Tuyu Buffaloes
  • Walama Bulldogs

Regional Leagues

  • Barkly & District Football League
  • Big Rivers Football League
  • Gove Australian Football League

Stadiums

  • Brockman Oval (Jabiru)
  • Gardens Oval (Darwin)
  • Marrara Oval (Darwin, capacity 17,000)
  • Nightcliff Oval (Nightcliff)
  • Nitmiluk Oval (Katherine)
  • Northline Oval (Palmerston)
  • Tiwi Oval (Wurrimiyanga)
  • Tracy Village Oval (Darwin)
  • Traeger Park (Alice Springs, capacity 10,000)

HISTORY OF FOOTY: Victoria

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Australian rules football began in Victoria, and remains the spiritual home of the game. The fast-paced sport was first played in the parks of Melbourne in 1858 and remains easily the most popular game in the state.

While there is no official founder of Aussie rules, the game was developed by a group of four men: Tom Wills, J.B. Thompson, Thomas Smith, and William Hammersley. All four men were members of the Melbourne Cricket Club, and were looking for a sport to play in the winter, the cricket offseason.

The first official game of “foot-ball” was played in July 31, 1858, at Yarra Park in Melbourne. Few details of the match have survived, but today the park features a statue commemorating the event. It is located adjacent to the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) and is a popular tourist attraction for footy spectators.

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On May 17, 1859, Aussie rules football was given its first set of coded rules, the majority of which survive to this day (although some rules, like bouncing the ball every 15 meters, were not added until later). Wills, Thompson, Smith, and Hammersley met at the Parade Hotel in East Melbourne and drew up a set of rules. Three days prior, they had also established the Melbourne Football Club.

Not every club in the surrounding area followed Melbourne’s lead, however, and for several years, there were numerous disputes as to which set of rules to follow. In May 1877, several other clubs decided to form a governing body, the Victorian Football Association (VFA). The first few senior clubs included Melbourne, Hotham, St Kilda, Carlton, and Albert Park, while the junior clubs consisted of Hawthorn, Essendon, Ballarat, South Melbourne, East Melbourne, Standard, Victoria United, Northcote, Victorian Railways, West Melbourne, and Williamstown.

An eventual rift in the VFA led directly to the formation of the Victorian Football League (VFL) in 1897. It contained the strongest VFA teams: Melbourne, Essendon, Carlton, Collingwood, Fitzroy, South Melbourne, St Kilda, and Geelong. By now, Aussie rules was a full-blown phenomenon, both in the Melbourne area and in the rural parts of the state. Four more footy clubs followed suit in the early part of the 20th century, joining the VFL and creating a high-class competition. These clubs included Hawthorn, North Melbourne, Richmond, and Footscray.

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The VFL became a big deal as the century rolled on, regularly drawing media attention and large crowds, in addition to helping develop the game as a major winter pastime for Aussies. By the early 80s, other clubs in faraway Adelaide and Perth were expressing interest in moving the sport to a more national level.

However, most Victorians were skeptical (at best) of a nationwide footy league; they considered the sport to have a distinct identity and didn’t want footy to branch out into unknown territory. Even when prominent footy figures – such as longtime Carlton and North Melbourne coach Ron Barassi Jr. – supported the idea of a nationwide competition, the average fans in Melbourne gave a collective shrug.

In 1982, a major shift occurred. The South Melbourne Football Club shocked the nation by moving to New South Wales and becoming the Sydney Swans. Sydney, long considered a haven for rugby league and rugby union, was considered to be the last place a footy club would move, and it was largely ridiculed at the time. However, the Swans began to become more competitive as the years went on. Concurrently, the VFL began to become open to the idea of interstate clubs. This culminated with the entry of the Brisbane Bears and the West Coast Eagles into the VFL in 1987. In 1990, the VFL became the AFL and moved towards becoming a truly national sport.

More changes came in the 1990s. A second Perth-based team, the Fremantle Dockers, commenced play in 1994. The Brisbane Bears folded two years later, merging with the Fitzroy Football Club to become the Brisbane Lions. And since the turn of the century, the AFL has added another team from New South Wales and another from Queensland.

But, at the end of the day, Aussie rules is synonymous with the city and state in which it originated.

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Australian Football League

  • Carlton Blues
  • Collingwood Magpies
  • Essendon Bombers
  • Geelong Cats
  • Hawthorn Hawks
  • Melbourne Demons
  • North Melbourne Kangaroos
  • Richmond Tigers
  • St Kilda Saints
  • Western Bulldogs

Victorian Football League

  • Box Hill Hawks (reserves)
  • Casey Scorpions
  • Coburg Lions
  • Collingwood Magpies (reserves)
  • Essendon Bombers (reserves)
  • Footscray Bulldogs (reserves)
  • Frankston Dolphins
  • Geelong Cats (reserves)
  • North Ballarat Roosters
  • Northern Blues (reserves)
  • Port Melbourne Borough
  • Richmond Tigers (reserves)
  • Sandringham Zebras
  • Werribee Tigers
  • Williamstown Seagulls

Regional Leagues

  • Alberton Football League
  • Ballarat Football League
  • Bellarine Football League
  • Bendigo Football League
  • Central Highlands Football League
  • Central Murray Football League
  • Colac & District Football League
  • Eastern Football League
  • East Gippsland Football League
  • Ellinbank & District Football League
  • Essendon District Football League
  • Geelong Football League
  • Geelong & District Football League
  • Gippsland Football League
  • Golden Rivers Football League
  • Goulburn Valley Football League
  • Hampden Football League
  • Heathcote District Football League
  • Horsham & District Football League
  • Kowree-Naracoorte-Tatiara Football League
  • Kyabram & District Football League
  • Loddon Valley Football League
  • Maryborough Castlemaine District Football League
  • Mid Gippsland Football League
  • Millewa Football League
  • Mininera & District Football League
  • Mornington Peninsula Nepean Football League
  • Murray Football League
  • North Central Football League
  • Northern Football League
  • North Gippsland Football League
  • Omeo & District Football League
  • Ovens & King Football League
  • Ovens & Murray Football League
  • Picola & District Football League
  • Southern Football League
  • South West District Football League
  • Sunraysia Football League
  • Tallangatta & District Football League
  • Upper Murray Football League
  • Victorian Amateur Football Association
  • Victorian Country Football League
  • Warrnambool & District Football League
  • Western Border Football League
  • Western Region Football League
  • Wimmera Football League
  • Yarra Valley Mountain District Football League

Stadiums

  • Arden Street Oval (Melbourne, capacity 10,000)
  • Avalon Airport Oval (Werribee, capacity 10,000)
  • Brunswick Street Oval (Melbourne, capacity 15,000)
  • Burbank Oval (Williamstown, capacity 10,000)
  • Casey Fields (Melbourne, capacity 12,000)
  • Coburg City Oval (Coburg, capacity 15,000)
  • Deakin Reserve (Shepparton, capacity 10,000)
  • Eastern Oval (Ballarat, capacity 10,000)
  • Elsternwick Park (Melbourne, capacity 15,000)
  • Etihad Stadium (Melbourne, capacity 56,000)
  • Eureka Stadium (Ballarat, capacity 8,000)
  • Frankston Oval (Frankston, capacity 8,000)
  • Glenferrie Oval (Melbourne, capacity 10,000)
  • Highgate Recreation Reserve (Craigieburn, capacity 6,000)
  • Holm Park Recreation Reserve (Beaconsfield, capacity 7,500)
  • Junction Oval (Melbourne, capacity 10,000)
  • Lake Oval (Melbourne)
  • Linen House Centre (Seaford, capacity 4,000)
  • Melbourne Cricket Ground (Melbourne, capacity 100,000)
  • Moorabbin Oval (Melbourne, capacity 10,000)
  • Morwell Recreation Reserve (Morwell, capacity 12,000)
  • Norm Minns Oval (Wangaratta, capacity 11,000)
  • North Port Oval (Melbourne, capacity 12,000)
  • Olympic Park Oval (Melbourne, capacity 3,000)
  • Pinks Reserve (Kilsyth)
  • Preston City Oval (Melbourne, capacity 5,000)
  • Princes Park (Melbourne, capacity 22,000)
  • Punt Road Oval (Melbourne, capacity 6,000)
  • Queen Elizabeth Oval (Bendigo, capacity 10,000)
  • Reid Oval (Warrnambool)
  • Royal Melbourne Showgrounds (Melbourne)
  • Selwyn Park (Melbourne)
  • Shepley Oval (Melbourne)
  • Simonds Stadium (Geelong, capacity 34,000)
  • Skinner Reserve (Melbourne)
  • Springvale Recreation Reserve (Melbourne)
  • Strathfieldsaye Oval (Strathfieldsaye)

  • Toorak Park (Melbourne, capacity 15,000)
  • Toomuc Oval (Pakenham)
  • Traralgon Recreation Reserve (Traralgon)
  • Trevor Barker Oval (Melbourne, capacity 10,000)
  • True Value Solar Centre (Melbourne, capacity 5,000)
  • University of Melbourne Oval (Melbourne)
  • Victoria Park (Melbourne, capacity 15,000)
  • Warrawee Park Oval (Melbourne)
  • Waverley Park (Melbourne, capacity 8,000)
  • West Oval (Geelong)
  • Whitten Oval (Melbourne, capacity 12,000)
  • Windy Hill Oval (Melbourne, capacity 10,000)
  • W.L.J. Croft Reserve (Melbourne)
  • Yarraville Oval (Melbourne)

HISTORY OF FOOTY: South Australia

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Aussie rules has a long and memorable history in the state of South Australia. The game officially dates back to the formation of the Adelaide Football Club in 1860.

Like in many other states, South Australian footy was very unorganized in the early years, with many clubs unsure whether to adopt their own unique rules or to follow the lead of the Aussie rules pioneers in neighboring Victoria. In fact, after a match between Port Adelaide and Kensington in 1873, it was said that neither side understood the rules correctly and no one was clear who actually won the game.

By 1877, uniformity in the rules was officially established with a local governing body, the South Australian Football Association (SAFA). The inaugural season included a dozen clubs: Adelaide, North Adelaide, Port Adelaide, South Adelaide, Prince Alfred College, Woodville, Gawler, Kapunda, Bankers, South Park, Victorian, and Willunga.

All of this changed over the next decade. The SAFA added the Norwood Football Club in 1878, but by 1886, eight out of the original 12 clubs left the SAFA. Slowly but surely, the association rebuilt, and was back up to six teams by the turn of the century. In 1907, it was renamed the South Australian Football League, and then became the South Australian National Football League (SANFL) in 1927. During WWII, the eight SANFL clubs were forced to merge into four clubs due to a lack of players, but after the war, footy returned to normal.

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With the addition of a couple new teams (Woodville and Central District) in 1964, the SANFL was surging in popularity. However, the national competition, the VFL, was centered in Victoria. In the late 70s and most of the 80s, many South Australian footballers were moving over to Melbourne to have a shot at the VFL.

Back in the SANFL, the writing was on the wall. In 1981, South Australian footy authorities made a bid to the VFL to be included in a national competition, but it was quickly rejected. By 1988, the SANFL was losing many talented players and facing dwindling crowds, so they implemented a player retention scheme. Fortunately, the Port Adelaide Football Club made an independent petition to join the VFL, to the surprise of many, in July 1990. Therefore, the SANFL tried to submit another bid of their own to the VFL by creating a team from scratch, the Adelaide Crows.

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In the ensuing months, the VFL listened to both bids, but ultimately ruled in favor of the new Adelaide Crows. The decision was reached primarily because, despite Port Adelaide’s rabid fanbase, Adelaide was on better financial footing as a club and had already secured an agreement for the use of a major stadium in the city. Shortly thereafter, the VFL was renamed the AFL and announced the addition of the Crows, to start play in the 1991 season.

Almost overnight, the Crows were the toast of the town, regularly drawing massive home crowds and dominating the local media coverage. On the flip side, the SANFL was in trouble, with lagging attendance figures and a lack of money.

In 1994, Port Adelaide finally secured their own license to start an AFL club, called the Power, while the original Port Adelaide team, the Magpies, remained in the SANFL (the two clubs are operated independently to this day). The Crows and Power share a home ground at the Adelaide Oval (capacity 53,000) and play each other annually in the Showdown rivalry match.

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Australian Football League

  • Adelaide Crows
  • Port Adelaide Power

South Australian National Football League

  • Adelaide Crows (reserves)
  • Central District Bulldogs
  • Glenelg Tigers
  • North Adelaide Roosters
  • Norwood Redlegs
  • Port Adelaide Magpies (reserves)
  • South Adelaide Panthers
  • Sturt Double Blues
  • West Adelaide Bloods
  • Woodville-West Torrens Eagles

Regional Leagues

  • Adelaide Plains Football League
  • Barossa, Light & Gawler Football Association
  • Broken Hill Football League
  • Eastern Eyre Football League
  • Far West Football League
  • Great Flinders Football League
  • Great Southern Football League
  • Hills Football League
  • Kangaroo Island Football League
  • Kowree-Naracoorte-Tatiara Football League
  • Mallee Football League
  • Mid Murray Football Association
  • Mid South Eastern Football League
  • Mid West Football League
  • North Eastern Football League
  • Northern Areas Football Association
  • Port Lincoln Football League
  • Riverland Football League
  • River Murray Football League
  • South Australian Amateur Football League
  • Southern Football League
  • Spencer Gulf Football League
  • Western Border Football League
  • Whyalla Football League
  • Woomera & Districts Football League
  • Yorke Peninsula Football League

Stadiums

  • AAMI Stadium (Adelaide, capacity 51,500)
  • Adelaide Oval (Adelaide, capacity 53,500)
  • Adelaide Showgrounds (Adelaide)
  • Alberton Oval (Alberton, capacity 17,000)
  • Balaklava Oval (Balaklava)
  • Blackwood Oval (Blackwood)
  • Centenary Oval (Port Lincoln)
  • City Mazda Stadium (Adelaide, capacity 16,500)
  • Clare Oval (Clare)
  • Coopers Stadium (Norwood, capacity 22,000)
  • Elizabeth Oval (Elizabeth, capacity 18,000)
  • Encounter Bay Oval (Victor Harbor, capacity 5,000)
  • Glenelg Oval (Glenelg, capacity 15,000)
  • Hahndorf Oval (Hahndorf)
  • Hickenbotham Oval (Adelaide, capacity 12,000)
  • Kensington Oval (Adelaide)
  • Mannum Oval (Mannum)
  • Prospect Oval (Prospect, capacity 20,000)
  • Thebarton Oval (Adelaide, capacity 15,000)
  • Unley Oval (Unley, capacity 10,000)
  • Woodville Oval (Woodville, capacity 15,000)