University of Canberra Firebirds

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University of Canberra Firebirds
University of Canberra Firebirds Logo.png
First season 1993; 24 years ago (1993)
Head coach Nathan Long
3rd year, 25–6 (.806)
Other staff Matthew Marshall(OC)
Aruvin Karunakaran(DC)
Josh Catanzariti (Lineman Coach)
Wayne Vickers (Backs Coach)
Stadium Greenway Oval
Field surface Grass
Location Canberra, ACT, Australia
League ACT Gridiron League
Bowl record 8–7 (.533)
Playoff appearances 19
1993, 1994, 1997, 1998, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2014, 2015, 2016
Conference titles 8
1994, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2010, 2011, 2016
Current uniform
University of Canberra Firebirds 2015 Uniform.png
Colors Red and Yellow
         
Website UCFirebirds.asn.au

The University of Canberra Firebirds are an American Football club established in 1993 to compete in the ACT Gridiron league.

Based in the Belconnen area in the northern part of Canberra, the Firebirds were one of five clubs originally formed for the seniors competition and one of only two still remaining (along with the Tuggeranong Tornadoes).

Funding and support by the University of Canberra Union resulted in the club adopting the organisation's colours – yellow, red and blue. The original playing strip consisted of yellow jerseys and yellow helmets.

The first UC Firebirds squad (1993).

The Firebirds have won the most championships in ACT Gridiron history with eight Capital Bowl victories from 15 appearances. The club has also won nine minor premierships by having the best regular season win-loss record (1994, 1997, 2000, 2004, 2006, 2007, 2010, 2011, 2016).

The Firebirds are seven-time winners of the Charity Bowl (2001, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2011, 2012, 2016), which is annually held in the first week of the season between the previous season's winners of the Capital Bowl and Charity Bowl. If one team holds both trophies, the opponent is the Capital Bowl runner-up.

During this period, the Firebirds under 18s team won ACT championships in 1996, 1997, 1999, 2000, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016. The 1999 championship was as the University Rockets - a joint venture with the ACT Astros side then competing in the NSW Gridiron League.[1]

The championship seasons[edit]

The Firebirds' first championship came in 1994 when it finished the regular season with an 8-0 record, followed by a 28-0 victory over the Belconnen Thunderbolts in Capital Bowl II. The dominance of the team was reflected in the fact that the offence scored more than 300 points, while the defence conceded only 20 points throughout the regular season. The Firebirds recorded six shutouts, with a seventh in the Capital Bowl. Quarterback Chris Laughlin was named ACT Gridiron MVP, while Tight End Bryan Hann was named Team MVP. Both were exchange students from the United States. The side was coached by John Etminan.

Paul Teede(23) in Capital Bowl XXIII

An 11-year championship drought ensued before the Firebirds claimed a second title in 2005 with a 15-14 overtime win against the Astros in Capital Bowl XIII. With the score tied at 7-all at the end of regulation, the Astros scored a touchdown on the first drive of overtime, with the successful PAT giving them a 14-7 lead. The Firebirds responded with a 10-yard touchdown run by slot receiver Andrew Jackson. Head coach Shawn Willis decided to go for a two-point conversion. Running a counter to the right, running back Travis Ford cut back up the middle and into the endzone for the winning points. Ford was named Capital Bowl MVP with 40 carries for 121 yards and one touchdown.

The Firebirds followed up in 2006 with the club’s second perfect season, posting an 8-0 regular-season record and a 19-7 victory over the Tuggeranong Tornadoes in Capital Bowl XIV. Travis Ford won a second consecutive Capital Bowl MVP with 212 rushing yards and one touchdown on 23 carries. He also recorded six total tackles and one interception as middle linebacker.

A third consecutive title came from the Firebirds' 12-6 double-overtime win over the Tornadoes in Capital Bowl XV. With less than three minutes remaining, the Firebirds were trailing 6-0 and faced with a fourth down and five near midfield. Quarterback Luke Job successfully ran an option left and pitched to running back Travis Ford, who ran for a 10-yard gain. After Job scrambled for another first down, he hit receiver Mark Skinner with a 21-yard touchdown pass to tie the score. Job won the game in the second period of overtime with a 20-yard scramble for touchdown around the left end.

Firebirds Head Coach Shawn Willis became the first coach in ACT Gridiron history to win four consecutive championships in 2008 as the Firebirds beat the Tornadoes 21-6 in Capital Bowl XVI. The Firebirds lost league-leading rusher and 2008 ACT Gridiron MVP Jeremy Milne to a broken leg early in the second quarter when leading 7-6, but used touchdown runs by back-up David Hicks and fullback Reece Cheater to secure the win. Firebirds quarterback Luke Job was named Capital Bowl MVP.

The Firebirds' sixth championship came with a 28-11 win over the Woden Valley Gladiators to close out a 9-1 season in 2010. Jeremy Milne was named Capital Bowl XVIII MVP after racking up 157 total yards (133 rushing, 24 receiving) and one touchdown off 17 touches (13 carries, four receptions). Quarterback Luke Job threw two touchdown passes to receiver Beau Kennett and scored another on a one-yard sneak. Linebackers Reece Cheater and James Case each recorded 10 solo tackles.[2]

The club's record seventh title - and sixth in seven years - came the following season with an 18-12 win over the Gungahlin Wildcats in Capital Bowl XIX. Despite losing four-time ACT Gridiron MVP Jeremy Milne to an ankle injury in the second quarter, the Firebirds built an 18-0 lead with less than five minutes remaining. The Wildcats scored two late touchdowns, but it wasn't enough to snatch the win. Free safety and back-up running back Ian Lanham was named Capital Bowl MVP after rushing for 160 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries, in addition to making three solo tackles. Milne ran for 80 yards and a touchdown on 10 carries before his injury.[3]

An eighth championship came when the Firebirds ended the four-year reign of the Central Spears with a 34-14 win over the Spears in Capital Bowl XXIV. Running back Brent Williams gained 200 yards on 27 carries and scored four touchdowns, the first of which was a 65-yard scoring run on the first offensive snap of the game. With a 14-8 lead at halftime, the Firebirds defence held the Spears on the first drive of the third quarter, forcing a punt from the Spears' 17-yard line. Defensive tackle Sam Jones broke through to block the kick, with defensive end Sandy Maskell-Knight diving on the ball in the end zone for a touchdown and a 21-8 lead. Williams scored the final two touchdowns, while also recording a fourth-quarter sack while playing defensive tackle. Quarterback Luke Job finished 8-of-11 passing for 66 yards, and carried four times for 31 yards – three of them first downs. Julian Ingall caught six passes for 43 yards. Nathan Long became the third head coach to guide the club to an undefeated championship season. [4]

Season records[edit]

Year Regular season Win Loss Tie Rank Head Coach Playoffs Win Loss Result
2016 8 0 0 1st Nathan Long 1 0 Champions
2015 6 2 0 2nd Nathan Long 1 1 Runners-up
2014 8 2 0 2nd Nathan Long 1 1 Runners-up
2013 3 6 1 4th Shawn Willis
2012 8 2 0 1st Shawn Willis 0 1 Runners-up
2011 9 1 0 1st Shawn Willis 1 0 Champions
2010 8 1 0 1st Shawn Willis 1 0 Champions
2009 5 3 0 2nd Shawn Willis 0 1 Semi-finalist
2008 6 2 0 2nd Shawn Willis 2 0 Champions
2007 7 1 0 1st Shawn Willis 1 0 Champions
2006 8 0 0 1st Shawn Willis 1 0 Champions
2005 2 5 0 3rd Shawn Willis 2 0 Champions
2004 7 1 1 1st Shawn Willis 0 1 Runners-up
2003 4 5 0 3rd Shawn Willis 0 1 Semi-finalist
2002 6 2 0 2nd Shawn Willis 1 1 Runners-up
2001 2 7 0 4th John Schofield (1-1), Shawn Willis (1-6)
2000 9 0 0 1st John Schofield 0 1 Runners-up
1999 1 7 0 3rd Ross Dorward
1998 3 4 0 2nd Simon Clancy (1-0), Ross Dorward (2-4) 0 1 Semi-finalist
1997 6 3 0 1st Simon Clancy 0 1 Runners-up
1996 - - - - No team entered
1995
1994 8 0 0 1st John Etminan 1 0 Champions
1993 3 3 2 3rd Ross Dorward 0 1 Semi-finalist

Team MVPs[edit]

Year Player Position
2016 Ian Lanham RB/DE
2015 Ian Lanham WR/DE
2014 Brent Williams RB/LB
2013 Ian Lanham RB/S
2012 Luke Job QB
2011 Jeremy Milne RB
2010 Ian Lanham RB/TE/DE/DT
2009 Jeremy Milne RB
2008 Jeremy Milne RB
2007 Garry Coates RB/WR/DB
2006 Luke Kominek (Job) QB
2005 Chris Czerny LG/DT
2004 Luke Kominek (Job) QB
2003 Luke Kominek (Job) QB
2002 Wayne Vickers RB
2001 Chris Czerny T/DL
2000 Simon Davis WR/QB/KR
1999 Aaron Froud (offense) RT
Tim Silver (defense) SS
1998 Nathan Long (offense) RB
Tim Silver (defense) SS
1997 Adam Shain (offense) RB
Mike Chambers (defense) LB

Representative honours[edit]

A number of Firebirds have gone on to represent Australia at both a Junior and Senior level.

Current Firebirds captain Sam Babic represented Australia in 2001 and 2003. He was selected as a center for the national team after his performances at the Gridiron Australia national championships in both years.

Travis Ford and Garry Coates were members of the Australian under 18s squad that played games against US all-star squads at the Down Under Bowl on the Gold Coast in 2004.

David Hicks, John Tolsher, Ben Collett, Garry Coates, David Wilkins and Jason Ray were all named in the Australian under 18s side following the 2006 National Junior Championships on the Gold Coast.

Sunny Dhindsa, John Tolsher, Sam Zielke, David Wilkins, Matt Lang, and Beau Kennett were all selected for the Australian Outback Junior Representative Squad that toured in Arizona and California in August 2008.

Linebacker James Tolsher was part of the Australian team for the World Cup qualifying match against New Zealand played in Canberra in January 2009. New Zealand won the match 12-7 to secure a place in the International Federation of American Football 2009 Junior World Cup.

James Thornhill and Hayden Clark were selected in the Australian Outback team to contest the International Federation of American Football 2016 Junior World Cup in China.[5]

Statistical leaders[edit]

Rushing yards

Career:
6,233 - Jeremy Milne
4,480 - Ian Lanham
3,593 - Brent Williams
3,102 - Andrew Jackson
Season:
1,646 - Jeremy Milne (2011)
1,638 - Brent Williams (2014)
1,533 - Ian Lanham (2013)
Game:
297 - Adam Shain (1997)
248 - Jeremy Milne (2011)
238 - Ian Lanham (2013)
238 - Ian Lanham (2013)

Passing yards

Career:
9,057 - Luke Job
807 - Matt Cottrell
Season:
1,328 - Luke Job (2015)
1,087 - Luke Job (2014)
1,022 - Luke Job (2012)
Game:
266 - Luke Job (2015)
230 - Luke Job (2009)
204 - Luke Job (2015)

Receiving yards

Career:
1,368 - Mat Hatcher
964 - Ian Lanham
940 - Beau Kennett
Season:
550 - Matt Hatcher (2004)
439 - Luke Freeman (2014)
437 - Beau Kennett (2012)
Game:
118 - Craig Sconce (2006)
113 - Tim Simpson (2011)
107 - Ronnie Carr (1997)

Receptions

Career:
80 - Beau Kennett
77 - Matt Hatcher
75 - Ian Lanham
Season:
34 - Ian Lanham (2015)
32 - Beau Kennett (2012)
31 - Luke Freeman (2014)

Touchdowns

Career:
74 - Jeremy Milne
55 - Ian Lanham
54 - Brent Williams
42 - Luke Job
Season:
23 - Brent Williams (2014)
21 - Brent Williams (2015)
18 - Jeremy Milne (2011)
Game:
5 - Jeremy Milne (2010)
5 - Brent Williams (2014)
5 - Ian Lanham (2014)

Tackles (combined)

Career:
407 - Tim Silver*
259 - Dan Simpson
250 - Sam Babic
Season:
73 - Dan Simpson (2007)
64 - Reece Cheater (2011)
58 - Dan Simpson (2009)

Sacks

Career:
14.5 - Chris Czerny
11 - Sam Babic
8.5 - Brendan Morrissey
7.5 - Andrew Cumpston*
Season:
4 - Chris Czerny (2002)
4 - Sam Babic (2002)
3.5 - Chris Czerny (2005)
3.5 - Dan Simpson (2007)
3.5 - Brendan Morrissey(2014)
3.5 - Tom Kries (2016)

Interceptions

Career:
17 - Ian Lanham
11 - Dan Simpson
9 - Jonathan McCaskill
9 - Tim Silver
Season:
6 - Joel Hennessy (2008)
5 - Dan Simpson (2004)
5 - Dan Simpson (2006)
5 - Jonathan McCaskill (2006)
5 - Ian Lanham (2014)
Game:
4 - Jonathan McCaskill (2006)
3 - Dan Simpson (2006)
3 - Nathan Long (2007)

(*) indicates that a player’s record may be higher and is likely to be adjusted as pre-1997 interception and pre-1998 tackle statistics become available.[6]

References[edit]

External links[edit]