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LAX Herald Saturday - July 6, 2002
THE lacrosse equivalent of soccer's World Cup may not match the recent tournament in Japan and South Korea in terms of hype and global interest, but the Lacrosse World Championship to be staged in Perth from July 5-14 will mark an international explosion of the sport. Teams from an unprecedented 15 countries will compete, more than any of the preceding eight tournaments dating back to 1967, a phenomenal increase considering only five nations contested the 1990 World Championship, also staged in Perth. The event will see the biggest number of sportspeople competing in Perth since the Empire Games in 1962. A special division has been created to accommodate new emerging teams from Hong Kong, Ireland, New Zealand and Korea - all competing for the first time. Delegates from Argentina, China, and Pakistan will also attend the tournament to gain information in preparation of the next event in four years. Teams competing in this year's Championship will be aiming to replace the USA as the dominant nation in world lacrosse. They have won all but one of the previous tournaments. Vice-president of the WA Lacrosse Association David Spreadborough said the popularity of lacrosse in the US has raised the standard and profile of the sport. "The college game in the US is developing substantially, especially in the eastern states," he said. "The introduction of a professional league in the States has improved and increased the athleticism and player development." Despite the fact that Australia is one of the core nations in world lacrosse, having competed in all World Championships to date and staging the event twice, lacrosse is still a fledgling sport Down Under. Mr Spreadborough said the fast-paced and physical style of lacrosse should make the game appealing to the Australian sporting palate, but the media dominance of major sports such as AFL and cricket restricts its profile. The international future of lacrosse, however, is looking bright. With the explosion of the sport in the past 10 years and more countries joining the International Lacrosse Federation each year, the ILF will be pushing for selection as an exhibition sport in the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens.
Lacrosse booms internationally
By Daniel Emerson
THE 2002 World Lacrosse Championship kicked off last night with a gala opening at Challenge Stadium. The event was attended by dignitaries from the International Lacrosse Federation, Lacrosse Australia and the Championship Organising Committee. Players from all international teams as well [as] representatives from teams competing in the ancillary events were presented to the crowd. Audience favourites included Scotland, the Iroquois Nationals and Australia. Also popular were the dancers, who were greatly appreciated by members of the Northern Thunder Under-15 team. Team members got into the spirit with Czech players colouring their hair red and the Scots wearing kilts.
Canadians wary of US juggernaut
By Tessa Heal and Melvin Tang
CANADA will be hoping to go one step further at the lacrosse World Championship, starting at UWA Sports Park in Perth today. Runner-up to the USA at the 1998 Championships in Baltimore, the Canadians, aided by an experienced and talented line-up, are confident of going all the way in 2002. There are 15 players in the Canadian team who have previous world championship experience. Assistant coach David Huntley said this was their major strength. "All of the guys are professional lacrosse players [and] we have got tremendous experience," he said. Huntley said spectators could expect an attractive style of play from the Canadians. "The team has extraordinary stick and ball handling skills - they are creative and they are tricky," he said. However, head coach Frank Neilsen said as team had played only three outdoor games together was detrimental to its chances in the championship. "We're very much an indoor team and we're made up of indoor players so we're definitely not used to playing on [an outdoor] field," he said. "We had to come in six weeks earlier in 1998 to get used to it but this year we've only had two practices since we've arrived." Nielsen said the United States were once again the team to beat. Tom Phair, 31, is one of Canada's most experienced players. Along with Paul Gait, this will be Phair's fourth world championship appearance. Phair said quality players like Gait, Chris Sanderson, John Grant and Pat Cole would make the Canadians formidable opponents. "We have some of the best players, we have a great offence and we are very experienced," he said. At 35, Gait said this would be his last world championship. "I've got a lot of pressure to perform and I'll do my best but I'm getting old and I'm probably not as fast any more," he said. The Canadian team was selected last October after a series of highly competitive try-out camps. Before competing in the Championship, five members of the team were forced to choose between representing their country and playing the 2002 Major League Lacrosse (MLL) season in Canada. All of the players - John Grant Jr, Tracey Kelusky, D'arcy Sweet, Matthew Shearer and Paul Gait - opted to represent Canada. It was these decisions Phair said had motivated the team to succeed. "These guys have sacrificed huge financial gains to play for their country," he said. "But there's no bigger thrill and that's what we all dream of."
Full strength English raring to go
By Jessica Vanderende
ENGLAND will field a full strength team with a balance of youth and experience for the Lacrosse World Championship, according to coach Dave Elwood. Co-captain Daren Baythorpe has the most experience in the young side, having played in the 1994 and 1998 championships in Manchester and Balitmore. Baythorpe said while the six players who had played in 1998 were providing guidance and being respected, they had learnt just as much from the younger players in the team. "They give us some young, fresh legs and add a bit of excitement," he said. "I believe we've selected the best 23 players in the country and they're ready to play." Elwood said the weather would not be a concern for the English. "We've quite happily played in mud back home so the rain and slippery surface won't bother us," he said. Co-captains Richard Smith and Baythorpe said they were most looking forward to the first game against Canada. But Elwood would not be drawn on England's chances in the championship. "You always dream ... but we'll just take it one game at a time," he said. "[The players are] without a doubt ready to go and looking forward to the first game. We've been working hard for twelve months for this." Elwood said he expected several loyal English fans to follow the team to Perth. "It's fantastic that they come across and support England wherever you go," he said.
Aussies aim for hometown boost
By Ben Spencer
THE Australian lacrosse team will have a strong local look when it steps onto the field for the world championships today. The event sees local players Thomas Cahill and Scott Griffin, of the Subiaco lacrosse club, and Nathan Rainey, of Wembley, representing their country at senior level for the first time. Michael Wann, also from Subiaco and a stalwart of the national side for the past eight years, will play his first match for Australia on home soil. Rainey, 22, said he had been waiting for the opportunity to represent his country since he first started playing lacrosse 11 years ago. "I played for Australia at under 19 level, but this is my first senior tournament," he said. "It's a huge buzz and a big opportunity to play lacrosse at the highest level, and it's even better that it's in Perth." Rainey said the fact Australia rarely competed in between world championships, yet was able to maintain its standing as a force in world lacrosse, was indicative of the Australian sporting culture. "It's just that the people who play [lacrosse] seem to fit the game well," he said. There are nine West Australians in the Australian squad, with head coach John Denic also from WA. Wann, who made his senior debut for Subiaco in 1988, said the high number of local players in the Australian squad was a result of the excellent breeding ground available to players coming through the club ranks. "We have a smaller [State] league but we probably have a better quality," he said. "We have five teams that are probably a lot closer whereas the other States have lots of teams with probably a bigger distance between them." Wann, 30, said the championships would be the highlight of his career. "It's nearing the end for me so I'm also able to play in front of my home crowd and the people who have supported me over a long time, which is great." Cahill, who will make his debut as part of a strong Australian defence, said people should go to the world championships to witness, if nothing else, the speed and skill of those competing. He said people in Australia, unlike in the US, had a misconception about how lacrosse was played. "They [Australians] see the sticks and the equipment and think it's a violent game, whereas it's not that violent," he said. "It's not violent at all like Aussie Rules [football] or some other sports and it's not even a hard game to understand, but like any sport it takes time to be able to understand the rules and what's happening on the field."
Champions shoot for six straight
By Melvin Tang
DEFENDING World Champion USA has been on a 20-year winning streak since 1982, winning five ILF World Championships in a row. This year, with the help of head coach Jack Emmer, they aim to continue that streak but this time with the youngest roster in the team's successful history. The US have sent their youngest and most inexperienced team consisting of mostly college players and with only one player, Darren Lowe, 31, of Long Island, having played in the previous world championship in 1998. Head coach Jack Emmer attributes this to the US Major League schedules. "Because of the Major League last year, most of the professionals couldn't make it to the try-outs," he said. Despite this, Emmer is confident his team will perform well. "We've got a good mix of veterans and college players and they're working more as a team than any of the previous teams have and they also handle the ball well and bring a lot of enthusiasm to the game ... I have absolute confidence in this team." Some lacrosse fans in America have criticised the team's ability to win the championship this year seeing that Canada has sent at least half of their previous national squad to the Perth. US captain Todd Rassas said: "I'm very excited to be here and it's going to be a great experience for all of us. We'll work extra hard this year because of what happened in our country last year and we've got to prove we're not the underdogs. Besides, I didn't come here to win anything but the gold." USA plays in the top-ranking Blue Division along with Australia, Canada, England and Iroquois Nationals. Their first game is today, against the Iroquois Nationals at 7pm.
Not just a game for pioneers
Story and photo by Ben O'Shea
THE Iroquois Nationals hold a unique advantage over every other team at the 2002 World Championships - they invented modern Lacrosse. Before Europeans came to North America the game existed in many different forms and was played across the continent, though the long stick version recognisable as modern Lacrosse belonged to the Iroquois. This early version of modern Lacrosse was played on a field ranging from 100 yards and two miles long, with goals at either end. Competing teams were structured according to the clans of each Iroquois nation and could range in size from five to 1000 players. Lacrosse is a "medicine" game for the Iroquois, historically played to promote the strength and health of the Nation and maintain understanding of its traditions. Today, the spiritual aspect remains unchanged and any individual or community that requires the holistic benefits of Lacrosse may request a game to be played. The transition of the Iroquois from this traditional game to Lacrosse as it is played internationally has been rapid. When the National Collegiate Athletic Association invited the Iroquois to field an exhibition team to play against Canada and the United States NCAA champions, the Iroquois Nationals came into existence. In 1990 the ILF accepted the Iroquois as a full member nation and they became the only Native American sporting team to compete internationally.
Six nations work as one
Story and photo by Ben O'Shea
THE Iroquois word Haudenosaunee symbolises the six Iroquois nations working together as one. It could also describe the Iroquois Nationals at this World Championship. The Cayuga, Oneida, Onondaga, Mohawk, Seneca and Tuscarora Nations will all be represented by Iroquois, which is competing at the showcase of international lacrosse for only the fourth time. Returning to Perth, the venue for their first world championship in 1990, the Iroquois line-up has a few familiar faces. Veteran defender Vince Schieffert and evergreen Burnam brothers Scott, Dan and Mark were part of the inaugural Iroquois team and are returning in 2002. They bring with them a wealth of knowledge to what Iroquois Nationals Committee executive Oren Lyons says is a young team in transition. Scott Burnam's experience adds to the potent attacking options Iroquois hope will compensate for the absence of Rex Lyons, the leading scorer at the last world championships in 1998. Triple All-American Gewas Schindler will spearhead the attack alongside the in-form Neal Powless and the remarkable stick-skills of Delby Powless, who made the top five scorers list at the U-19 World Championships in 1999. In his fourth world championship, Dan Burnam will share the face-offs with Ed Shenandoah, who makes his first appearance at this level after coming from the Onondaga Redhawks. Defensively Iroquois suffered a major setback when key defender Marshall Abrams was not released from his professional commitments and U-19 All-World selection Rodney Redeye was ruled out with a torn cruciate ligament just two weeks before the championship. The new-look defence will combine the experience of Schieffert and Mark Burnam with the physical presence of rookie Ron Cogan, who stands at 193cm and weighs in at a substantial 109kg. In goal, head coach Ron Doctor has the option of playing the imposing Joe Solomon, a veteran of two championships, or Chris Hopps, renowned for leading a typically lightning fast Iroquois counter-attack. With only around 100 senior players to select from, drawn from both field and indoor, or "box", lacrosse, Iroquois have had remarkable success at world championships. Part of this success can be attributed to the great importance the Haudenosaunee place on lacrosse and the common heritage they share with the game. With just one full week of training as a team and only a handful of practice matches under their belt, the Iroquois Nationals hope this heritage will help them overcome their short preparation and have them ready for a first round showdown with the USA.