Middle East AFL Grand Final preview: Abu Dhabi won’t be able to stand the Heat

by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rocket

Grand finals, anywhere, at any level, arouse passion and excitement. The second-ever Middle East AFL grand final will be no exception. However, the unbeaten Dubai Heat will go into Friday’s premiership decider against Abu Dhabi as raging hot favourites to win their second successive title despite beating their grand final opponents by just two points a fortnight ago.

Abu Dhabi has been devastated by injuries and unavailability of key players for the most important game of the season. The Falcons will be without skipper and competition MVP Ben Williams (wedding), competition leading goalkicker Marc Peterson (broken arm), ruckman Troy Patterson (knee), and creative mid-fielder Brad Foat (wedding). Foat  is a severe loss as he is the CUB representative in the Gulf region and the leading supplier of post-match refreshments.

Peterson’s story is particularly hard felt as he has never played in a grand final, not even in the juniors. The broken arm he sustained in the recent clash with the Heat has ended his illustrious career. The son of former North Melbourne grand final rover Rob Peterson, Marc was drafted by North under the father-son rule from his school, Hailebury College, where he played under Alan Jeans.

He played a season with the Murray Kangaroos in the VFL before electing to return to home club Seymour in the Goulburn Valley League, then to University Blues, onto Old Hailebury, then to Broadbeach in the QAFL, before moving to Abu Dhabi to work as project manager on the huge Central Market Redevelopment.

As he told me his story on the sidelines at training this week I suggested to him that if had he stayed at Seymour he would have played in four grand finals in a row including three premierships and the famous loss to Rochester in 2008. Unsurprisingly, he took little consolation from my remarks.

As it turns out his father Rob’s last game in the VFL was in the 1974 grand final when he lined up in the forward pocket alongside Doug Wade changing with Barry Cable on the ball. It was North’s second grand final ever. He had played his VFL debut at 16 years and 45 days old in 1968 and remains North’s youngest player ever. He retired to concentrate on his medical studies; he is a general practioner in Seymour.

The Dubai Heat will also have one player unavailable due to a wedding. Mid-fielder Chris Barrow is attending the same wedding as opposite number Ben Williams in Australia. Also out with injury is forward Chris Barrow.

A big “in” for the Heat is key forward James Hope, the former Victorian amateur captain, who missed the last clash. Although he did not train this week – he is recovering from last week’s Abu Dhabi International Triathlon in which he finished 40th – there are no doubts about his fitness.

Hope and former Sydney Swan Andrew Schauble are Dubai’s “twin towers” up forward and with mid-fielder Andrew Bereza (ex North Shore, NSW) and former Mansfield premiership player Cameron Hotton running off half-back the heat are likely to prove too classy for the spirited Falcons.

The incentive of two return air fares to Australia from club sponsor Etihad Airways for the Falcons most valuable player on grand final day has boosted enthusiasm even more. Back into the side for the grand final are rugged defender Jim Hanusak and elusive forward Matthew Wood. Their return is unlikely to make up for the loss of Peterson and the wedding party duo.

1980 Brownlow medalist Kelvin Templeton, now based in Abu Dhabi, will be on hand to present the medal named in his honour for best-on-ground, while the Australian ambassador to the UAE & Oman, Doug Trappett, a former Queanbeyan player in the ACT AFL, will present the premiership cup.

The grand final will be preceded by a play-off for third between the Bahrain Blues and the Dubai Dragons. Prior to that there will be three games of junior football for Under 10s, 12s & 14s. The venue for all games is The Sevens sporting complex in Dubai.


  1. Hey Rocket
    Do any of the locals play in this competition – any international rookies coming through?

  2. Rocket – the Falcons sound like they have been devastated by injury and absence. I want them to get up but I don’t hold much hope – but stranger things have happened.

  3. Rocket, Im tipping they’ll get more to the GF than the V8s. Ive just gone to Centrebet and in light of your post, betting has been suspended after huge plunge on the Heat. Without pointing fingers, it would appear that some “inside” knowledge may have come into play never for a minute suggesting that the moderators have any part of such skullduggery. But it certainly puts the Nicolic dramas in perspective.


  4. Rocket,

    I reckon Cameron Hotton also played in a flag at East Burwood.

    Did Rochester recently win a premiership?

  5. George Callum says

    Thanks for comments.

    Mark – alas no locals, nearly all ex-pats: Aussies, Irish, Poms, Canadians, and the odd Yank.
    However, the Auskick program means the Aussie kids can learn about the game as schools are dominated by soccer and rugby.
    Abu Dhabi have over 40 kids, including Ambassador’s son. Dubai have nearly 100 in their program hence 3 games tomorrow.

    Dips – the St Pat’s ball the night before the match adds to the woe as there is a strong Abu Dhabi contingent play both footy and Gaelic…inshallah.

    Daff – shame on you! Go and look at your GVL premiership list. Humdi’allah.

  6. Rocket Rod Gillett says

    Thanks to son Jereemy (aka George)for allowing me to use his computer to reply.
    No I’ve worked out how to log-in…

    Daff – you’re right Cameron Hotton did play in premiership teams at East Burwood. Hotton boys all originally from down Drouin way.
    Trent has had a golden run at Mansfield – several flags and a Morrison medal.

  7. The Heat got up pretty easily. Smashed the Falcons in the first half and they couldn’t get back the ground lost despite a more spirited showing in the second half.

    The loss of Brad Foat and Ben Williams affected the ability to get the ball out of the middle, or hold it up ifnot going the Falcon’s way. Inspiring games from Nathan Pirouet, Dan Brooke, Mick Molnar and Brett Bowman in what was a hot day (temps up to 40 Celsius earlier) weren’t enough to stop the first half movement of the ball forward. In this compressed (a rugby field) and reduced (9 a side) game, when any team gets a run on, it is difficult to stop.

    The Falcons were much more competitive in the final two quarters, winning one and almost breaking even in the other. Class, experience and footy smarts won out…

  8. Rocket Rod Gillett says

    Thanks Gus for the report.

    What a big 7 days its been for Nathan Pirouet – better known as “Dingo” as his clutch of Kiwi workmates at his school in Al Ain have nicknamed him (in honour of Robbie Deans).
    He was clearly best-afield for the Falcons in the GF and was duly awarded the Etihad return flights to Melbourne for 2. Alas his mother and father have just returned home after a visit. His father Brian (originally from Horsham) played for Essendon in the early 70s then in Prahan’s 1973 premiership team.

    Last Friday week he had his first amateur boxing fight in Abu Dhabi which he won on points. It was a fitting reward for months of arduous training under former Welsh junior boxing champion David Miles and sparring partner Wayne Witney, the Al Ain Amblers rugby skipper and hooker. Next Friday its the Amblers turn for a shot at a premiership at the Sevens complex; Pirouet who trained most of the season with the rugby team in the oasis city will be back there again to lend his support.

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