ACT Gridiron or ACTG is the governing body for gridiron (American football) in the Australian Capital Territory, Australia. ACT Gridiron currently has six teams. The season culminates with the grand final, known as the Capital Bowl.
Gridiron in the ACT began in 1990 with the formation of the Canberra Sabretooths Gridiron Club. In that year the Sabretooths played a number of full contact games against NSW gridiron teams before entering the NSW competition in 1991. The club played three seasons as members of the NSW League, winning the championship in 1994, their last year in the competition. The ACT Gridiron League was formed in 1993 with five teams competing for the Capital Bowl trophy.
The original senior teams were: the Belconnen Thunderbolts, the Tuggeranong Tornadoes, the University of Canberra Firebirds, the Tidbinbilla Space Cadets and the Queanbeyan Wolverines.
The Tuggeranong Tornadoes and the University of Canberra Firebirds are the only two original teams still in the competition, although the Firebirds did not enter a team in the 1996 competition.
After the NSW championship-winning season in 1994, the Sabretooths folded. A number of players joined with the remaining members of the Belconnen Thunderbolts and Tidbinbilla Space Cadets to form the Canberra Tigers, who won Capital Bowl III in the club’s inaugural season.
A number of ex-Sabretooths went on to form the ACT Astros to continue an involvement in the NSW competition. The Astros had great success in the NSW League, winning one title in 1996 from appearances in four grand finals. In 2001, the ACT Astros were renamed the Astros and entered the ACT Competition after withdrawing from the NSWGFL, replacing the Canberra Tigers side which folded after the 2000 season. The Astros experienced immediate success, winning championships in each of their first four seasons and compiling a 28-1 record between 2001 and 2003. After losing Capital Bowl XIII in 2005, a number of key players retired. A lack of juniors coming through the ranks contributed to a poor run of form, which ended when the club effectively ceased operation following the 2011 season. The foundation Queanbeyan Wolverines folded mid-way through the 1998 season, but another Queanbeyan-based team – named the Warriors – formed in 2000. After experiencing early success by making the playoffs in the club’s first three years (including a Capital Bowl appearance in 2001), the Warriors folded early in the 2005 season.
ACT Gridiron welcomed two expansion teams in 2007 with the formation of the Centurions and the Gladiators. The Centurions were based in Canberra’s central and eastern suburbs and established by Tuggeranong Tornadoes founder John Crispin, who coached the Tornadoes to four Capital Bowl triumphs. The Gladiators began training in the Woden Valley and Kambah area and were coached by Mike Whitesell, who was in charge of the Astros team that won the 1996 NSW league championship. A further addition was made in 2009, with the Gungahlin Wildcats incorporated to begin play in 2010. Based in Canberra's expanding northern suburbs, the Wildcats were founded by former Australian junior coach and two-time ACT Gridiron Coach of the Year John Ludvigson, with the assistance of Jim Smith. The Central Spears began play in 2012, effectively taking over the operation of the Astros club that was scheduled to fold. However, no Astros were part of the Spears' management, coaches and players. The Spears won the ACT Gridiron championship in their first year of existence.
Five teams have recorded a perfect season to win a championship: the Firebirds in 1994, the Tornadoes in 1998, the Astros in 2001 and 2003 and the Firebirds again in 2006. The 1993 Tidbinbilla Space Cadets won eight games and tied one on their way to the championship. Two teams – the Firebirds in 2000 and the Astros in 2005 – have finished the regular season undefeated but lost the Capital Bowl.
The ACT Representative team is the ACT Monarchs. The Monarchs have played representative teams from NSW, Queensland, Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia since 1996. They participated in the 1996 National Championships in Canberra, the 1998 Gridiron Australia National Challenge in Sydney, the 1999 Gridiron Australia Eastern Regional Championships in Sydney as well as the 2001 and 2003 Gridiron Australia National Championships in Canberra and Adelaide, respectively. After a seven-year absence, the Monarchs returned to interstate competition at the 2010 National Championships in Melbourne. The Monarchs posted their first-ever victories at the 2001 Championships, defeating Victoria in the second round and South Australia in the third place playoff. The 2010 Monarchs defeated Queensland 12-9 in a pool game, before losing to Western Australia in the third-place playoff game.
The first season of Junior Gridiron in the ACT was played in 1991. At one stage there were as many as nine Junior teams playing in the local competition which was divided into two divisions - High School (ages 14–16) and College (ages 16–18). The current Junior competition is contested in one division by players 18 years old or younger.
In 1999 the junior Monarchs became the first ACT team (senior or junior) to taste victory at representative level by winning both games of a two-match series against NSW. In 2006 the Junior Monarchs finished second at the National Championships on the Gold Coast, losing only to the Queensland Sundevils, which won the tournament, in overtime. At the 2007 National Championships, the Junior Monarchs finished third overall.