In Australia, much like soccer in the UK and rugby in NZ, Australian Rules Football is a religion. Growing up in the one team town of Geelong as the eldest of two girls, I had little choice but to tag along with my Dad every Saturday, stand in the outer, rain or shine and slowly see myself become addicted to the team in the blue & white hoops.
For years it was heartbreak after heartbreak, losing 4 Grandfinals until the glory years finally came in ’07 and ’09. All the pain and devotion had been worth it. Every time you win the big one you think, could this be the last time I see my team win a premiership…? Moving to the US in 2010 further hindered my chances of seeing it happen again, however here I am on a flight home (mainly for family reasons…) lucky enough to have a seat at the ‘G’ and see if I get to experience that exhilaration again.
Living overseas, you certainly feel the disconnect from the Aussie lifestyle without seeing your beloved team play every week and the absence of the football crazy media. Whilst living in London, my husband and his friends played in the London Football League which was hugely popular and competitive. It was at a time when it felt like every Australian had decided to reside in London for a few years and the West London Wildcats provided us the connection to home we needed with a game on every weekend and your typical footy social events that most commonly lead to many a big night.
In the USA, with so much other sport on, Aussie rules seems to get a little lost but the United States Australian Football League, established in 1997, has steadily grown thanks to the increase in the number on antipodeans living in the US. The organization is focused on “the promotion and awareness of Australian football and Aussie culture and has created a sense of community among USAFL clubs and club members.”
They are now close to 10,000 members which includes Aussies, Americans, Canadians and anyone else that wants to pull on the boots.
The Houston Lonestars were created in 2005 and play 6-8 games a season against cities in the southern US region such as Austin, Baton Rouge, Dallas and Jacksonville, Florida. Initially started just to have a kick around and create a football social group for Antipodeans in Houston, the Lonestars are aiming to be competitive against the better teams in the national league and get a team together for the USAFL championships each year.
If you’re keen to participate or spectate contact Dan Holwerda(coach) for more details via their Facebook group or website below. Or get into his ear at the Grandfinal party at the Firkin & Phoenix Friday night.
~ The AFL Grandfinal between the Geelong Cats and Collingwood Magpies(boooo) will be screened live tonight at the Firkin & Phoenix Pub on Westheimer Rd. The game starts at 11.30pm but get there from 8.00pm onwards to mingle with fellow antipodeans(and curious Americans) and watch the pre-game entertainment. Last year was a great turn out (twice) so wear your team colors proud and get a taste of home. (Coopers beer and all!)
~ The 15th Annual United States Australian Football League championship is taking place in Austin next weekend on 8th & 9th October. It is the largest Australian Football tournament in the world. There are up to 35 Teams and 1000 players from all over the States taking part in over 60 games in four Men’s divisions, one Women’s division and junior clinics. It will also include development programs and seminars. Some of the favorites to take out the Division 1 title include the New York Magpies, San Diego Lions, Denver Bulldogs and Calgary Kangaroos. Houston Lonestars are currently listed in Division 4.
United States Australian Football League & USAFL Championship in Austin – http://www.usafl.com/
Video from ‘The Age’ website last week on the ever increasing popularity of AFL in the States: http://media.theage.com.au/sport/sports-hq/aussie-rules-winning-converts-in-america-2635430.html