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U of C Australian Football Club brings university championship to Calgary

By Kristy Koehler, November 9 2018—

The University of Calgary has a plethora of sporting options available, both at the varsity and club levels. One group looking to make an impact on the university’s sporting landscape is the Australian Football Club. Australian Football, known colloquially as Aussie Rules or just ‘footy,’ is surprisingly popular in North America — there are two competitive teams in Calgary alone.

Alex Bradley, president of the U of C Australian Football Club, wants to broaden the sport’s popularity on campus. How would a player describe Aussie Rules for someone who has never encountered the sport before? Bradley says it’s tough to describe, but likens it to “soccer, but more physical and where you can pick the ball up?

“It’s like a hybrid between soccer and rugby with aspects of American football,” Bradley said.

Aussie Rules has some key differences from those sports. The ball cannot be thrown — it must either be kicked or punched off the hand in a move known as a handball. There’s also full contact, no offside rules and very few game stoppages.

“It’s one of the best things about it for me,” says Bradley of the continuous play. “The NFL is really stop-start. Aussie Rules is really continuous — there’s always something happening.”

With so much action, Aussie Rules is also a high-scoring game.

“With a sport like soccer you maybe only get a few goals scored a game,” said Bradley. “But with Australian Football there’s a lot of goal-scoring going on.”

How is Aussie Rules played? Bradley says the game, played on a large oval with 18 players on each side, is really quite simple in nature.

“It’s got a similar objective to the game as most sports — kick the most points,” he said.

Players don’t run the ball into an endzone, but rather kick it through the goal posts. Kicking it through the middle posts results in six points. A single point is awarded by kicking it through the smaller, ‘behind posts.’

Photo Courtesy U of C Australian Football Club

The sport is wildly popular in Australia. Bradley likens the Grand Final to the Australian National Football League’s Super Bowl.

“It’s huge,” he said. “It’s really really popular — between 20 and 50 thousand people go to every game.”

North America hosts the biggest Aussie Rules tournament outside of Australia — the US Nationals. Teams from all over the United States and Canada play in the tournament. In 2016, the Calgary Kangaroos won the men’s tournament in their division at the tournament. The Calgary Kangaroos are the local men’s team while the Calgary Kookaburras play in the women’s league.

The U of C Australian Football Club, together with the Kangaroos, is hosting a university championship on Nov. 10. Teams from U of C, Mount Royal University, the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology, the University of Alberta and the University of Lethbridge are taking part. The format of the game will be modified to account for beginners, with mixed-gender teams and only seven players on each side of the field. It will also operate as a touch game, rather than full-contact.

When asked if he could see an Aussie Rules team donning Dinos red, Bradley said he’d love to see the sport rise to that level.

“That’s the hope,” he said. “Ideally it’s to develop the sport into something as popular as rugby on campus.”

The University Championship takes place from 4–7 p.m. on Nov. 10 at the Calgary Soccer Centre. The club on campus will also be hosting a series of ‘come-and-try’ events throughout the year.

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