Contributed by: Wayne Kraska
In another sign of the International Rules game helping spread the word about the sports of Aussie Rules and Gaelic Football the first International Rules game was held this past weekend in Charlotte, North Carolina between a combine of the Atlanta Kookaburras and Atlanta Clan na nGael taking on the Charlotte James Connollys who had teamed up with the North Carolina Tigers. The game was played at the Overhills Soccer Complex in Concord just outside of Charlotte. With a population of 1.6 million people, Charlotte ranks as the 21st largest city by population in the USA.
Hosts of the game were the Charlotte James Connollys, who have until now been only interested in their own game from the old Eire. Along comes twice Revolution representative to Australia and Atlanta Kookaburras ruckman BJ Gambaro on a work assignment and you have the makings of a melting pot of games and experience playing team sports but somewhat foreign to the “average joe”.
Gambaro convinced the local Irish contingent that there are Aussie scalps to be had and more games to be played by making the quick transition to International Rules and inviting some players from nearby Aussie Rules clubs. Gambaro also set about getting the local Irish team incorporated and formalized rules and a constitution to establish the club as an International sports club not just a Gaelic Football team. Of course this brought many plaudits from the locals in Charlotte who welcomed Gambaro’s ideas and enthusiasm for their game, Aussie Rules and the International version as well.
The Charlotte team then took on the nearby North Carolina Tigers Aussie Rules team from Raleigh NC as allies while further south the Atlanta Kookaburras joined with local Irish team Clan na nGael to make this a quite unique event. The end result these four teams came together for the first inaugural International Rules Challenge game of the South East of USA.
In oppressive conditions of 95F and just as high humidity the locals fielded mostly Irish players new to the idea of tackling and marking where the Atlanta Internationals were made up of mainly Aussie Rules players struggling with control of the new round ball. It was the Atlanta players that were able to overcome their issues first and continue to pepper the goal area with overs and attempts on goal in the first quarter to set up a handy lead. The Charlotte team looked in some trouble at that time as they had issues with some of the contact legal in this new game for them. At half time though as all players downed the fourth of eight cases of water drank in two hours the Irish were back in the game. Their brains trust then set about nailing down why the Atlanta team were staying competitive when this game should be theirs to win. Scores Charlotte 0.5.7.22 Atlanta 220.127.116.11
“Forget the tackling and forget the marking” was the Charlotte way for the second half and it started to pay dividends immediately. Running with the ball and dropping the long kicking game the locals came back and were looking a lot more damaging. At the final siren it was the hosts Charlotte victorious 18.104.22.168 to Atlanta 22.214.171.124 . A much celebrated three point win to the home team. Later as teams downed plenty of well earned drinks from sponsoring hotel Connolly's on 5th the torch was handed to the Atlanta Kookaburras to host this event in 2007 to see if the Atlanta Internationals can wrestle back that trophy and the become the premier International Rules team of the South East of USA.
Our International Rules reporter Peter Parry adds: The combined NAGAA-USAFL teams from these two American cities is indicative of how at a national level IR could promote both Aussie Rules and Gaelic Football in the USA in a big way - e.g. with a curtain-raiser to a 3rd Test in New York - if the AFL and GAA ever put into action their previously mentioned plan of taking a Test to America. To what extent this may just promote the hybrid over the parent codes is debatable, but if the GAA-NAGAA and AFL-USAFL stay in control the pathway to play at international level would be via Aussie Rules with the USAFL or Gaelic football with the NAGAA.
World Footy News