Contributed by: Brett Northey
The first ever match by the Canadian and United States women's Australian Football teams takes place on Saturday 4th August 2007 in Vancouver. Is this the first international match, country versus country, of women's Australian Football - let us know if you can think of any others? If it is, there would be some historic symmetry - the first ever men's international cricket match is reported to have been between Canada and the US, in 1844, despite neither being amongst the leading cricket nations today. The respective coaches of the Canada and US women's footy teams gave us a preview of their sides before the historic match.
The Canadian's coach is Jake Anson, an Aussie from Warrnambool in Victoria. If the name is familiar to our longer term readers, that's because Jake was one of WFN's inaugural writers. He's certainly taken his passion for the game a giant leap further, coaching the women's footy competition in Calgary, Canada, and developing juniors there too. The women are being drawn from programs in both Vancouver (15 - 19 year olds), presumably from the North Delta Junior AFL program, and Calgary (21 - 28 year olds). The Canadians are generally younger than their US opponents - whether that is an advantage or disadvantage remains to be seen. Unfortunately for Jake, he has lost a core group of his best players. "We've had a bit of rough luck, with our four best players being unable to make it as of this week. Three, two from Calgary and one from Vancouver, injured themselves playing rugby over the past fortnight and so will have to miss. Our Captain is playing netball for Canada in Singapore next month and can't afford the time/cost of getting to Vancouver, as we haven't been able to find a sponsor for her. On top of that, seven of our other Calgary girls are unavailable due to weddings or work commitments. It's unfortunate, as they have been training well together three nights per week". Taking the lead as Captain will be Claire Brown and her deputy will be Kathryn Zakus. Jake is keen to use the match to develop a squad to play at the US Nationals, noting that "Footy for women here is still young, and the short summer means that we can only train outside between May and September (last snow melted mid-May). That being said, we'll give it our best and see if we can push the Yanks a bit this weekend".
The US team has been named the USA Freedom. They're planning on taking 20 players across the border as they strive to win their historic first match. Coach Wayne Kraska (coincidentally another writer from the early days of WFN, but very much a long term figure in footy in Atlanta for many years), explained the origins of the side. "Basically our team comes from Atlanta Lady Kookaburras (8 players), Milwaukee Lady Bombers (4), Arizona Lady Hawks (4). All those 16 have played fairly regularly over the past 18 months but as there aren't many games the most anyone has played is ten games or so, and that includes the mini games they play at Nationals. Except for Kathryn Hogg who played in South Australia somewhere years ago but she has a bung knee and probably wont play at all. These are pretty close to the best 20 players going around except for a few players that have been injured over the past months and were not recovered in time. Should be a great weekend though, our ladies are really excited and thrilled to be the first team to represent the USA in women's footy".
The US women will get to see their brand new uniform immediately prior to their match. In fact it will all be very new to them, because due to the realities of geography and the game being in its early days in America, the players haven't even had a chance to train together. This could give the Canadians an advantage, given they're from mainly just the two regions, but with a lot of unavailable players, the likely outcome is very much an unknown. As far as we're aware it will be played under regular Australian Football rules, with full tackling (the US women have experimented with the "wrap tackle" in the past). It should be a good contest and great for footy either way - not just in North America but a significant event for the game around the world. Given women's footy is not as advanced in Australia, in terms of numbers, as men's footy is, what chance that an All-Stars North American squad would be worthy opposition for the Australian women's team? That's probably premature and won't happen any time soon, but it would be a concept worth investigating.
USA Freedom squad:
|1||Audra Woodward||Arizona Hawks||25|
|2||Jenny Sarbacker||Atlanta Kookaburras||25|
|3||Diana Pizzari||New York Magpies||33|
|4||Nicole Martiny||Milwaukee Bombers||26|
|5||Denise Lafaver||Atlanta Kookaburras||36|
|6||Christina Murdock||Atlanta Kookaburras||22|
|7||Judith Stein||Atlanta Kookaburras||32|
|8||Stephanie Powell||Atlanta Kookaburras||29|
|9||Cathy Reinhardt||Atlanta Kookaburras||40|
|10||Dionne Jones||Florida Redbacks||23|
|11||Ali Van Horn||Florida Redbacks||23|
|12||Nikki-Nicole Peoples||Atlanta Kookaburras||31|
|13||Suzy Thomas||Milwaukee Bombers||30|
|14||Michelle Buchicchio||Milwaukee Bombers||28|
|15||Erin Welsh||Arizona Hawks||30|
|16||Geri Jellison||Arizona Hawks||35|
|18||Tina Arend||Arizona Hawks||27|
|19||Dewi Mitchell||Atlanta Kookaburras||31|
|23||Ellie Frey||Milwaukee Bombers||26|
|24||Kathryn Hogg||Minnesota Freeze||44|
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