It’s been a time of transition and turnover for the Atlanta Kookaburras.
Season 2016 ended with the squad combining with Baton Rouge (Louisiana) at USAFL Nationals and finishing just out of the finals series. Their one loss was by 10 points in their opener to a skilled Des Moines (Iowa) side while learning to play together. They followed that with a win by 11 over perennial power Denver. Their third and final game was a resounding victory over Tulsa (Oklahoma), made more remarkable because they played the match after learning a clerical error would keep them from advancing.
A high point of 2016 was the club’s 100th win, coming on the road vs. the Nashville Kangaroos.
Kevin Sheehan along with other AFL staff and club recruiters have again assembled in Los Angeles for their annual combine to identify American talent to bring to AFL clubs.
Recent success stories from previous years are Mason Cox (Collingwood), Jason Holmes (St Kilda) and Matt Korchek (Carlton). But the 2016 combine did not result in any athletes being taken by an AFL club.
Athletes will be put through extensive athletic and skills testing along with interviews by AFL clubs and educated about the Australian game.
Aussie rules has developed rapidly in the country of Canada in the past decade or so, buoyed by a wave of Aussie ex-pats who live and work in the large cities of Vancouver, Toronto, and Ottawa, among others. There are several leagues currently operating, most notably in Ontario, Alberta, Quebec, and British Columbia.
The AFL brought the game to Canada officially in the late 1980s, when exhibition matches were held in both Vancouver and Toronto. In fact, the 1987 Vancouver-based match between Sydney Swans and the Melbourne Demons drew a record crowd of over 32,000 – which, to this day, is the largest crowd ever to see a footy match outside of Australia.
Collingwood big man Mason Cox is healthy and ready to be a difference maker in 2017. Now on the senior list, he’s in line to play a larger role in part due to a couple of departures-- Premiership player Travis Cloke to the Western Bulldogs, and second ruckman Jarrod Witts, who is now a Gold Coast Sun.
At 211 cm Cox is able to play some in the ruck, but his soccer and basketball skills make him versatile enough to win his fair share of marking contests on the Collingwood forward line. Certainly his teammates love having a big target up front.
By now you’ve certainly heard the story of the big man (and fellow Texan). He played on the scout team for the Oklahoma State University women’s basketball side, worked his way onto the men’s team, graduated with an engineering degree, and was about to start a new job when he showed up at the AFL combine in 2014.
The growth of Aussie rules football in the US has been a slow, steady, but satisfying journey. The United States Australian Football League (USAFL) was originally established in 1996 and is currently based in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin. Americans and Australian ex-patriates alike have been able to get the word out about the historic game, and the excitement of footy is finally coming to American shores on a large scale.
In the 1960s, the Victorian Football League (VFL) tried to expand its international audience by promoting what they called the Australian Football World Tour in 1967 and 1968. It was initially conceived as a way to develop international rules football – a hybrid sport featuring representatives from both Aussie rules football and Gaelic football – but also became a way for international audiences to see various elements of footy up close and personal. Games were played in Dublin, London, and New York City, but the tour was discontinued after 1968.
Jason Holmes’ time as a Saint will continue in 2017 after signing a one-year deal at the end of last season. He also earned permanent status on the team’s senior squad since AFL rules state that players must be elevated or delisted after three years on a rookie list.
His status, however, appears to be up in the air. The ruckman from Chicago, Illinois, USA was not in the lineup for any of St. Kilda’s preseason matches with Port Adelaide, Carlton, or Sydney.
One reason for the uncertainty could be that the Saints already have three pure ruckmen signed beyond 2016—Tom Hickey, Billy Longer, and Lewis Pierce. Longer and Pierce are under contract until the end of 2018, while Hickey gained attention after a solid campaign last year.
The VFL's Northern Blues today confirmed that American Alex Aurrichio has departed the club and joined Sydney University in the NEAFL.
The statement from the Blues said "Aurrichio arrived at the club at the end of the 2014 season from the New York Magpies, making great strides in his two years culminating in a leadership group position last year."
“Alex was such a popular player for two years, everyone really respected him and admired him for his efforts — he was a consummate team man. He goes with our blessing to Sydney University in the NEAFL… our loss is their gain,” Northern Blues GM Garry O’Sullivan said.
We welcome our newest writer Joe Woodyard to the site. Joe is based in the United States in the state of Georgia. We hope he will become a long term correspondent for us. His footy interests lie with the history of the AFL, it's stories, and the on-field play during the regular season.
I like that AFL clubs do a good job of remembering their roots and telling their entire story, even if the memories aren’t as pleasant.
St. Kilda matches don’t make it to the US, at least not through my cable TV package, so I’ve been watching a season 2016 tilt with Melbourne. On the back of the Saints uniforms is an “EST. 1873,” or established in 1873, which alludes to the first year of their existence.
They’ve never relocated and granted, the majority of their footy hasn’t been of the winning type, but remembering your history and knowing where you’ve come from are both good things.
North Melbourne Football Club launched their women's team at Arden St yesterday. The team was made up of ten Tasmanian women and the balance made up of players from Melbourne University Womens Football Club (also known as the MUGARS). It is an important step to what the club hopes will eventually be an AFL Women's league team.
One of those Melbourne Uni women was Katie Klatt (#19 in the picture below). Katie has come across to Melbourne in late 2016 after taking part in the AFL's Talent Identification Combine in Sydney and playing in the women's exhibition match in Sydney on the GWS team. Prior to that Katie played with the Sacramento Suns in the USAFL and also represented the US against Canada at the 49th Parallel Cup.