Calgary Journal Online

Football done Aussie style PDF Print E-mail
Written by MAYAN FREEBORN   
Monday, 12 July 2010 14:47

Calgary Kangaroos still joeys, already winning national competitions

On a 280-metre field with four goal posts and 18 members on each team, onlookers are in for an action-packed sport.

Helmets, shoulder and knee padding are not seen on Aussie Rules players, who tackle, sack and smother each other on the field in this aggressive game.

It’s one of Australia’s national sports, says Australian David Rowe, and it combines elements of soccer, rugby and Gaelic football into full contact mayhem.

In 2004, an Aussie Rules club got started in Calgary.  When Rowe, 27, came over from his home country in 2008, he was looking to play Canadian sports, but because hockey wasn’t an option – he can’t ice skate -- he looked online for a Calgary football club and found the Calgary Kangaroos.


The Calgary Kangaroos play Aussie Rules Football at the Calgary Rugby Union. The team is part of the Canadian Australian Football Association, which formed in 2004.

Photo: Elise Botero

The Bears were formed in 2007 as the second Calgary-based team. Locally, the Bears and Calgary Kangaroos competed against each other until this year, when the Cowboys replaced the Kangaroos. When the two teams are not competing against each other, and competing as a district, they are collectively known as the Calgary Kangaroos.


The ball starts in the middle of the field and is thrown up, similar to a basketball game, explains Rowe, but the guys can run and jump into each other.

Like in Gaelic football, to pass the ball, it is kicked. Or the players make a fist and use an upward striking motion underneath the ball, called handballing.  Unlike rugby, there is no onside or offside line, and the players are able to pass the ball forwards, says Rowe.

Four goal posts that do not have a crossbow are at either end of the field. There are two large poles in the middle, Rowe explains, and the kicks that go through the middle two are six points, and if the ball goes through the large pole and an outside pole it’s one point.

Like most ball-related sports, the idea is to score as many points as possible.

Last year, the Kangaroos won the United States Australian Football League Division 2 nationals. Rowe says this year they  will be competing in Division 1 in October.

“If we win that we’ll be the best side (team) in North America,” he adds. Rowe has been playing Aussie Rules football since he was five years old, and is proud to now be coaching both the Bears and the Calgary Kangaroos.

“Now down here coaching -- it’s more about developing Canadian guys getting into the sport,” he explains.

Rowe says currently there are about six Canadians being looked at by the national coaches for national teams. He says he would like to help get more Canadian guys up to that level.  The scouts look for Canadian players out of leagues from British Columbia, Alberta and Ontario.

“They pick a side out of all the Canadian players and then they go down to Australia to play in the World Cup. They’re all Canadian guys --They’re representing the country,” Rowe says.

Calgarian, Bruce Gillis, 28, has only been playing for two years.  He says teams cannot enter tournaments without a mixture of Canadian and Australian players, so the team pushes for more Canadians to join.

He adds that his development as an Aussie Rules player has been influenced by his Australian teammates.

Australian Matthew Mitchell has only been in Calgary for about a year, and has played Aussie Rules football since he was four years old. The sport will never be as big as it is in Australia, he says, but the Canadian guys are improving with each game.

“It gives you a taste of back home,” he says adding that he knew none of the Australians that played previous to moving to Canada.

Mitchell adds that he hopes there will be more knowledge about the game in Canada.
“I think Canadians would like [Aussie Rules football] because you’ve got the rough and toughness of hockey and then on the other side of things you’ve got running, which keeps you fit,” he says.