Halifax Dockers raise awareness of Australian rules football on Footy Day

·3 min read
Halifax Dockers players demonstrated their sport for members of the public at Wickwire Field on Saturday. (Jeorge Sadi/CBC - image credit)
Halifax Dockers players demonstrated their sport for members of the public at Wickwire Field on Saturday. (Jeorge Sadi/CBC - image credit)

Australian rules football leagues across Canada held community events on Saturday to promote the sport.

In Halifax, the Halifax Dockers, part of the Australian Rules Football League of Nova Scotia, showcased their sport and encouraged people to give it a try at Dalhousie University's Wickwire Field.

Jonah Scott, league president and founder of the Dockers, grew up in a small town in Australia. He said the sport is deeply entrenched in the culture there.

Jeorge Sadi/CBC
Jeorge Sadi/CBC

He said when he moved to Canada he missed the sport and the camaraderie that being part of a club provided.

Scott said he decided that he wanted to bring the sport to his new home in Nova Scotia and now the game has gained popularity across Canada.

"We tend to describe it as like the endurance of soccer, the contact of rugby and the athleticism of basketball," he said.

"If you combine all of those sports, you basically have an Australian rules football player."

There is no goalie, goals are kicked and the sport is played on an oval. The game tends to raise a few eyebrows when people see it for the first time, Scott said.

The sport has picked up steam in Nova Scotia after a slow start. The Dockers now have 35 players on a regular basis, up from 18 in recent times.

Jeorge Sadi/CBC
Jeorge Sadi/CBC

He said one reason for the success has been a focus on a non-contact version of the sport. Players have flags attached to their belts.

He said the non-contact version decreases injury concerns.

According to Scott, there has been an increasing number of women participating. While they currently play co-ed games, a start has been made toward establishing a women's team.

He said Canada's national women's team has done well on the world stage and won the equivalent of the World Cup for Australian rules football four years ago.

He said the Halifax Dockers will be offering a free six-week youth girls training program for girls between 10 and 16.

Jeorge Sadi/CBC
Jeorge Sadi/CBC

Claire McCormick was out on the field showing her skills on Saturday.

She developed an interest in the game while studying in Australia for a year and decided to "give it a shot here."

McCormick said Australian rules football has a similar feel to the game she originally wanted to play.

"It was kind of interesting because I've always wanted to try rugby, but I've just never really got to do that," she said. "So I figured, hey, this is close."

The team has been supportive, McCormick said, and she appreciates the fact they don't take it too seriously.

Jeorge Sadi/CBC
Jeorge Sadi/CBC

Rugby was also the gateway sport for Daniel Henick, who took part in Saturday's event.

Henick, from Sydney, N.S., said he likes contact sports and used to like to play rugby when he was younger.

"Seeing … a lot of the running, a lot of the contact part of it, I just got hooked," Henick said. "These guys are very welcoming, very wholesome and very willing to let people learn and play."

The group trains on Monday and Wednesday evenings at Fort Needham Memorial Park.

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