Aussie rules football growing in Calgary
A lot of Calgarians may not realize that our city boasts two high-level Australian football teams: the Kookaburras and the Kangaroos.
Aussie Rules Football is a sport that combines elements of rugby, soccer and basketball.
Last month, two female players from Calgary made the first-ever Australian football women's world team. Even though they will not actually play together, it's an honor to be chosen out of 22 athletes in the world, they say.
Caity Kidd, 27, has been playing footy since 2007 and says, "I was shocked to be announced to such a prestigious group. My name was the first one to be called and I thought, 'Oh my god — that's me.'"
Erin LeBlanc, 34, has known Caity for three years. The two have played together on the Calgary Kookaburras Team, the Canadian National Team and now both have a place on the same World Team list.
"I was super surprised and flattered," says LeBlanc, as she remembers when she was called to the World Team.
Leblanc says that the recent international tournament held in Australia was a big eye-opener for her and a lot of her teammates due to the fact that a lot of the rules are different from the North American version of the game.
Kidd's love of rugby, which she played all throughout high school and with the University of Lethbridge, was one reason she decided to give footy a try. Her brothers also convinced her to "have a kick."
Leblanc says that her favorite part about footy is that it is so dynamic, fast-paced and you get to use parts of your body you didn't think you could before.
Matt Kidd is Caity's brother and is also a member of the Calgary men's team, the Kangaroos. According to him, Caity has grown so much as a player over the past four years.
"I have seen my sister develop so much, she is a leader out there. At the beginning I talked her into playing because I told her it was 'lots of fun' but now she has gone above and beyond," says Matt.
Alberta Footy has been around in Calgary since 2007. This organization has numerous community sponsors and in the past the two teams have run a junior program through schools where they have educated children in the sport. There are tryouts each fall but anyone as young as 14 years old can try out.
Both women encourage others to become more familiarized with the sport and to even play. They also agree that it's a sport for everyone, because whether or not you're athletic, fast or strong, they will find a position for you.
"It's an easy game to pick up and anyone at any age can play," says LeBlanc.
Matt Kidd also says that playing on these teams offer a good environment because the Kookaburras and the Kangaroos hold a lot of functions and fundraising together, leaning on one another for support.
Up and coming
Both of these teams will be heading down to Austin, Texas on Oct. 8 to play in the U.S. Nationals Tournament.
Caity Kidd says the last time the Calgary Kookaburras won this national tournament was in 2008, coming in second the last two years to the U.S. team.
"We are excited to go down there and take back our title," says Caity.
The men's team has won the Division 2 title the last two years and as a result been bumped up to Division 1 for this year's tournament.
The field itself is bigger than a rugby pitch and formed into an oval shape. There is no offside and you can punch, bounce, kick or pass the ball. The ball itself is actually called a football or a more commonly know in Australia as a footy. There are four posts at each end of the field. If the football is kicked through the middle posts, the scoring team receives six points while if it is kicked or forced through the outside posts the scoring team receives one. There are 18 players on the field at one time. Whichever team scores the most points by the end of four 20-minute quarters, wins.
- By Kirsten Glowa