Australian Football Comes to Fort McMurray
An Australian football team in Fort McMurray may seem far-fetched, but it is a dream local Chris Piercey is determined to make a reality. The sport – colloquially known as Aussie Rules, AFL, or simply footy – has a growing presence in Canada, particularly in Alberta, but a team in Fort McMurray would be the most northern team in North America.
The handful of locals playing have had prior experience in rugby, American football, and Gaelic football, which Piercey said was not surprising given the skills used in these sports are similar to the skills needed for footy. “Take the sports of soccer, basketball and rugby; remove the offsides and knock-on rules and you have footy in a nutshell,” he said. “It is a fast-paced, high-flying, high-scoring game that is guaranteed to get your heart rate up and leave you with a few bruises when everything is said and done.” The full contact version of the sport is definitely not for the faint of heart but the beauty of it is that there are also non-contact versions of this sport as well. The seed for footy in Fort McMurray was planted when Piercey stumbled upon a YouTube video showcasing the highest pinnacle of the sport – the Australian Football League (AFL). Piercey then received his first hands-on experience with the sport while in Bali for his honeymoon. “Given Bali is a popular travel destination for Aussies I very quickly spotted a few guys kicking a footy around on the beach,” he said. “When they noticed I had turned my attention to what they were doing they asked if I might like to join them. I obliged and they proceeded to teach me some of the fundamentals of kicking and handballing [like an underarm volleyball serve]. When my wife and I returned to Canada I found out I was able to watch the AFL on TSN. This began a sudden infatuation with the sport of footy.”
While the team is still in its infancy, Piercey said once locals give the sport a try, they will be hooked. “I believe opening up a new sport in this community will allow for people to participate in an activity that is physically challenging and competitive in nature that is not the traditional sports like rugby, softball, soccer or football. Currently the team is growing by word of mouth from individuals in the local sporting community here in Fort McMurray. “I know that once they give the sport a try, they will be back to play again.”
The group practices at MacDonald Island Park's indoor turf facility at Shell Place on Fridays from 9-10pm. If you’re interested in trying Australian football in Fort McMurray, email Chris Piercey at firstname.lastname@example.org