This weekend there will be the largest Australian Football tournament in the world – and it won’t even be held in Australia. It’s the 17th USAFL National Championships in Dublin, Ohio.
On the line for this interview, I had Brian Barrish, a seven year veteran of the Philadephia Hawks, and the clubs current secretary. Brian also serves as the Media Manager for the USAFL.
A thousand players from almost forty clubs, and almost as many officials, coaches, and well wishers from across the United States will converge on Dublin, a small city of about 50,000, for the three day event starting Friday with admin meetings and clinics and ending on the Sunday.
The competition is played as 18 a side in the top two divisions on a full size oval, with the womens division given the option of playing 16 or 18 a side (agreed before match time). The lower the division the smaller the field, and the lower the number of players per side allowed to participate.
Division 4 has some sides combined from a number of teams, to faciltate as many as people as possible to play over the weekend.
Matches are done in the lightning carnival style, with two 20 minute halves. Only the grand final has extra time.
Teams are guaranteed three matches on the weekend before the finals. In total there will be 60 games plus finals.
Players are defined as nationals (citizens of the US/Canada) and non-nationals (Australians/Irish etc). At least half the players on the field at any time must be nationals. These are distinguished by the armbands they wear.
Brian wrote the official previews on the USAFL site, and says the favourites to win the competition are probably last years winner, the Austin Crows, but said if anyone can topple them, the Denver Bulldogs (eight times winners in their own right) are most likely.
He expects the Division 2 title to be a battle between Calgary and New York. The Golden Gate Roos, should play well too, and the Dallas Magpies should be in the mix.
Organising the Nationals involves dealing with hospitality, the state Parks department, and the local city. Brian says that the City of Dublin has been enormously supportive, and offered further social media support.
In addition to the weekends matches, but a match against the Manly-Warringah Giants will be held. There will also be a Masters v Legends game for previous players or older players to get involved with.
Brian supports the Hawks due to his affiliation with the Philadephia version, but he says he’s split with the Dockers) – and he first got interested in the footy when he was fourteen years old and channel surfing and found australian football on the TV.
From there he began listening to guys like Rex Hunt, Clinton Grybas and others on the radio online, and says the passion that these guys had for the game was obvious.
After recieving an invite to a Philadelphia Hawks grand final party in 2007, he was approached to play a game for the Hawks and he was hooked. He’s now in his seventh season, having played 58 games for Philadephia.
You can see more about the US Nationals at their website