My Football Story: Will Sandman

Name:  William Sandman
Hometown:  Louisville, KY
Years Playing:  16 years

Clubs I have played for:  Milwaukee Bombers, Louisville Kings, Ohio Valley River Rats, Portland Steelheads, Hong Kong Typhoons

Clubs I have played against:  Chicago, Nashville, Atlanta, Columbus, San Diego, Los Angeles, Orange County, Quebec, Houston, Austin, Kansas City, Seattle, San Francisco, Las Vegas, New York, Guangzhou, China

I found out about footy when I studied abroad in Melbourne in 2000.  My roommate at the time was my former camp counselor at Camp Piomingo in Kentucky.  When I had the chance to study abroad, we made a plan for me to live with him and his mom and attend Monash University.  His name is Petah Gibbs and he is currently working with the Fremantle Dockers.  Before I met him in Kentucky, though, he had played on the reserves team for Essendon and was able to teach me the game. 

This was my entry into the Aussie Rules Football world.

When finishing my undergraduate degree at Beloit College, I did a colloquium on the history and rules of footy.  In my research for my advising professor, Greg Buchanan, I found out there was a US league and that there was a team somewhat close; the Milwaukee Bombers.  I would drive 1 hour for trainings and games from Beloit and played for Milwaukee for several seasons, including a couple of Nationals.  Paul O'Keeffe and several other great coaches, players, and friends came from my experience in Milwaukee and it has always provided a shining example of what a club can be.

Once a new opportunity came up in Louisville, KY, I then moved back home and reached out to the Louisville Cats (now Kings).  At the time, the club had just suffered a tragic loss.  John Harrell, one of the league founders had suddenly passed away leaving a wife and daughter and a distraught club.  Initially, reaching out to former players was difficult, but slowly we grew back to have regular trainings and even hosting Nationals in 2007.  The club currently has a rich spirit and I will forever be grateful to have been a small part of that culture.

Upon deciding to return to grad school, I found myself in Portland, OR.  Another city with a great footy history and I knew I was going to like it from the first practice.  There were dedicated board members, people willing to volunteer, and a group embodying the spirit of Portland culture.  I tried to help in several roles in the club and was lucky enough to be part of organizing hosting (Darwin Buffaloes legend) Mark Motlop and his family.   We won 2 Nationals in Division 3 and started a successful metro league.

But now, I am off to Hong Kong. I have already played one metro weekend as a member of the Typhoons and I am hoping to make the Dragons first side.  Immediately upon arrival to the pub to watch Friday night footy, I was approached by the president and one of the guys on the team.  We started chatting and catching up and it was apparent that I would easily have some new friends.  At the metro game the next day, I met about 40 other guys that all seemed to be nice and good people.  This is why I keep coming out: because I keep meeting great people. 

On the other hand, when I sell footy to a new perspective player, the camaraderie is part of it, but my comparison to other sports is vital as well.  When you put it next to any other sport, you can easily see it is the best.  It is high scoring, full contact, fast paced, and takes endurance, speed, skill, and great decision making.  You not only have to tap the ball, but punch it, pass it, dribble it, kick it, and catch it.  What sport in the world has a better combination of skills with just a ball as the equipment?

Are you a USAFL player, coach, umpire, or fan?  We want to know your footy story!  Email Brian Barrish with your story.

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