Be a Devil - North Texas Joins USAFL Lineup

USAFL Foundation

The saying goes that everything is bigger in Texas.  And that is true in every sense of the word.

It’s the biggest state in the continental US.  Heck, it was its own country at one time.  It has its own culture and its own identity.  And when they embrace something, they do it wholeheartedly.

The Dallas-Fort Worth metro area and greater northern Texas embody this.  Nearly two centuries after its foundation, it continues to be one of the fastest growing areas in the country.  And… they love their football.

It is an area that has a long history with both the gridiron and roundball games.  And, for more than two decades, in Australian football.  Now, a new chapter emerges.

Representing the Metroplex and beyond, the North Texas Devils come into the USAFL as the league’s 48th member club.  They are the fourth Aussie Rules team from the Lone Star State, joining the Dallas Dingoes, Houston Lonestars, and Austin Crows.

“The concept behind the Devils was multi-faceted,” team founder and president James Henderson told USAFL.com.  “First and foremost, we want to grow the footprint of Aussie Rules Football in DFW. The Dingoes are established in the Dallas area, however northern DFW is one of the fastest growing markets in the US, and has a sizable Australian population.”

Henderson is a native-Melbournian who played football regionally both in Melbourne and in Sydney and grew up a die-hard North Melbourne supporter.  A Healthcare Services Executive, he lost touch with the game after moving overseas for work five years ago, but reconnected when he discovered the USAFL on Instagram after moving to the Dallas area in 2018.

His re-energized enthusiasm for the sport has spurred on the creation of the Devils.  The club will officially launch this spring, but the team has already been hard at work on social media getting the word out.

“The primary focus the past couple months has been on developing a club foundation – registering the business, securing a ground, kit, sponsors etc – so recruitment has mainly been word of mouth and social media presence, “Henderson said. “We’ve been fortunate to bring on several sponsors already which have also helped us get the word out and recruit. The current list is small, around twenty or so, however we’ve been talking to other sports teams, social clubs and some universities to host exhibitions and showcase the sport once things are safe again. 

Excellence in athletics is almost an expectancy in the area.  The DFW Metroplex has almost 8 million people, with clubs in each of the five major sports as well as successful college programs across many athletic disciplines.  The University of North Texas, located in Denton, and the University of Texas at Arlington each boast enrollments of nearly 40,000 students, and both Southern Methodist and Texas Christian Universities are nationally renowned for their own prowess.

The Devils will make the most of that in building their side on and off the field.  Their board is heavily stacked with business professionals and, as Henderson explained, have the vision to be a professionally run amateur football club with a community focus.

“We’ve developed a fairly robust recruitment strategy, the biggest hurdle is simply awareness of the sport, league and local clubs. The Devils are solely focused on the North DFW market with our home ground located in Plano, and will be recruiting from other sports clubs (where there are not seasons that clash), universities, gyms and more."

“There’s been solid interest from Aussies in the North DFW area, of the 20 on the list almost half are Australian and several played footy back home. The rest of the groups is a mix, with varied backgrounds including rugby, soccer, basketball and American Football.”

Building a club against the backdrop of the pandemic has proven to have its challenges, as it has for every other team in the league.  But the Devils were able to put together a handful of informal, socially distant kick around sessions during the fall and reported a good turnout across all of them, attracting men and women.  The biggest turnout was 14 players, which is a good start ahead of a hopeful 2021 campaign.  Henderson says that the club is roughly past the halfway point of their operational, financial, and recruiting goals for year one, and are hopeful to play games regionally and beyond if able to this season.

“A number of clubs have been incredibly helpful in establishing and supporting the Devils development,” Henderson said.  “A huge thanks for all those who reached out offering advice and resources. We’re hoping to work with the local Texas clubs to help grow the game in the state, and would love to collaborate with the Dingoes in DFW for exhibitions and events.”

The Devils’ name, logo and colors are being used in partnership with AFL Tasmania’s team bid.  And much like the footy fandom on the Apple Isle, North Texas’s Devils are ambitious and bold, and are looking to make their mark quickly.

“The development and standing up of the Devils would not have been possible without the Board, our volunteers, sponsors and financial supporters,” Henderson concluded.  “We’ve still got a way to go to hit all our inaugural season goals and welcome anyone wanting to be involved with the club.”

For more information, you can follow the Devils on social media (@ntxdevils) or email info@ntxdevils.com.

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