Here comes Aussie 'Footy'

Start practicing your best Australian accent, mate – Aussie rules footy is coming to Mason.

On Oct. 10 and 11, the United States Australian Football League will hold its 2009 National Tournament at Heritage Oak Park, just north of Mason’s downtown district.

Thirty-two men’s teams and six women’s teams plus coaches, umpires and fans will converge on the city, bringing with them Australian food, beer, even kangaroos.

The championship competition has been held in bigger cities, like Colorado Springs and Las Vegas, but USAFL President Rich Mann, says he’s thrilled to bring the contest back home.

Yes, US Footy got its start in Cincinnati. In 1997, Mann – a native of Perth, Australia – was living in Cincinnati when he and some other guys formed the first US Footy team, the Cincinnati Dockers.

Plus, Warren County Convention & Visitor’s Bureau Sports Marketing Director Ben Huffman was very convincing, Mann said.

“He gave us the best proposal we’ve ever seen,” Mann said. “It’s also nice because 70 percent of our teams can drive to Mason.”

With all the players staying in nearby hotels and eating in local restaurants, the economic impact has been estimated at $800,000, said Shirley Bonekemper, Director of the WCCVB.

So what is Aussie rules anyway?

“It’s like a huge game of keep away,” Mann said. “It’s one of the most free-flowing, fast-moving sports you’ve ever seen.”

It’s Australia’s national past time and often is compared to rugby or soccer.

A form of “footy” was played by Australia’s aboriginals, who used an animal carcass stuffed with coal, Mann said. Later the Aussie’s added goal posts and codified the rules in 1858.

There is no protective gear and unlike football, every player is equal to the next. There’s no special treatment or emphasis on certain players, like the quarterback, Mann said.

“Everyone on the field is one kick away from being involved in the play – you always feel like you’re part of the team,” Mann said.

When US Footy comes to Mason, the festivities will be free. An Australia-themed animal park, Kentucky Down Under, will bring up its mobile zoo, Mann said.

- Carrie Whitaker

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