Dallas Magpies in the Press

Chris Emerson might have been born in Texas, but his idiosyncrasies – from that distinctive twang in his voice down to his interspersing of "mate" and "bloke" in casual conversation – are purely Australian.


Having spent his formative years in the Northern Territory of Australia, Emerson, 30, has a unique perspective on life. As in Texas, though, football is king Down Under. It's just the rules that are a little tweaked.


"It's the No. 1 sport in Australia, for sure," said Emerson, an accountant who lived in Australia from age 4 to 18. "You pick it up at a young age and keep playing it forever. It's just something you never get tired of and try to play as much as possible."


When he returned to the Dallas area for good four years ago, Emerson was reacquainted with his sport of choice through the Internet. He teamed up with the Dallas Magpies, then a ragtag group of about 10 Australian Rules enthusiasts who enjoyed a rousing game with other likeminded sorts.


For more sports stories from Richardson, check out the bureau archive. The program's recent growth, though, reflects its burgeoning nationwide popularity.


Today, the team, which formed in 1997 and conducts weekly practices and games in Crowley Park, boasts 46 regulars – including five from Richardson. It travels across the country competing in the Mid American Australian Football League, along with teams from Atlanta, Chicago, Milwaukee, Nashville and St. Louis. The Magpies also belong to the fledgling Texas Australian Football League, with teams in Dallas, Austin, Houston and San Antonio.


Though its name might suggest otherwise, Australian Rules football – or "footy" to those in the know – isn't entirely similar to football. There is some hard tackling involved, but the game's strategy is more synonymous with soccer in that you try to evade contact. The main idea is to pass the ball downfield – either by kicking or by "handballing," which looks like an underhand volleyball serve – rather than hold onto it.


The vast oval-shaped field has four goalposts at each end, which creates three scoring opportunities. A kick through the center goal is worth six points, with one point awarded to an outer-goal kick – called a behind.


The most common misconception about the sport, said Magpies captain Stuart Rackham, is that it is as rough and physically demanding as rugby – another favorite Australian pastime. That notion, though, isn't indicative of Australian Rules play.


"At first, guys might be a little hesitant to play Australian Rules because it's a foreign concept to them," said Rackham, a research and development chef for Chili's. "But once they learn the skills and rules of the game and start playing, there's really no turning back. It's a very fast, exciting game that needs all kind of players, regardless of physical makeup."


Americans have embraced the sport en masse, with more than 40 teams belonging to the United States Australian Rules Football League. More than half of the Magpies' roster, in fact, is made up of players from the United States. The national governing body even has instituted a rule that stipulates at least half the players on the field for a team must be American.


Brandon Blankenship started playing with the Magpies two years ago. He now also holds down a spot with the U.S. Revolution, a national team made up entirely of Americans who play contests against international squads.


Richardson's Jeff Tapp got started in Australian Rules on a whim four years ago when the Magpies needed players to fill out their roster for a tournament. He grew up in Whitewright playing American football and went on to star in that sport for Austin College, as well, and thought he might not encounter much difficulty picking up the new sport.


Tapp still enjoys the American version of football that he grew up with, but he has a newfound enjoyment for a sport that helps to unify groups of individuals.


"Each person on our team has a totally different background," said Tapp, who has a network cabling company. "It's nice being a part of a team where you get to learn about a completely different culture and a sport that no one else knows anything about."



Name  Home  Native country/territory

William Adams  Wichita Falls  United States

Allen Bailey  Garland  United States

Steve Banner  Keller  S. Australia

Brandon Blankenship  Fort Worth  United States

Dustin Brasel  Dallas  United States

Matt Brillo  Dallas  United States

Ernest Bryson  Dallas  United States

Ritchie Champion  Dallas  South Australia

Justin Chance  Dallas  United States

Scott Cobb  Dallas  United States

Chris Cordry  Dallas  United States

Leroy Ellis  Richardson  Western Australia

Chris Emerson  Dallas  U.S./Northern Territory

Aaron Gunn  Frisco  United States

Anthony Guterres  Plano  Australia

Daniel Hawkins  Dallas  United States

Dave Hayhurst  Dallas  New Zealand

Thane Hayhurst  Richardson  New Zealand

Jeremy Henermann  Fort Worth  United States

Danny Hill  Richardson  United States

Scott Hunt  Euless  United States

Dale Hunter  Addison  United States

Blake Hyland  Dallas  Australia

Chad Jackson  Dallas  United States

Greg Jackson  Dallas  United States

Collin Jones  Garland  Victoria

Heath Kennedy  Plano  Victoria

Justin Nash  Houston  Australia

Marshall Oden  Dallas  United States

Brett Olds  Garland  Victoria

Andrew Palamara  Mesquite  Australia

Paramil Patel  Dallas  United States

Glen Paton  Dallas  Victoria

Stuart Rackham  Dallas  Victoria

Dee Raibourn  Dallas  United States

Charlie Richardson  Dallas  United States

Chi Chi Rodriguez  Dallas  Mexico/Louisiana

Ian Russell  Dallas  Victoria

Daniel Russo  Dallas  S. Australia

Joel Shipley  Dallas  United States

Chad Stover  Lewisville  United States

Sean Stover  Irving  United States

Jeff Tapp  Richardson  United States

Chris Tucker  Richardson  S. Australia

Carlos Vaquerano  Plano  Ecuador

Deren Wilcox  Dallas  United States



Though its name might suggest otherwise, Australian Rules football is more synonymous with soccer than it is with American football. A few areas in which Australian Rules and soccer compare: Soccer  Category  Australian Rules Rectangular  Field shape  Oval 100-110 meters  Field length  135-185 meters 64-75 meters  Field width  110-155 meters 11  Players on field/team  18 45-minute halves  Length of match  20-minute quarters 7.32 meters  Goal width  6.4 meters



Date  Opponent  Location  Time

April 3  Austin Crows  Crowley Park  2:00

April 17  TXAFL Metro Tourn.  Austin 

May 1  at Austin Crows  Austin  2:00

May 15  St. Louis Blues  Crowley Park  2:00

May 22  Dallas Metro Lone Star Cup  Crowley Park  2:00

June 5  at Chicago Swans  Chicago  2:00

June 26  Cincinnati Dockers  Crowley Park 

July 24  at Nashville Kangaroos  Nashville  2:00

Aug. 14  TXAFL Tournament  Crowley Park 

Aug. 28  at Atlanta Hawks  Atlanta  2:00

Sept. 11  Milwaukee Bombers  Crowley Park 

Sept. 25  Intraclub match  Crowley Park  2:00

Oct. 8-10  USAFL National Tournament Atlanta

- Matt Jacob - The Dallas Mornin

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