Documentary on USAFL being shown in Arkansas

AETN shares story of Australian football in America

CONWAY, Ark. (AETN) - Attracting players of all ages, the United States Australian Football League (USAFL) has created a familiar harbor for Australian expatriates searching for a taste of home while allowing Americans to participate in a demanding sport unlike anything else they've encountered. Learn about the sport's growing popularity in "Play On: The Story of Australian Football in America," airing on the Arkansas Educational Television Network Sunday, May 22, at 3 p.m.

In Texas, the documentary finds the Dallas Magpies, a budding team that is about to attend their first major competition. With high hopes for success, Coach Mark Manoel prepares his team for The Nationals, a nationwide tournament attracting more than 30 teams from across the U.S. Woven throughout the film are thoughts from USAFL founding president Paul O'Keeffe, who reminisces about the journey the league has taken from a handful of guys out for fun to a phenomenon that reaches from coast to coast.

"Play On" was produced by Mark Wilcken, former mass communications instructor at the University of Central Arkansas. "About five years ago I was looking for a documentary project and had an idea for a film about ranchers in the Australian Outback," Wilcken said. "While researching the idea on the Internet I came across the U.S. Footy website.

"When I was younger, ESPN had a highlights show for Australian football that I used to watch. Unfortunately, at the time, there were no teams in the U.S. So, when I stumbled across the website and learned that there was an entire league of Australian football teams now in the U.S., I was really excited."

He called the team about doing a documentary and found himself driving to Dallas a week after arriving in Arkansas for his new job at UCA. "Play On" is Wilcken's first full-length documentary and is followed by "Revolution in Australia," which follows the U.S. national team to Melbourne, Australia, for the first International Australian Football Competition.

Since leaving UCA in 2003, Wilcken has established Kinetic Canvas, a digital production house specializing in documentary for both commercial and corporate audiences. Founded in the summer of 2004, Kinetic Canvas has already produced multiple sporting events.

The Arkansas Educational Television Network provides lifelong learning opportunities, improves and enhances Arkansans' lives and celebrates the unique culture of Arkansas through its programming.

ETN's five transmitters and numerous cable system connections give it statewide reach.

- Tiffany L. Verkler

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