Paul O'Keeffe

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USAFL Foundation

Paul ”Plugger” O’Keeffe recognized over ten years ago there was an opportunity and need to begin something great here in the US. An opportunity to introduce Americans to the national game of Australia and a need to give his fellow expatriates the chance to play that game as is it was back home in Australia. There are those that may have characterized Paul O’Keeffe as a modern day “visionary”.

While it is true O’Keeffe had a vision in the early days of the USAFL of what the league could potentially become, his most significant contribution was to allow Australian Football to evolve in the US on it’s own terms. Though the USAFL was Paul’s vision, the success of the league was more due to his unmatched talent for organization, unyielding determination and unquestionable love of the sport.

There were only a handful of clubs in 1997, the year of the first National Championship Tournament in staged in Cincinnati. By 1998 nearly 25 clubs were actively participating in organized competition the number or games played went from fifteen in 1997 to 118 in 1999. Paul O’Keeffe held the reins of the league as USAFL President for the first two years of existence struggling mightily with a small cadre of ardent colleagues striving to keep up with the exponential growth of Australian Football in the US. Though elected to serve a second term as USAFL President at the 1998 AGM it is ironic O’Keeffe was unable to even raise his hand to accept the nomination as it was in a sling due to being broken in a match earlier in the day.

At the 1999 AGM Paul stepped down as President, turning to his talents for organization as a background contributor to the continued growth and success of the USAFL. O’Keeffe knew that continued the continued healthy growth and development of Australian Football in the US would only take place with direct involvement of new people, ideas and passion. A largely overlooked but crowning achievement for O’Keeffe and the USAFL was the ratification of the USAFL Constitution at the 2001 Administrator’s Conference. With the implementation of this document, the League had attained the legitimacy of organization wherein the development of Australian Football in the US would be recognized at the international level.

Without question, the state of Australian Football in the US would not be where it is today without the tireless efforts, personal contributions and sacrifice of Paul ”Plugger” O’Keeffe. It is only fitting that Paul be the inaugural inductee to the United States Australian Football League Hall of Fame.

YearUSAFL RolePositionResignedGrade
1997 to 1999
2000 to 2009
International Liason
YearUSAFL Role
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