For this installment of the international footy series, I talked to Simon Boyce, the co-coach of the Austin Crows. For further information on US Footy you can check out the interview with Denis Ryan, the President of the USAFL here.
I wanted to get a cross section of the United States competitions, which due to the way clubs are created and the various forms of metro footy and other unique circumstances, will vary from area to area. This might be called part 2 of the USAFL series.
Simon originally hails from Mildura, where he played a bit of footy for Irymple. He moved to the United States when he was 18 and played some college tennis. When he tired of the tennis life, he found some guys who were having a bit of kick to kick in Austin. Its some way from there to the Austin Crows winning the US Nationals.
The Austin Crows is an 18 a side club for the most part, but team sizes can vary depending on numbers, opponents and the size of the ground.
The amount of games the club plays per year can vary, leading up to the US Nationals the club plays about 10 games, and supplements that with an 8-10 game metro league season. They have 3 clubs in Texas within driving distance, including Houston and Dallas .
The Metro competition varies from 12 a side up to 16 a side, and its steadily growing. The Texas AFL is all 18 a side matches.
Metro footy is what happens when the clubs split up into two or three clubs, and Simon says this includes players who dont want to travel and are more or less strictly metro players. Simon says that its not about competition in Austin, its more about development.
In Austin at least, metro footy is full on, where other clubs play a less contact version.
Simon says there are few clubs in the US that have access to ovals, and while Austin has a regular training field they can use, the local council arent exactly fans of them planting goal posts in the ground for matches, and so they hire a couple of soccer fields for their games.
The city of Austin played host to the US National Championships for the second time just a few short weeks ago. Simon says its his favorite weekend of the year with almost all teams represented, and a festival atmosphere. The Grand Final is watched by a couple of hundred people.
The US Nationals is subject to bidding, and Austin won its bid five years ago. The club worked with the City of Austin who gave the club a grant to assist with its bid. Voting is done by the USAFL board and includes various criteria which must be met including.desirability of the location, and the big one, good facilities. Included in the facility requirement is access to five football grounds, three of which have to be full size.
Simon says the USAFL does a really good job of running the event, with a little bit of help from the local club with vendors and a few other things, but mostly allow the club to focus on its Nationals campaign.
The AFL sent a number of guests this year including American AFL draftees like Eric Wallace. Current star Nick Riewoldt and the AFLs International Development man, Tony Woods were both present. The Subiaco WAFL club played an exhibition game and staged a coaching clinic as part of its end of season trip.
Austin were ranked 4th in the competition, having been runner up a couple of years ago in the second division. Boyce says they travelled to Denver to test themselves earlier in the year, and that experience led them to try for division 1. They ended the Nationals on top.
Boyce says that the standard of the American players in general has improved. There have been several Austin players taken to the International Cup in the past, and Boyce believes that several of the current team are of a standard good enough to perform at the Cup.
If you’d like to know more about footy in the USA, please see the interview we conducted with Denis Ryan, the USAFL president here and on youtube. Alternatively you can visit the USAFL website at www.usafl.com