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Women take Aussie Rules international

Derek Van Diest  | Edmonton Sun | July 11, 2011

Neda Dalili had never heard of Australian Rules Football before she was asked to take up the sport.

Lucy Nolan, a native Australian, knew the game existed, but was unfamiliar with the rules and had never played prior to moving to Canada.

Now, both are members of a national team heading off to Australia this August to participate in an international tournament.

“I first started playing out of curiosity, but as soon as I started, I realized it was addicting,” said Nolan, 28. “The contact is great, if you’ve ever been frustrated playing basketball, it’s the perfect sport. I like that you get to do everything. Everyone kicks, everyone catches, everyone passes and tackles, so you never feel stuck just defending or anything like that.

“It’s pretty easy to pick up. You can get the basics quickly and then work on them. It’s very rewarding, plus the fitness is huge.”

Dalili and Nolan started playing with a local Aussie Rules club that gets together Monday evenings to practise at William Hawrelak Park.

Tristan Waldock, who played the game in Australia before moving to Canada, put the women’s team together.

“I got into it when I was walking through the park with groceries and I saw Tristan kicking a ball around and I recognize it as an Aussie Rules football,” Nolan said. “So I stopped to have a chat and he told me he was starting up a women’s team and to be at the next practice.

“I didn’t really watch it in Australia, I knew the basics, but didn’t know all the rules because I had never really played it before.”

Nolan has been in Canada for four years and started playing the game three years ago.

She introduced Dalili, 29, to the game.

“I go school with Lucy,” Dalili said. “One day we were having coffee and she was coming from practice and asked me if I knew what Aussie Rules Football was.

“She told me to go check it out on YouTube and then to come to practice. I went to a practice and I really liked it. I played basketball before. It requires similar skills, a lot of jumping, running and skills. I got into it, and I really liked it. It’s a fun game.”

Waldock has been running the local club for the past three years and took over the head coaching duties of the women’s national team after serving as an assistant last year.

He and the local club are constantly looking to recruit new members.

The Canadian team, made up of players from across the country, will take part in the International Cup hosted by the Australian Football League.

It’s the first time the event will host a women’s tournament.

“To tell you the honest truth, I think we’re going to win this cup,” said Waldock, who has employed the services of local trainer Mike Chomitsch to help with fitness training. “There is no doubt in my mind we can win this cup.

“We’re going to Australia a week early, to really get to know each other and work on our game plan. All of the other countries are only flying in one or two days before the first game. We’re the only country that is flying in a week early to get prepared, because we really want to win this thing.”

Canada will be going up against teams from the United States, Ireland, Papua New Guinea and a local Australian side made up of international players.

The men’s tournament features 18 teams, including a Canadian entry.

“I never thought I’d be playing on the national team, but it’s a new sport to Canada, so I had more of a chance.” Dalili said. “When they asked me to play last year in the Parallel Cup against the U.S., I was so surprised. I got to play and it was a lot of fun.”

Reprinted from