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Yanks here to play Australian rules football

Cheryl Critchley | From: Herald Sun | August 17, 2009

THESE Yanks definitely don't tank, taking it up to the Aussies in the first tour by an international women's Australian rules football team.

Despite losing their four games they edged closer each time, finishing with a two-point nail-biter against a combined VWFL team on Saturday.

US Freedom is mostly Americans and one expat Australian, and boasts the Statue of Liberty on its jumper.

After visiting the SCG and enjoying a tour with Swans coach Paul Roos, team members attended Friday night's Hawthorn-Adelaide game at the MCG.

Arizona Hawks onballer/forward and Freedom vice-captain Tina Arend, 30, likes Hawthorn because it sponsors her team.

The Hawks lost, but the social security officer loved the game and our cheer squads, which were like nothing she'd seen.

"It was awesome to come to Melbourne, the home of footy," she said. "I was surprised at how fast it moves and how skilled they are."

Dewi Mitchell-Schierholz, 33, a half-back flanker with the Atlanta Lady Kookaburras, also loves the game but has a tough time explaining herself back home.

"(I tell them) it's a combination of tackling and soccer skills and basketball skills but with an oval ball," she said. "Most people look at me like I'm crazy."

Other teams represented include the New York Magpies, Denver Bulldogs, Milwaukee Bombers and Minnesota Freeze.

Coach Wayne Kraska, 47, is a Melbourne expat who moved to Atlanta with his American wife, Mary.

Mr Kraska started playing with Atlanta in 2002, and now coaches the Atlanta Kookaburras.

US women have been playing since 2005 and there are now 7-8 teams nationally, who play round-robin tournaments around the country. There are about 35 men's teams.

Mr Kraska said footy was gaining popularity with Americans, who loved its uniqueness.

"I think they like the physicality of it, they like the running, they like the tackling," he said.

The VWFL will hold its premier division firsts and seconds grand finals on Sunday at Box Hill City Oval.