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First Women's Match in Europe

This article courtesy of Nic Townsend, photos courtesy of Daniela Scalia.

The notion of Aussie Rules being played in Europe is no longer new but until now it has been an entirely male environment. This weekend Milan will host the continent’s first ever women’s international match of Australian Football.

The Euro Cup, an annual 9-a-side tournament, has been going since 2005. Every year Aussie Rules continues to expand, and that growth is reflected in the increasing numbers of teams taking part.

This year that expansion goes across genders as well as borders with both Ireland and Italy fielding women’s teams as well as men’s.

The Irish women’s team started in the small town of Kilrea in Northern Ireland. It was here that Andrew and Marie Hickey formed the Kilrea Kookaburras after noticing a lack of women’s Gaelic clubs in the area. “Marie and I rung around, and initially signed on her three sisters. Then Marie's friends, and her sisters’ friends,” recalls Andrew. Having played for the Belfast Redbacks Football Club, Andrew already had access to equipment, and using his father-in-law’s connections was able to get access to a ground as a local school. “I was expecting about eight to attend training, but 16 turned up!! They loved the game straight away, and we devised to get a team to play against.” 

Initially the Kilrea Kookaburras scheduled a game against a side from Dublin, but it wasn’t until the night before the big match that they learnt that only one person planned to make the journey north. “Our girls were so primed for the contest that I didn’t want to let them down. So Marie found the phone numbers for Gaelic ladies clubs around Derry, and put the message out about the game,” says Andrew. “In one hour she had pulled a team together, mainly from Derry city. We nicknamed them the Dubderry's.”

Andrew and Marie then put a notice in the paper, and the scratch match attracted around 100 spectators. The match formed the basis for the selection of the national team. “From that first game we will form two teams from Northern Ireland: Derry and Kilrea. There will eventually be a Dublin side and there's talk of Galway and Cork sides too, so the goal is to begin a league next year.”

Their opponents Italy have grown just as quickly. Daniela Scalia held their first training session last January after a suggestion from a football-loving friend. “We involved some girls from the CUS Verona Rugby Club, who let us use their pitch whenever we wanted too,” says Daniela. Since then the club has mushroomed, and now boast over thirty players. “We have not lost a girl yet. If they come to training they keep playing.”

By the summer a new club started in Polcenigo, in northeast Italy, and there are plans to start clubs in Milan and Carpi. “Recruiting is very easy for us. The only reason we have to stop recruiting is because of a lack of time. If we could dedicate more time to this instead of other things we could have dozens of clubs soon.”

At this rate, it won’t be long before women’s Aussie Rules outgrows the Men’s.

Reprinted from