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Playing by the (Australian) Rules - Pioneer Press

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Playing by the (Australian) rules

BY BEN GOESSLING, St Paul Pioneer Press

Maria J Acosta, Action Shots Photography

Plymouth's Kathryn Hogg, right, leaps for the ball during the first all-women's match of Australian Rules football in U.S. history on Oct 18 in Kansas City, Mo. Hogg played with the Orange County Bombshells against a team of women from around the country

Kathryn Hogg of Plymouth started playing Australian Rules football just recently, but she already has participated in the first all-women's match in U.S. history and hopes to start a Minnesota women's team by next spring

Oct 18 was a little unusual for Kathryn Hogg. She flew to Kansas City, Mo., met up with a team she had joined through an internet message board and played in the first all-women's match of Australian Rules football in U.S. history.

You know, just to try something different.

Hogg, a 40-year-old software engineer and sports aficionado from Plymouth, played with the Orange County Bombshells and took on an "all-comers" team comprised of women from all around the country in an exhibition match played at the United States Australian Football League men's national championship tournament.

Hogg hopes to have a Minnesota women's team up and running by next spring, and plans to have a game between an American national team and a side from Canada or Great Britain at the Atlantic Alliance tournament in Toronto next summer.

She even figures the United States could send a women's national team to Australia in 2005 for the International Cup competition. But for somebody who trekked halfway across the country and picked up a new sport for a little weekend entertainment, would you expect anything else?

Q: Was Australian Rules Football just something you picked up for fun?
A: Pretty much. I've always loved watching it, and I found out by doing some internet searches that there are women playing in Australia. I posted a message on the Web site and asked if women are playing here. I found out there are women putting together a league with guys in California, so I said "Let's see if we can round up enough women to play a game."

Q: What was it like being part of the first women's game ever?
A: It was awesome. It was something I've wanted to do for a lot of years. It was good to have it there at the men's championships. There were guys teams watching, and it was the only game going on at the time. It's the only sport I've played where crowds of people are two, three, four deep.

Q: When did you have time to learn the game?
A: The first time I kicked a ball was probably in early September. I bought a ball and went and kicked by myself one time. I trained in California on Sept 15 with the Bombshells -- I was in Los Angeles on a business trip. Otherwise, I just kicked the ball around by myself or with my son.

Q: What drew you to Aussie Rules football?
A: There aren't a whole lot of stoppages in play, and you don't have offside rules. A lot of it is played in the air. I've always thought the kicks and the marking are some of the coolest plays in sports. It's high scoring and fast paced. During a full-length game, teams usually score over 100 points.

Q: What other sports do you play?
A: I play Ultimate Frisbee avidly; I'm playing in a touch-football league this fall, and I've done softball, racquetball and cross-country skiing.

Q: Do you really expect to have a team together for the International Cup in 2005?
A: I hope so. A lot of it depends on getting enough women that can take the time and afford to go to Australia for a couple of weeks. We're hoping to get a women's team together to play an international side and show women's "footy" to people from countries other than the U.S.

Q: Talk about the rules of the sport. Is it as loose as it sounds?
A: Yeah. The rules are pretty much that you're not supposed to hit people if they don't have the ball. There's alot of body contact, similar to basketball or soccer. The ball's always live, but its shaped more like an American football, so it's not rolling like a soccer ball. It's about keeping the ball going, so it's freeflowing in that regard.

Q: What are your plans for the Minnesota team?
A: We're pretty much just in the starting phases of that. I'll continue to play with the California team until I get a team together in the spring. I'll start hitting up my friends and anybody with an inkling to do some traveling. We'll take them even if they've never played before. We've got a website up and running ( We'll play nine on side instead of 18, which allows us to fit onto soccer or football-size fields. It's a tough thing in the U.S. to find field space (Aussie Rules fields are typically 180 x 135 meters).

Q: What about the game do you think appeals to most people?
A: One thing people will like about it is that, visually, it's alot of fun. Unlike in some other sports, you have to do a little bit of everything. Your role isn't so regimented. If you catch the ball, you have to kick the ball. Playing as a team is much better than having strong individuals. You can only run 10 meters, so it takes teamwork to score. Teamwork is pretty important.

Ben Goessling can be reached at