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Australian rules football team fielded by women

Australian rules football team fielded by women

By Carolyn Sinclair
Special to the Daily News

Simi Valley Daily News

Jayme Weaver and her 13-year-old daughter Amanda have found an unusual bonding activity through a sport that is catching on in America.

Early on a Saturday morning in the Rancho Santa Susana Park, they're practicing tossing, punting and volleying what looks like a bloated football with a few other women and one man.

They're not wearing pads, and between plays they show off bruises and point out aching muscles.

This mother-daughter duo are honing their skills for Australian rules football.

They're teammates on the Orange County Bombshells, one of the first women's teams in America.

Australian rules football, also called "Aussie rules" or "footy," is an often-brutal contact sport that has roots in rugby and Gaelic football.

It's a high-intensity mix of soccer, football, basketball and rugby played on a giant oval-shaped field.

There are no time-outs, no body padding and even when someone's injured, the clock never stops.

"It's just fun to get out there," says Amanda Weaver. "You really don't have any rules, so you don't have to cram your brain with all the things you can and cannot do, what's allowed, what's not. But it's very hard on the body -- very hard."

Jayme Weaver says playing footy with her daughter adds to their already close relationship.

"It's wonderful to play with Amanda. I told her, when we play, I'm not going to be your mom, so if you get little scratches I'm not going to run over there. We'll have to be teammates more than mom and daughter, but I think she likes that. It gives her a feeling of independence."

Lee Swansborough, a native Aussie and Jayme Weaver's massage therapist, introduced the Weavers to footy.

Swansborough played the sport from age 7 to 14. After a return visit to the land down under, she brought a football back with her to Southern California.

Watching footy on television made her nostalgic, and her boyfriend, Martin Mondia, became hooked. A year later, they're coaching and organizing one of the first women's teams in America.

The Weavers joined, as have women from all over Southern California, and in October the team will have its first official game in Kansas City.

Mondia says footy seems to bring the Weavers closer together. "They're more like sisters," he says. "They don't have a mother-daughter thing at all. We encourage them in training by saying things like, Don't let your daughter show you up like that, or, Come on, your mom's doing better than you are."

Jayme Weaver agreed. "We've always been close," she said. "But we haven't done anything this physical, or had a physical goal together, and this gives us another thing to share. With loved ones you want to share everything, and it's nice to have one additional thing." Team members say footy's appeal is in the high-energy flow and extreme physical demands of the game.

"It's like the ultimate game of hot potato," says Mondia. "It's nonstop. It's like having 36 bulked tri-athletes on a field 190 yards long by 150 wide, constantly moving for 20 minutes each quarter."

There are no positions in footy, so everyone must be able to run, kick and pass. It's accessible to men and women of any height, weight or shape.

In Australian schools, boys and girls play together.

"There was no cheerleading program in Australia," says Swansborough, who also competes and excels on a men's footy team. The sport is beloved in Australia and popular in Europe, but in America, it's just starting to catch on.

Many major cities are forming teams to battle it out for national rank at the U.S. Australian Football League national competition.

For the Weavers, footy is their chance to go outside, be active, and learn something new. During Saturday practice, Amanda and Jayme are developing their reflexes, improving their catching and kicking skills together. They volley the football to each other and laugh when they miss or when one of them has to go wide.

During a breather, Amanda shows off her manicured nails to her teammates. They're painted black and pink, the Bombshell's team colors.