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Aussie Rules Football - Ventura County Star

Aussie Rules Football

James Glover II/Star staff

Simi Valley's Julie Jones practices her passing during a workout at the Santa Susana Community Center Recreation Park.

Simi Valley's Diane Browning, 15, left, and Amanda Lynch, 15, practice rucking or jumping for the ball after points are scored in Aussie Rules Football. Rucking is similar to a jump ball in basketball.

Royal High connection embraces new sport, leagues
By Rich Romine,

Six Royal High students are kicking it and serving it around in Simi Valley. The players are Diane Browning, Sarah Shoenberger, Amanda Weaver, Amanda Lynch, Rachel Jones and Brian Coe.

Three of the girls have moms playing the sport: Jayme Weaver, Julie Jones and Ruthann Brown.

Two more players are Christina Lindsey of Moorpark and Moorpark College student Eric Prieto, a Royal High graduate.

Prieto, a former Royal high wide receiver and kicker, likes the Australian game better.

"It's fun and a lot more exciting than regular football," he said.

The local connection played in the Australia Week games at UCLA on Jan. 18. Highlights of the women's and men's games were shown on an Australian news network.

The students will be playing for the Orange County Bombshells (women's team) and the Valley Vandals (men's team) in a national tournament Saturday and Sunday in Phoenix, Ariz.

"Brian (Coe, 17) and Eric (18) are the two youngest players to come out of California playing Aussie Rules," said Leigh Swansborough, president of the Aussie Rules Football for Women league. "Both have very bright futures in the sport."

Aussie Rules Football is one of the fastest, free-flowing, action-packed sports. The game combines elements of soccer and basketball while the game ball is always live. There are no timeouts, or offside, and players use their hands and feet. The game is known to Aussies as "footy," said Swansborough, an Australian native.

The game was founded in Melbourne nearly 150 years ago, and washed up on the American shores seven years ago.

All players must be multiskilled so they can punt the ball, catch the ball like an NFL receiver and pass the ball like a volleyball server.

With the moms and daughters playing, they can block, but are not allowed to tackle. The women play with nine on a side with two 20-minute halves on a 120-yard-by-70-yard field.

For men, the field is 190 by 140 yards with 18 players per side.

The men can tackle and injured players are carried off the field with the game still going.

"It's really a fun game," said Brian Coe of Simi Valley. The former Royal High football lineman said he came to watch his girlfriend, Diane Browning, play and got hooked on it.

Amanda Lynch, a 15-year-old sophomore, is currently on the Royal swim team, but thrives in Aussie Rules Football.

"It has a fast-moving pace," said Lynch, the former track and soccer athlete.

"It's harder than we thought," said Lynch. "We're running the whole 20-minute halves."

Diane Browning got involved playing because of her friend Amanda Weaver.

"It's a lot of fun," said Diane, a 15-year-old Royal sophomore who has participated in basketball, soccer, swimming and softball, but is sold on Aussie Football.

Add Danica Lisiewicz, a seventh-grade science teacher from Glendale, to the list of of hooked on players. She fell in love with the sport while vacationing there three years ago.

She discovered there was a team in the Los Angeles area.

She's been umpiring men's games for 11/2 years.

"It's just quick-moving. It's very exciting to watch," said Lisiewicz.

Julie Jones has been playing for two months.

Her daughter Rachel, a Royal freshman, has been involved in basketball, soccer and track.

Rachel describes the sport as awesome.

Jayme Weaver loves the sport as well after deciding to play after watching her 14-year-old daughter embrace the game.

Sarah Shoenberger, 15-year-old sophomore, is a soccer player and a gymnast who has converted to Aussie Football.

Besides enjoying Aussie football, Sarah Shoenberger, Amanda Weaver, Rachel Jones, Amanda Lynch and Brian Coe have one more thing in common: the Royal choir.

After a goal is scored, the opposing players have a rucking. The players jump for the ball like in basketball.

A goal is six points if its goes through the big sticks. If the ball goes through the smaller sticks, it's called a behind and is scored as one point.

For a behind, the back line kicks out from the goal similar to soccer. When the ball goes out of play, the umpire will throw the ball back into play and the ruckman will contest the ball.

Players are not allowed to grab or hold the head or neck area or hit below the knees. Such violations are penalties and the other team is given the ball.

Games begin with a jump ball.

Games are high scoring, for example: 36 goals and 12 behinds to 12 goals and five behinds.

The women players are getting ready for the California Australian Football League starting Feb. 21 with the locals playing for the Valley Vandolls against the Orange County Bombshells. This is the only women's league outside of Australia, said Swansborough.

In August, a women's national team will play in an international competition in Toronto.

The men's league will feature seven teams, including two from Orange County and San Diego.

The men's and women's season runs February through September.

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