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Vita.Mn @work: Sport from Down Under isn't just for men

Photo by John Noltner
The Minnesota Freeze Australian Rules Football Club practiced at Lake Calhoun | By Todd Nelson | Aug 25, 2011

Kathryn Hogg is giving Australian Rules Football a kick in this country and in its homeland Down Under.

Hogg is a founding member of the women's team of the Minnesota Freeze Australian Rules Football Club and helped organize the first women's exhibition match in this country.

She's one of six women Freeze plays on the U.S. national team competing in Australia's International Cup tournament. (Six players from the Freeze men's team are on the national squad, too.)

To Hogg, the appeal of "footy" lies in what it is -- fast-paced, competitive, with an emphasis on teamwork on and off the field -- and what it isn't: It's not rugby, as many assume, and it's not violent, because it has tackling rules that prohibit American football-style collisions.

Footy, particularly the women's side of the sport, is still relatively obscure here. Hogg knew nothing about it -- even though she was born in Australia. She was just 9 months old when her parents returned to their native Scotland. She eventually moved to northern Wisconsin, where she grew up.

But it wasn't until she moved to the Twin Cities to study at the University of Minnesota that she discovered footy on ESPN in the early '80s. She began watching the sport on TV again in early 2003, just as the founders of the Freeze's men's team were getting organized. A "fitness through footy" program helped recruit enough women to form a small women's recreational league.

The women's Freeze team now fields 25 to 30 players and is one of about a dozen women's Australian Rules Football clubs in the United States.

3 and out with Kathryn Hogg

How popular is women's footy in Australia?

It's making a big push, but a lot of people aren't aware that women play. When our U.S. national team toured Australia in 2009, we got a lot of good press. We played in Bendigo, about an hour out of Melbourne. We were big catalysts in helping them start a women's team there, which we thought was crazy.

What do you do when you're not playing footy?

Ultimate Frisbee. I've been playing for 10 years. I'm a computer geek [at work]. I write software that runs electric utilities. Which is why I also run our website,

Any favorite Aussie foods?

Meat pies. Especially at footy. They're the equivalent of [having] a hot dog at the ballpark. Think of like a pot pie filled with ground beef and gravy. That's one of their staple comfort foods. They're delicious. You can [also] get real Cadburys there, so I always stock up on Crunchies, one of the bars Cadbury makes, but not in the U.S.