SCAFL women’s debut!

Following the inclusive nature of Australian Rules Football the South China Australian Rules Football League (SCAFL) welcomed their first female players in the recent Round#2 tournament in Macau on the weekend.

imagePlayed at The Macau Intenational school (TIS) on Saturday. The grass grounds are perfect for 12 a side footy, the 8 quick games, in a rugby 7’s style tournament, featuring the teams from Macau Lightning, Guangzhou Scorpions, Guangdong Seagulls, and Hong Kong’s four teams the Typhoons, Cobras, Lantau Lizards, and the new Sai Kung Stingrays.

The first of the two ladies playing on the day was Jess Cole from Melbourne Australia, wimageho until recently moving to Hong Kong, played in Melbourne suburbs for the MVP Easybeats community focused “Pub Footy League”. There she plays full size (18-a-side) games in mixed men’s and ladies teams. She was welcomed by the Kowloon Cobras and played along side the men and fellow lady on the day.

The second was Katie Klatt from Sacremento, California, USA. Katie was keen to maximise her day our and played almost continuously for 4 hours in 6 of the 8 games. This is a massive feat and a testimony to her level of cardio’ fitness. Back in the USA Katie plays in the Sacramento AFL league in 18-a-side format and 12-a-side format games. Katie is also Vice Captain of the USA women’s AFL representative side the USA Freedom team which will be going to the World Cup of Aussie rules, IC17 in Melbourne Australia next August.

“The thing I was most looking forward to for my Hong Kong trip was a day of Footy.” Said Katie. ” I wasn’t too sure if I’d get to play but it was really cool of everyone to welcome us girls onto the field, and then to show us how to have a good time in HK!”image

Earlier this year Katie flew to Australia and attended a talent search combine in Sydney to seek out talented lady players from all sporting backgrounds that may be good enough to play at the professional stage in Australia. To her credit after only playing the sport for two years, the gifted athlete was selected to enter the AFL Academy to train with Australia’s best sports women to train for 2017’s new Women’s National AFL League. Women’s AFL has been played in Australia for decades but after recent televising games the Australian audience showed they are keen to see more! Katie is hopefully one of the lucky ladies to take up the sport professionally! Look out for her on the TV soon.

The President of AFL Asia interviewed Katie and Jess on the day said “It was great to see the ladies playing in the SCAFL today. Both Katie and Jess, were hard at the ball laying tackles and bumps, and showed some great ball skills. We look forward to seeing more of them and other ladies that want to come out and try the game.”

AFL Asia and the AFL are keen to push the diversity of Aussie Rules football into the local communities around Asia and the world with more local Asian players and ladies too. “There is already a mixed (men&womens) league in Vietnam and we’d love to see more of these mixed and women’s teams around Asia. Aussie rules football is a contact sport but amendments are made to the rules to lessen the impact and maximise safety for ladies, or younger players.”

Also on the day Katie’s USA team mate Saleh Tyebjee also from Sacremento played for the HK Typhoons and Lantau Lizards and showed his aggressive, smart playing style with great fitness. Saleh plays for the Sacremento Suns and the USA Revolution International team. Saleh has some serious experience in the sport now playing in consecutive international cups IC11, IC14 and now preparing for IC17.

Both Saleh and Katie are born and bred Americans who found out about the sport through friends when arriving in Sacremento. “While I love the sport itself, it’s th community that has been built around the game that keeps me passionate” said Saleh. “I’ll be passing on to my USA Revolution team mates that TEAM CHINA is looking fit and hungry!”image

Saleh and Katie were introduce to HK’s representative side the Hong Kong Dragons when they travelled to California in 2016 and played in a USAFL tournament. “We met the [HK] Dragons when they were in California and took up their offer to play with you guys while we are holidaying around Asia. Thanks to the guys for welcoming us into the day”

The scores from the games on the day will be out soon but both last years Premiers the Lantau Lizards and HK’s new Sai Kung Stingrays came away with the maximum three wins from the day.

Also playing on the day was China’ best AFL talent in the Guangzhou Scorpions with their TEAM CHINA representatives. These guys will travel to Melbourne Australia next August for the World Cup of AFL IC17, and possibly play against the USA teams. The SCAFL day and the Scorpions travel were made possible by the AFL’s Port Adelaide Football Club sponsorship of the South China AFL league. They have been assisting in many ways to grow AFL Footy in China from the grass roots up!

The next round of the SCAFL is in Hong Kong’s HK University Stanley Ho Sandy Bay training grounds on April 23rd. The full day of Footy will include junior players , over 35’s (Masters) and open category SCAFL games. Please come down and join the day, drinks and food available, either as a spectator or email if you’d like to tryout the game yourself.

The South China AFL was started in 2011, includes many players from China, Hong Kong and many nationalities with a non-Australian minimum player compliment.

Story & Photos courtesy: Darren Whitfield

Extra Photos: Hong Kong Dragons and AFL Asia