Montreal gets a taste of sports from down-under

Photo from State Library of Queensland, Australia via Flickr.
Photo from State Library of Queensland, Australia via Flickr.

The Australian Football League of Quebec (AFL Quebec) will be hosting its fifth annual Australian football tournament at Concordia’s Loyola Campus this Saturday, May 11, from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m..

The tournament, which began in 2009, is comprised of 12 teams (eight men’s and four women’s), four of which are from Montreal, including the Laval Bombers, West Island Eagles, Old Port Dockers and the Montreal Angels. The remaining eight teams are from Boston, Baltimore, New York, Ottawa and Halifax. The eight men’s teams will be divided into two pools and there will be a men’s senior playoff, a men’s junior playoff and a women’s playoff.

“Since the leagues in Montreal play each other all summer, we wanted to invite other teams to come and play a game before everyone’s regular seasons start,” said Margo Legault, a former Concordia student and captain of the Montreal Angels. “The main focus has always been to give rookies an opportunity to gain some experience before they start their regular season [and] for coaches to test players out in different positions.”

AFL Quebec was founded with one team called the Quebec Saints by Australian Luke Anderson. It has since evolved into an established league. The AFL Quebec plays a modified version of the game. Usually, a team has 18 players but AFL Quebec plays nine players. However, when they travel to away games, the four men’s teams join together to form an 18-player team and play as the Quebec Saints.

Australian Football is a combination of American football, basketball with the ball bounce, volleyball with its ruck taps and hand passes, rugby with the physical contact of the game and soccer because of its kicking, explained Aimee Legault, captain for the Team Canada team.

“The game’s objective is to move the ball downfield and kick the ball through the team’s goal,” said Margo. “The main way to score points is by kicking the ball between the two tall goal posts. The team with the higher total score at the end of the match wins.”

“You can run with the ball, passes are done by kicking or punching the ball to one of your teammates,” she added. “Once you run with the ball for approximately 10 steps, you must either bounce it on the ground or get rid of it. Players may protect their teammates by shepherding the opponents and it is possible to tackle the person who is carrying the ball.”

Teams at AFL Quebec are made every year, although they are usually more or less the same. Veteran players stay on the team, and each team chooses their rookies through a draft. Coaches arrange their teams in a way that would match upcoming players with their skill levels so that all the teams are as fair as possible when the season starts, Margo added. This way, all teams have a fair chance at the title.

AFL Quebec organizes eight regular season games throughout the summer, plus playoffs. They also organize a few other games, such as rookie and international. In the winter, they train indoors.

The sport is quickly gaining recognition in Montreal and around the world. The club has been around since 2008 and is sometimes televised on TSN.

“When the hockey strike was on, we saw a big boost in numbers because people were looking for televised sports,” said Margo. “People usually recognize it when you tell them that the field is oval, the uniforms have no sleeves and the ball looks like a rugby ball.”

In 2011, the first ever Women’s International Championship was held in Australia, and both Aimee and Margo represented Canada, where they finished in second place out of the five competing teams.


Doors open at 10:30 a.m. on Saturday and admission is free.



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