Australian rules football in Canada

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Australian rules football in Canada
Country Canada
Governing body AFL Canada
National team Canada
Nickname(s) Northwind
First played May 1989, Toronto
Registered players 825 (total)
525 (adult)
300 (junior)
Clubs 21
Club competitions
Audience records
Single match 32,789 (1987). Melbourne v. Sydney (B.C. Place, Vancouver)

Australian rules football in Canada is a fast-growing team and spectator sport which has been played since the late 1980s.

Australian football is currently played in five Canadian provinces - Ontario, Alberta, Novia Scotia, Quebec and British Columbia. The Ontario league, centred on Toronto but also including sides from cities as far afield as Guelph, Hamilton and Ottawa, is considered the largest league outside of Australia. In western Canada, there are clubs in Edmonton, Calgary and a six-team league in the Vancouver area.

There is also a number of junior and women's clubs across Canada. This has increased dramatically after the introduction of the Aussie x program in in Ontario and Vancouver. Also the performance of Canadian Mike Pyke in the 2012 AFL Grand Final has brought added publicity to the game of Australian Football in Canada.

History of Australian Football in Canada[edit]

Between 1987 and 1989, the Australian Football League staged several exhibition matches in Canada, attracting large crowds and much interest. The 1987 game holds the record for a VFL/AFL match held outside of Australia.

Year Location Stadium Teams Crowds
1987 Vancouver Melbourne v. Nth Melbourne 7,980
1987 Vancouver B.C. Place Melbourne v. Sydney 32,789
1987 Vancouver Collingwood v. Hawthorn
1988 Toronto Varsity Stadium Collingwood v. Hawthorn 18,500
1989 Toronto Toronto Skydome Essendon v. Hawthorn 24,639

[1]

In the late 1980s, regional ESPN broadcasts in Canada showed highlights of the Victorian Football League from Australia.

The First League[edit]

The Canadian Australian Football League was established in May 1989 when two clubs the Mississauga Mustangs and the Toronto Panthers were formed and played in the inaugural Conacher Cup game in Toronto, Ontario. Since then, the game of Australian football in Canada has expanded considerably nationwide.

In 1990, the Scarborough Rebels, the North York Hawks and the Hamilton Wildcats joined, with the Balmy Beach Saints coming on board in 1992. The North York Hawks later relocated and became known as the Broadview Hawks.

The Brampton Wolverines, the league's seventh team, were formed in 1993. The Scarborough Rebels relocated and became the Lawrence Park Rebels.

History of International Competition[edit]

In 1993, Canadian representative team, known as the Northwind, beat a British (BARFL) representative team.

In 1994 and 1995, the Canadians again defeated the British at home.

In 1995, several local CAFA games were broadcast on a Hamilton cable TV channel.

In July 1995, the Hamilton Wildcats played a Canadian All-Star team in front of 21,000 fans during the half-time break at a Canadian Football League (gridiron) match.

In 1999, the first USA v Canada game was played 49th Parallel Cup (named after the 49th parallel north). The Revolution narrowly defeated Team Canada (Northwind). Later matches enforced strict rules based on player origins. The 49th Parallel Cup is held every two year's

In 2002, Canada participated in the inuagural Australian Football International Cup, Canada represented by the Northwind team consisting purely of Canadian born players. The Canadian national team has competed in every International Cup since its inception.

The Game Gets Grassroots[edit]

Northwind's All-International ruckman Manny Matata kicking a drop punt

In 2003, the first ever junior league in Canada, the North Delta Junior Australian Football League was formed.

AFL Canada was formed as governing body on July 30, 2004 when the Canadian Australian Football League changed its official name. The move corresponded with funding from the Australian Football League, and junior participation program was put in place. The clubs were split into 2 regional based leagues, the Ontario Australian Football League and the North West Pacific Football League. The remaining Alberta based clubs participate in AFL Canada organised regional conferences such as the British Columbia Cup.

In 2005 the Northwind participated in the 2005 International Cup.

In early 2006, AFL Canada sent a small delegate to the AFL exhibition match in Los Angeles. London and Windsor folded due to distance but the new OAFL club the Central Blues formed and began competing. In Alberta, the Calgary Bears also formed and the Westcoast challenge commenced.

In early 2007, the Ottawa Swans formed, and affiliated with the OAFL, and the Demons relocated from Mississauga to High Park in inner Toronto.

In late 2007, AFL Canada hosted the Ironbark challenge, including the 49th Parallel Cup between Canada vs United States including historic first women's and junior (under 17) tests between the two countries. Canada defeated the United States for the first time at both senior and junior level, but were soundly defeated in the women's match. The tournament also included a touring Japanese team and attracted a record attendance of 2,500 at Thunderbird Stadium in Vancouver.[2]

Canada Emerges as an Aussie Rules Force[edit]

In early 2008, Canadian junior Scott Fleming moved to Australia to play with the Broadbeach Cats semi-professional club in the AFL Queensland State League at 17 years of age.

Later the same year, former Canadian rugby union international Mike Pyke was signed by the Sydney Swans AFL team as an international rookie at 24 years of age.[3]

Governing Body[edit]

The governing body for Aussie Rules in Canada is AFL Canada.

National team[edit]

Team Canada is known as the Northwind.

Participation[edit]

A map of Canada indicating the provinces in red where Australian rules football is organised in 2007

In 2006, there were over 420 senior (approximately 250 Canadian national) Australian rules football players in Canada out of a total of 484, an increase of 25% from 2005.[4][5]

By the end of 2007, this figure had increased to a total of 825 players in organised competitions, of which 525 were senior and 300 were junior, an increase of over 70% from 2006, and a total of 95% increase over 2 years.[6]

Women's Football[edit]

Canada boasts 9 women's football clubs nationwide. Youth girls development programs operate in Alberta, British Columbia, Ontario and Quebec. The national team, formed in 2007, is known as the "Northern Lights". They were formerly known as the "Eagles". They played in the first women's international footy matches during 2007, when they lost twice to the USA Freedom. In 2011 the national women's team competed in the inaugural women's division of the Australian Football International Cup, where they came second to Ireland.[7]

Leagues & Clubs[edit]

Alberta[edit]

Alberta Footy Men's League[edit]

Club City Province founded Official Website
Calgary Kangaroos Calgary Alberta 2005 Official Site
Calgary Bears Calgary Alberta 2007 Official Site
Edmonton Wombats Edmonton Alberta 2009 [2]

Alberta Footy Women's League[edit]

Club City Province founded Official Website
Calgary Kookaburras Calgary Alberta 2007 Official Site
Edmonton Emus Edmonton Alberta 2009 Official Site
Hillhurst Nighthawks Calgary Alberta 2008 Official Site
Kensington Kingfishers Calgary Alberta 2008 Official Site

British Columbia[edit]

British Columbia Australian Football League[edit]

Club City Province founded Official Website
Burnaby Eagles Burnaby British Columbia 2001 Official Site
Delta BayHawks North Delta British Columbia 2009 Official Site
Vancouver Cougars (Blue) Vancouver British Columbia 2001 Official Site
Vancouver Cougars (White) Vancouver British Columbia 2001 Official Site
West Coast Saints Vancouver British Columbia 2008 Official Site

North Delta Junior Australian Football League[edit]

Club City Province founded Official Website
North Delta Junior Australian Football League North Delta British Columbia 2003 Official Site

Ontario[edit]

Ontario Australian Football League[edit]

Club City Province founded Official Website
Broadview Hawks Broadview Ontario 1989 Official Site
Ottawa Swans Ottawa Ontario 2007 Official Site
Etobicoke Kangaroos Etobicoke Ontario 2003 Official Site
Guelph Gargoyles Guelph Ontario 2001 Official Site
Hamilton Wildcats Hamilton Ontario 1997 Official Site
High Park Demons Toronto Ontario 1989 Official Site
Toronto Downtown Dingos Toronto Ontario 1996 Official Site
Toronto Eagles Toronto Ontario 1989 Official Site
Toronto Rebels Toronto Ontario 1990 Official Site
Central Blues Toronto Ontario 2006 Official Site

Quebec[edit]

Club City Province founded Official Website
Quebec Saints Montreal Quebec 2008 Official Site

Nova Scotia[edit]

2014 Halifax Dockers founded

Major Tournaments[edit]

Domestic[edit]

International[edit]

Audience[edit]

Television[edit]

In 2006, due to growing demand and lobbying by the AFANA, Aussie Rules began playing live matches on television in Canada on Setanta Sports (STS) and MHz Networks. As of 2010, TSN2 broadcasts one live game every round available in HD.

In 2011, the first televised all-Canadian Aussie Rules match was shown on Rogers TV, and featured the Ottawa Swans hosting the Toronto Rebels.

Attendance Records[edit]

Exhibition Matches[edit]

Canada holds the world record for attendance at a match outside of Australia.

International Tests[edit]

References[edit]

  1. AFL Canada
  2. AFANA

External links[edit]