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Milwaukee Journal/Sentinel
Are you ready for some footy?

Football season in Wisconsin will take a decidedly international turn this fall when Waukesha County hosts the national championships of the U.S. Australian Football League.

Down under meets the dairy state

Australian football title game set for Waukesha County

By Scott Williams

 

Are you ready for some footy?

Football season in Wisconsin will take a decidedly international turn this fall when Waukesha County hosts the national championships of the U.S. Australian Football League.

About 700 players from across the country will converge on the grounds of the Milwaukee Polo Club near Chenequa for a two-day tournament of footy, as fans in Australia call their version of Vince Lombardi's game.

How different is Australian football from its American counterpart?

The field is larger and oval-shaped. Players wear no helmets or other pads. And the action stops for nothing - not even an injury.

"For an American, it's sort of foreign but cool at the same time," said Paul O'Keefe, a founder and international liaison of the U.S. league.

A native Australian transplanted in Milwaukee in the early 1990s, O'Keefe has promoted Australian-style football here and worked hard to land the national championships in Wisconsin.

The event scheduled for Oct. 1-2 will feature 24 teams competing on three fields in a tournament culminating with the crowning of a new national champion.

Among the competing teams - all of which include strictly amateur athletes - will be O'Keefe's own team, the Milwaukee Bombers.

League president Mark Wheeler said he hopes Green Bay Packers fans will turn out for a glimpse of what he considers football the way it was meant to be played. That's before, he says, the game was spoiled by crass commercialization and million-dollar egos.

"It's definitely purer," Wheeler said.

Tammy Tritz, executive director of the Waukesha & Pewaukee Convention and Visitors Bureau, called the football tournament an unusual cultural event "unlike anything we have hosted in Waukesha County before."

The convention bureau plans to promote Australian football in hopes of stirring excitement among fans who are more accustomed to Green Bay's frozen tundra than something imported from down under.

 

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