Milwaukee Bombers

 
  • Decrease font size
  • Default font size
  • Increase font size
Milwaukee Bombers arrow Media arrow Spotlight arrow Australia's Sunshine Coast Daily
Australia's Sunshine Coast Daily

Isolation from Aussie culture in a surprisingly alien US was like grit to an oyster for one Burnside High School old boy.

 

The pearl that resulted after 14 years in North America is a flourishing national league of Australian rules football, bonding Aussies and Americans in extraordinary friendships.

 Making His Own Rules!

Meet the former Coast man on a mission to put Australian football on the map in the USA

By Chris Gilbert

 

Isolation from Aussie culture in a surprisingly alien US was like grit to an oyster for one Burnside High School old boy.

 

The pearl that resulted after 14 years in North America is a flourishing national league of Australian rules football, bonding Aussies and Americans in extraordinary friendships.

 

Four hundred players from Canadian clubs and 30 US Aussie rules clubs, met in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in October to battle out the Ninth USAFL national championships.  Four polo fields in brilliant autumn light made for a “good as it gets” weekend-long finals contest.  Even the Baton Rouge Tigers made it from Louisiana.

 

It’s a dream coming true for its architect – “I still call the Sunshine Coast home” – expatriate, Paul “Plugger” O’Keeffe, now a 10-year resident of Milwaukee.

 

Using the internet, visionary outlook and his US graduate training in business administration, Paul voluntarily facilitates the gathering together of many expatriates and a growing number of Americans.

 

The idea for a national league came to Paul in 1997 through kicking around a footy with some mates.  They’d formed a club in Kansas City to make possible a few games.  This year, the multiplying clubs played more than 300 games – and it keeps growing.

 

He found me by internet become of a recent Letter From America column in the Daily, his Buderim-based mum sent him.

 

My expatriate experience resonated with him, so he invited me to witness USFooty at its best – first hand.

 

Paul met me in the hotel lobby, displaying the attitude he’d keep for the entire weekend: non-stop wired, hands-free, to his cell phone.  Wearing a “USFooty” cap, his greeting was like a homecoming.

 

Soon, I was seated swapping expatriate yarns with five other Aussies, enjoying an ethnic solidarity I’d not experienced in years.

 

But business before contests as the AGM reconvened.  Strategic issues of the next year were thrashed out and plans adopted.

 

I discovered a women’s league with a US director, in healthy development with players present for their first-ever national championship playoff.

 

An entrepreneurial Aussie director of junior development has self-funded the league’s mission to get the sport played in American elementary (primary) and high schools through the sale of specially made junior footballs.  Their schools strategy works.

 

Thousands of American kids now play a “touch” version of the game and the interest is growing exponentially because boys and girls can play.  It’s great for fitness, loosely structured, and uses a range of skills.

 

Paul’s daytime job is in business management consulting for global firm Accenture.  But why the American interest in Aussie rules?

 

“It’s the camaraderie they discover in a club setting on and off the field, even with the opposing team,” Paul says.  “Then they fall in love with the sport.”

 

By the end of the weekend, newcomers Baton Rouge made it to the final of Division Three, but they were humbled by Minnesota in their first championship appearance.  The Denver Bulldogs took their fourth consecutive Division One flag against a determined home team, capping a remarkable weekend.

 

 

Newsletter Signup

Want to receive the Bombers E-Newsletter? Please check all boxes that apply.
Players
Supporter
Aussie Club
Kids


Receive HTML?

Login