Nova Scotia

Fans of Australian Rules Football want to grow the game in Nova Scotia

Fans of Australian Rules Football are hoping to grow the game in Nova Scotia.

Halifax Dockers, Sydney Giants are the 2 recreational teams in the province

Sydney Giants, in orange, playing the Halifax Dockers at Open Hearth Park in Sydney. (Submitted by Jeannine McNeil)

Fans of Australian Rules Football in Nova Scotia are hoping to grow the game.

Australian rules football is a full-contact sport that involves a ball similar to one used for rugby. It is played on a field larger than one used for soccer.

AFL Nova Scotia is currently the sport's only adult recreational league in Atlantic Canada.

Recently, the Registered Canadian Amateur Athletics Association approved the application by AFL Canada to start the process to becoming a recognized sport.

Two players battle for the ball in the air. (Submitted by Jeannine McNeil)

David Smith, who plays for the Sydney Giants and is also the treasurer on the AFL Canada board, said the approval means groups can try to secure funding to grow the game.

"Footy is a bit of a community and we pride ourselves on including as many people as we can in that community," said Smith.

Two Sydney Giants players face off with three Halifax Docker's for possession of the ball. (Submitted by Jeannine McNeil)

The league started to plan something for kids but those plans were derailed by the pandemic. Smith said when Australian Rules Football is fully recognized in the province they will get kids involved.

"That's how you grow the game, having kids start young. "That's how you get them interested in playing when they are older."

A Halifax Dockers player runs with the ball while being pursued by two members of the Sydney Giants. (Submitted by Jeannine McNeil)

The Halifax Dockers are holding two sessions every week for those who want to learn the game.

There is an hour for ball handling, defence and the rules of the sport. The last hour is used for a non-tackle game.

Myles Amirault, who plays for the Dockers, said many are worried about starting to play the game because of the tackling.

A Halifax Dockers player drops the ball to allow it to touch the turf. A player who runs with the ball has to let it touch the ground every 15 metres. (Submitted by Jeannine McNeil)

"Don't base the game off of what you see on the YouTube highlights because obviously those are extreme cases," said Amirault.

The Nova Scotia teams play each other once in Halifax and once in Sydney each season. In the past, the teams have also hosted tournaments with teams coming from other provinces.

Halifax Dockers and Sydney Giant players get a group photo after a 2021 Sydney Giants win. (Submitted by Jane Day Smith)

Pat McNeil of Sydney joined because it always interested him. When he found out games were played in his hometown he became hooked.

"I'm not a player that has a lot of experience in sports, but because Australian football to me is such a great sport, I just wanted to get involved to help us spread the word and it's been a lot of fun ever since," said McNeil.

The Nova Scotia league hopes to attract more adult players while waiting for certification.