|Image Courtesy of: Halifax Dockers|
Aussie Rules in Canada has enjoyed a purple patch of late. Mike Pyke’s rise to fame and imminent AFL Grand Final appearance with the Sydney Swans has coincided with solid growth on his home soil. Most of the Canadian leagues - spread across four of the thirteen provinces and territories - have expanded their number of teams in recent years, some even adding women’s divisions and second tier competitions.
That purple patch is set to continue with the exciting new formation of the Halifax Dockers; a team looking to break new ground and promote Aussie Rules on a completely new frontier: the province of Nova Scotia.
When Halifax-based Aussies Jonah Scott and Joel Porter met around three years ago, their love of the game led them to get out for a kick whenever they could. Through word of mouth and the interested eyes of some curious onlookers, their group slowly began to grow. It wasn’t long before the boys from Halifax; located fourteen hours from their closest rival Aussie Rules club, had outgrown the one ragged yellow Sherrin that had been the centrepiece of their existence.
Eager to keep developing a call was placed to the Ontario AFL for some assistance. In true Canadian spirit the league was happy to help. They directed the group to Halifax-based and former OAFL player Aaron Adams who was able to supply the new team with four footballs. Finally armed with enough equipment to run a proper skills session the group committed to a regular training schedule two times a week. Further assistance came from AFL Québec aiding Jonah Scott’s quest for a junior development program at Charles P. Allen High, the school where he teaches. Combined with a Facebook page that was launched in the winter of 2011/12, the Halifax Australian Rules Football Club was able to lift their regular training numbers to an impressive twenty players.
The next boost in the team’s journey came when they contacted the Fremantle Football Club seeking support. Jonah and Joel’s hard work and persistence would once again pay off, securing the Dockers as official partners. So committed to promoting International Aussie Rules were Wade Spickler and the Fremantle F.C, that they outfitted Halifax in red Dockers heritage jumpers to ensure they wouldn’t clash with Fremantle’s other partner club in the region, and Halifax’s closest rivals; the Old Montréal Dockers.
Co-founder Jonah Scott has big plans for footy in Halifax: “I would love to have men’s, women’s and high school leagues running in Halifax in 5 years time. As I say this it seems like a big task, but, the enthusiasm that I have seen from the high school students that I have coached has convinced me that this is a possibility in five years”.
The start of Scott’s grand plan will begin in 2013 when Halifax launches its own 9-a-side league. As with many new clubs, the biggest hurdle now is finances and equipment. Scott remarked “The support that we have received so far from the Fremantle Dockers Football Club, AFL Canada, the Quebec AFL and the Ontario AFL has been amazing” and added “Looking at costs related to field rental, insurance, travel and Canada AFL membership [for next season], to develop Australian Rules further in Halifax we are going to need financial support through sponsorship.” While growth has been well structured and a steady increase from day one, crucial items such as a website and additional footballs could very likely see Aussie Rules explode in the Canadian Maritimes city next year.
Footy has now expanded into five provinces within Canada, a sure sign that the game in America’s Great White North is gaining momentum. For Halifax, right now it’s full steam ahead as they prepare for their first official match. As the closest Aussie Rules inhabited city, Montreal’s marquee Pre-Season Cup event in April next year could be the Dockers perfect place to start. The tournament has boasted visiting teams from Toronto, New York, Boston and Ottawa in the past, and would be the ideal event to showcase Canada’s newest member to the footy family. Scott was eager to see his charges tested against the regions best “That is a very exciting prospect. I know I can speak for all the Halifax Dockers when I say that we would love to be a part of the tournament. It might work out that our very first game as the Halifax Dockers will happen at that event. Fingers crossed!”