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Australian Rules Football

Australian Rules Football comes to the Napa Valley Expo on Saturday.

This Saturday will see a historic first in the Napa Valley as the Napa Valley Expo will host the semifinals day of the Golden Gate Australian Football League. Three matches will be played on the Silverado Green, starting with the “first bounce” of the first game at 9:45 a.m.

Aussie Rules – or “footy,” as the game is known colloquially – is a game played professionally solely in Australia, with social leagues of varying skill levels in existence around the world. The GGAFL is the largest Aussie football league in the United States, boasting five men’s teams and three women’s teams that usually play their games at Ygnacio Valley High School in Concord.

One of the men’s teams in the GGAFL, the San Francisco Seals, have been regular visitors to the Napa Valley over the last few years to play cricket against the Napa Valley Cricket Club on weekends when they’ve had no Aussie Rules games scheduled. That connection has led to NVCC hosting the GGAFL semi-finals for the first time.

Aussie Rules traces its roots to 1858 in Melbourne, Australia, and is generally thought to be a hybrid sport that draws its origins from other ball sports such as soccer, rugby and Gaelic Football – from Ireland – and is played on an oval-shaped field similar to a cricket field. The earliest leagues date back to the mid- to late-1870s and, at the highest professional level, the sport was concentrated mainly around Melbourne from then until the late 1980s.

Up until that time the sport went by the moniker VFL, short for Victorian Football League, and was made up of clubs exclusively from the Australian state of Victoria. In 1990 the VFL became the AFL and a number of clubs from outside of Victoria were added to the league’s roster. One of the first clubs to be added was the West Coast Eagles, based out of Perth in Western Australia, who went on to win the Grand Final in 1992 and again in 1994.

Aussie Rules differs from many other field sports in that interchange substitutions are allowed during the game and these are controlled by a match official on the side. The oval shaped ball is slightly rounder on the end than either a rugby or American football ball. This allows it to be both bounced while the player is running and kicked end over end so that it’s easier to be caught by a teammate. A player can score either 6 points (a goal) for kicking the ball through the middle two of four posts, or one points (a behind) if they kick the ball between the outer and inner of the four posts. The game is four quarters long with each quarter lasting 20 minutes – which often stretches to 30 minutes with the addition of stoppages in playing time, and each team has 18 players on the field with four interchange subs on the side.

Napa Valley Cricket Club sponsor Compadres Rio Grille – which also hosts the annual livestream of the Aussie Rules Grand Final – think Super Bowl, Australian style – and will provide food on Saturday for what is anticipated to be a large crowd of passionate Australians and intrigued locals.

The first game is scheduled to start at 9:45 a.m. with the Seals playing the Mavericks. At 11 a.m., the Pirates square off against the Knights and, at 12:15 p.m., the women’s match will see the Turtles play the Breakers. After the games, the back deck of Compadres will be the venue for a Happy Hour social mixer for all teams and their supporters.

“We’re excited to bring our semifinals day to the Napa Valley,” said GGAFL President Julie Marks, “and have the opportunity to play the game we all love at a new venue. The Silverado Green at the Napa Valley Expo has a beautiful surface and we’re looking to forward to see some top-class footy action being played on it.

“The crew at the Napa Valley Cricket Club have been incredibly accommodating of us and we’re mindful that we’re creating a little bit of local sports history with the three games. We welcome any locals who are intrigued by our version of football to come down and enjoy any, or all, of the three games.”

The GGAFL is a 501©3 IRS designated nonprofit sports organization and community introducing hundreds of people to the game of Australian Rules Football and is comprised of three leagues – men’s and women’s full tackle, and co-ed touch. Each season, from April to October, they compete at local and regional levels, preparing to complete nationally against 40 clubs in the annual United States Australian Football League tournament. Every year the best of its players also represent the USA in an international tournament.

Visit ggafl.com for more details on the GGAFL. Visit youtu.be/XMZYZcoAcU0 for a video explaining the game.

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