Footy league hosts regular season finals in Whistler 

Australian rules Football Double-header at Myrtle Philip on Aug. 10

click to enlarge PHOTO BY SHUTTERSTOCK - AIR BALL Players battle for a ball.
  • Photo by Shutterstock
  • AIR BALL Players battle for a ball.

The B.C. Australian Rules Football League is coming to Whistler, hosting a double-header at Myrtle Philip Community School on Aug. 10.

This is the third year that the teams are coming to Whistler to play their last regular season games before the playoffs get underway.

The West Coast Saints are the host club for the tournament, and are playing the Vancouver Cougars at 1 p.m. At 3 p.m. the Bayhawks take on the Burnaby Eagles.

League president Karl McGrath said they do expect to have a few Whistler players in the event, and some AFL fans on the sidelines for the games.

"There are a few Whistler players that come down on the weekends to play for some of our teams. They're willing to make that trip because they love footy — and there will definitely be some locals from Whistler playing in the games on Aug. 10," said McGrath.

The league itself has a lot of visiting Australians and ex-pats, but they're working hard to draw more Canadians and others into the game, and may have the numbers to add a fifth team for next season.

"We really do focus on encouraging newcomers to the game, and not just Canadians — a lot of international people are interested, and Vancouver is a very international city," said McGrath. "We have a fundamental rule that our games revolve around, and that has to do with limiting the number of experienced players on the field to encourage teams to go out and recruit new people."

In other words, teams can only have 50 per cent Australian players on the team at any time.

The AFL is a rough sport characterized by the lack of padding, tackling and high-speed collisions as players battle for the ball. However, experienced players get better at moving the ball and avoiding contact, and the game becomes more about skill and fitness than brute force — until a ball is dropped or loose on the ground, in which case some brute force is usually applied.

McGrath said all newcomers wear armbands. Other players with more experience take the time to explain rules to newcomers, and give them a bit of leeway in contact as well.

Australian Rules Football is played on an oval field adapted from a cricket pitch, with each team fielding 18 players at a time (or less if fewer players are available and both teams agree).

The objective is to move the ball towards the other team's goalposts and kick it through the to earn points. There are no off-sides and players can move the ball forward by kicking, handballing (punching the ball), or running, although players have to bounce the ball off the ground every 15 metres at minimum or they can be penalized.

The only time that play stops is for a penalty. Tackled players must release or pass the ball to keep the game going.

Most kick passes are short, and any kick over 15 metres allows the player catching the ball to call a mark, temporarily pausing the game, or they can choose to run, kick or handball it away.

Teams earn six points by kicking the ball through the middle posts, and one point for kicking it between the middle posts and behind posts. It can either bounce or fly through the posts.

For more on the league, visit

Speaking of Myrtle Philip Elementary School


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