Footy emerging deep in the heart of Texas

There’s no doubt the hype around women’s Australian rules football has not only spread across the land Down Under, but also across the northern hemisphere, as proved by so many new teams popping up.

In the United States, the West Coast is riding on a wave of success after last year’s national titles won by San Francisco and Portland, the Eastern seaboard is flourishing with strong numbers showing up to play in places like Baltimore and New York, and there’s footy in the heartland at Denver and Minnesota.

Image: Houston Lonestars

Now efforts are underway to get women playing our great game deep in the heart of Texas.

Speaking to Girls Play Footy, Sonia Lovel of the Houston Lonestars said her club was not only holding a ‘come and try day’, but also hoping to send a combined team from Texas to this year’s Nationals in San Diego.

“With the strength of the men’s [Texas based] teams over the last ten years… it’s definitely time,” Lovel said.

“Over the last few years we’ve been looking at growing it [women’s footy] and getting the girls involved down south.

“We’re looking to build a Texas team first and help each other out, and then who knows, perhaps in the next three years, maybe have our own individual teams in each city.”

Naturally, many would think most Australians in the United States are only situated in the financial hub that is New York, the political centre that is Washington DC, or in Los Angeles chasing their dreams in Hollywood.

As Lovel explained, a former Geelong local herself, Texas is home to a significant number of Aussies.

“I still don’t think anyone really has a handle of how many Australians are really here; I’ve heard a figure of around 20,000.

“Between Houston, Austin, Dallas, and all the industries that are over here, a lot of Australians have come over, especially in the last ten years, for work.”

Of course, the Lonestars, Austin Crows and Dallas Magpies aren’t just trying to recruit Aussie expats, they’re also on the hunt to get as many sports-loving Texas women to sign up and play the game.

“Last weekend we actually went out to roller derby,” Lovel said.

“Some of the girls in the Portland [Sockeyes] team suggested that, and it was really good.

“We’ve been reaching out to the local rugby teams that have been built up quite strongly here over the past few years. Basketball, soccer as well.”

The aim of Saturday’s ‘come and try day’ in Houston is to slowly introduce women into the game, so those that have not played the game before – nor dealt with the oval-shaped ball – are not daunted by it.

“We’re actually going to just start off with some fun fitness drills, and slowly bring in the footballs.

“We just want to let them know it’s fitness, there’s a lot of running, agility, fun, and team work.

“Then we’ll slowly build the basic skills of handballing and kicking, which kicking is probably going to be the hardest one for most of the girls to pick up.”

One person the Lonestars are hoping will promote women’s footy in their state is current Texas resident, inaugural AFL Women’s premiership-winning co-captain and league Best and Fairest, Erin Phillips.

Front and centre, AFLW Best and Fairest Erin Phillips poses with the Austin Crows men’s team. Image: Austin Crows

Phillips, who is currently employed with WNBA club, the Dallas Wings, was recently spotted at a Texas footy carnival, supporting the Austin Crows.

Lovel hopes that star power of Phillips in the Texas community will help give their idea of starting a Texas-based women’s team, then competition, a massive boost.

“We’re hoping to definitely get her involved, especially when perhaps we have a women’s taster session in Dallas, or later in the year when we’re hoping to have actual games for the girls to play, leading into Nationals,” Lovel said.

The Houston leg of the Texas Women’s Footy Talent Search is on this Saturday June 24 from 1pm to 3pm at Houston Sports Park.

More information is available at: houstonfooty.com/womens

The full interview with Sonia Lovel can be heard below on this week’s Girls Play Footy Podcast.

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