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Greater Tulsa Reporter

Australian Football Gains Local Following

Managing Editor

TULSA BUFFALOES: The Tulsa Buffaloes is Tulsa’s Australian Rules Football team, started in 2010 by local enthusiast Dustin Brasel, pictured with the ball. The team begins its fourth season in March.

Courtesy photo

There’s a new sport in Tulsa, and it’s not easy to explain – unless the individuals explaining it are from Australia. They know it well.

Australian Rules Football, or Australian Football, is the national sport of Australia, and is gaining a growing following in the U.S., including Tulsa.

It’s like eight sports rolled into one: basketball, soccer, volleyball, cross country, football, rugby, to name a few, says Shane Hood, who is starting his third season with Tulsa’s Australian football team, the Tulsa Buffaloes.

Dustin Brasel formed the Buffaloes in 2010 after being introduced to it by a co-worker when he was living in Dallas. After attending his first practice, it took less than a week for Brasel to start playing.

Brasel, who played football in college, appreciates the fast pace of the game. Players can run the ball downfield and also kick the ball, which allows them to move up and down the field quicker.

A brief overview of the game: each team has 18 players on a field that can be up to 180 yards long. The game begins with four players in the middle of the field for the tip-off, like in basketball. Players can move the ball downfield by running or kicking it. However, the ball must be bounced every 16 yards, and when it is passed, it must be served, like in volleyball.

The objective is to score by kicking the ball through the goal posts at the end of the field, but, unlike football, players cannot run the ball into the endzone; it has to be kicked.

The game is played in four 20-minute quarters.

Once Brasel and a friend decided to start a team in Tulsa, Brasel, who works in sales, launched an ongoing, and tireless, recruiting effort to spread the word, evidenced in the fact that a majority of the members on the team credit him as their reason for joining the Buffaloes.

When the team’s 2015 season starts in March, the Buffaloes will have 25 players on its roster, with Brasel expecting that number to surpass 30 by the end of the season, in October.

Some team members hail from outside the greater Tulsa area like Wichita, Little Rock and Oklahoma City. (Oklahoma City has yet to start an Australian football team.)

Yet, one current hole in the team roster is an Australian member, while most teams have at least one Aussie player.

Brasel attributes that lack as part of the reason why the team started out slow in victories its first two seasons.

For its first season, in 2012, the team won one game and the second year, two games. However, in the 2014 season, the Buffaloes won six of its 12 games.
“That’s pretty good when you consider we are coming up against teams with maybe four players from Australia who have been playing the sport since they were five years old,” says Brasel.

“We are seeing a progression of the team.”

That progression has also come about as team members have grown more adept at the game and improved in their skills and fitness levels. The team is also beginning to see many returning players.

Jesse Fletcher, the team’s assistant coach, joined the Buffaloes at Brasel’s encouragement. “I like the camaraderie of the team,” he says. “I had played lacrosse previously, but it didn’t have the same unity as this team does.”

Most of the team members also enjoy the athleticism of the sport.

Hood played football growing up and, most recently, played indoor and outdoor soccer, but once he played Australian football, that was it, he says, citing the level of competitiveness and adrenaline rush as his reasons for abandoning soccer.

The team holds its practices and games at Veterans Park or the Tulsa Athletics field (the former Drillers stadium) and has grown a following at their games, where they might see 150 spectators.

The team even has a fan who drives down to watch games and practices from Coffeyville, Kan.

“Tulsans are looking for teams to support,” says Fletcher. And “Tulsa is open to alternative sports,” one of the players quotes Sonny Dalesandro, owner of the Tulsa Athletics, as saying.

That openness to alternative sports and support of grassroots efforts has also been a help in the Buffaloes’ earning a long list of sponsors in the community, including McNellie’s Public House, Fassler Hall, Marshall Brewing Company and Burn Co Barbecue “We have had sponsors from day one,” says Brasel. “We had uniforms before we had players.”

Updated 03-21-2015

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