Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Montreal set for biggest ever Aussie Rules tournament

2012 Women's Cup teams

If you build it, they will come.

That was the motto used  five years ago when the fledgling Montreal footy club was desperate to get visiting teams into town and build a unique 9-a-side event that put the spotlight on rookie Aussie Rules players.

Armed with the lure of a European style city like no other in North America, for the very first time some applications for the 2013 tournament had to be refused as the tournament’s 4 women’s and 8 men’s slots filled in record time. Teams from New York, Ottawa, Boston, Baltimore and Halifax all committing to take on Montreal’s spread of home teams in the AFL Quebec Preseason Cup. An estimated 150+ players will be on hand for what will be Quebec footy’s finest hour.

While the historical blue-stoned streets of Montreal’s Old Port, background hum of French drifting through the streets and the smell of Poutine in the diners (chips and gravy with cheese curds - it’s ridiculously better that it sounds) play a big role in attracting visitors, it’s the focus on the players and more importantly the rookies that keep them coming back year after year.

The Halifax Dockers (located over 1,200 kilometres east of Montreal) will be using the tournament to make their official debut, bringing with them six Canadians playing Aussie Rules for the first time. Club co-founder Jonah Scott is excited at the prospect of what his band of Aussie Rules rookies will bring, noting that they play a huge role in the Dockers chances and that the Preseason Cup is the perfect environment to let them off the chain.

Saturday’s event will not only see a tournament rookie MVP awarded for both men and women, but several accolades and much attention showered on the first and second year players who inject a huge amount of excitement and unpredictability into the cup. In 2012 the West Island Eagles took out the men’s division with a team almost entirely comprised of rookies and without a single Australian in the line-up. It was a defining fairytale moment and represented exactly what the cup was initially created to achieve. It’s this approach of recognizing and nurturing future talent that encourages teams to unveil their debutants in Montreal’s tournament, a sure sign that after a weekend in “La belle province” and a first day of footy that won’t go unnoticed, the products of Montreal’s Preseason Cup will be footy fans for life.