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Nokomis woman plays on local Australian football team

Posted on 25 September 2017 by calvin

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Photo above: There are about 50 local players on the Minnesota Freeze men’s and women’s Australian Football teams. They play each Saturday at the Lake Nokomis fields along Cedar from April to mid-October. Practice begins at 9 a.m. and is followed by a scrimmage at 10:30 a.m. (Photo submitted)

Men’s and women’s Minnesota Freeze teams play games at the Lake Nokomis fields every Saturday during football season

By TESHA M. CHRISTENSEN
The day Bri Ostoff moved into the Nokomis neighborhood three years ago, she joined the women’s Minnesota Freeze Australian Football team.

“I found the Minnesota Freeze on Meetup, a website for different activities, and they practiced in my new neighborhood at Lake Nokomis, so I decided to try it as a way to met people,” recalled Ostoff. “I have been hooked and playing for over three years.”

The Minnesota Freeze has over 50 members from the Twin Cities area playing on the men’s and women’s teams. Their season runs from the end of April to mid-October.

The teams are at Lake Nokomis fields just off Cedar on Saturdays with practices at 9am and inter-league scrimmage starting around 10:30 a.m. Men practice Wednesdays at Northwestern Health Science University in Bloomington at 6pm, and women practice Mondays at Bryn Mawr Park in Minneapolis at 6pm.

The Freeze started in 2005 with a few Australians who had moved to Minnesota. But, you don’t need to be Australian to play with the Freeze. Today, the Minnesota team has the fewest Australians playing on it compared to any other in the U.S., while being one of the largest teams in the country. Ages of players range from as young as 16 all the way to 50. The Minnesota Freeze is part of the non-profit United States Australian Football League (USAFL), an organization dedicated to the development of and participation in Australian football in the United States.

The USAFL’s first ever game was played in 1996 between Louisville and Cincinnati at Louisville, Ky. The league was founded the following year in 1997 at the first USAFL Nationals in Cincinnati, Ohio.

The men’s Freeze team has won three National Championships: 2005 (Division 3), 2007 and 2012 (Division 2).

The women’s team travels twice a year, once to play its nearest team in Chicago and once to attend the USAFL National Championship Tournament. The men’s team travels more often because there are men’s teams to play in Des Moines, Chicago, and Madison.

But traveling is not a requirement, according to Ostoff. Many members just play locally until the Nationals in October.

“This is a welcoming team full of people who wanted to train and play like a team,” said Ostoff. “Some of us came from other sports. For some, this is their first team sport. It’s social, and the people are amazing. I do also really enjoy tackling people.”

The sport requires skill, strength, and strategic thinking. At whatever level one plays at, the game improves fitness, strength, and coordination.

Learning as she went
Like many others on the team, Ostoff had no idea what she was doing and learned the rules as she went. During her first game, she got a 50-meter penalty—that’s one rule she’ll never forget.
Australian rules football, officially known as Australian football, or simply called football or footy, is a contact sport played between two teams of 18 players on an oval-shaped field that could easily fit an entire football field. There are no pads, but it is a full tackle sport. Games are played in two 20-minute halves with a 7-minute half-time break.

There are jump balls similar to basketball at the start of quarters, after goals, and when there is a struggle for possession without any prior opportunity, according to Ostoff. If a player tackles a person who has possession, the ball is turned over, and he/she gets a free kick. You have to kick the ball through the middle posts for 6 points; if you get this through the posts on either side on a kick, it is called a behind and worth only one point. A behind turns the ball over to your opponents’ defenders, and they get a free kick.

BriKaitKate_MNFreezePhoto right: The Australian Football team representing the United States in Australia in August 2017 included Minnesota Freeze players (left to right) Bri Ostoff, Kait Peterson, and Kate Mullins. (Photo submitted)

“It’s a continuously moving sport, so changes are made on the fly,” said Ostoff. “There are no offsides. And you can only score by kicking.”

Women and men’s teams play by the same rules.

“I find it to have similar structures to hockey,” noted Ostoff, who played hockey in high school and college. “It combines so many aspects of different sports that it fun to learn and we love to teach it.”

Ostoff’s biggest challenge has been learning how to kick, as this is the first sport she’s played where she needed that skill.

“The kick is most similar to a football punt, but it has its own technique because you should be able to kick without really breaking your running stride,” explained Ostoff. “This is something every American on the team has had to learn. Your kicks have to be accurate enough for your teammates to catch on the fly while fending off a defender.”

She typically plays the position of Half Back Flank, a defensive position on the D line closest to the midfield and flank. “Tall people are generally in the middle of the field,” stated Ostoff. “I’m short, so I play on the outside.”

Ostoff had competed in over 13 different sports growing up, so changing sports wasn’t a new idea for her.

“I love team sports,” Ostoff said. “Working and training to achieve a common goal is an amazing, empowering place for people to bond and grow.”

Representing the U.S. in Australia
This past August Ostoff went to Australia as a member of the USA Women’s Liberty team—a development team made up of women who play footy from across the U.S. Team members played local women’s clubs in Australia, winning three out of the five games. This opportunity exists every three years, and Ostoff learned about it during her rookie year and worked three years to make the team.

“It was amazing to play footy in Australia,” remarked Ostoff. “The feel is similar to small-town hockey. The whole town comes out to support their clubs and cheer each other on. It was a great honor to represent the USA and our women.”

The Minnesota Freeze is always looking for new men and women to join and play. More at www.mnfreeze.com.

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