Plano’s newest sports team, the North Texas Devils, is bringing Australian rules football to Collin County, and seeking players while simultaneously building its fanbase. The Devils’ name and colors are borrowed from a Tasmanian team scheduled to begin playing in the Australian Football League (AFL) in 2025.
Looking to raise its visibility in the States, on March 12 the AFL is launching a reality series, “Making Their Mark,” on Amazon Prime, and AFL matches are being broadcast domestically on both ESPN and Fox Sports One this year.
North Texas is the 48th team in the United States Australian Football League (USAFL), a circuit also including teams from Austin, Dallas, Houston and Oklahoma City. Those five teams, with Oklahoma City being a combined squad from OKC and Tulsa, will compete for the Texas Cup, a rivalry with a trophy and bragging rights on the line.
Beginning Feb. 13, the Devils will host try-outs and training sessions on Wednesdays and Saturdays at various locations throughout Plano and DFW. Matches will be played at Plano’s Old Shepard Place Park, Allen’s Celebration Park and several other local venues.
A typical USAFL season runs May through October but is subject to change this year. The team is still accepting sponsors and donations.
Often equated with rugby, Aussie rules football is a bit different, as Devils President and head coach James Henderson states. “Everyone describes this game a little bit differently. I personally describe this game as a combination of other major sports,” James said, referring to American football, basketball, lacrosse and rugby.
Awareness of Aussie rules in Dallas-Fort Worth has been helped by Mason Cox, a Highland Village native and walk-on basketball player at Oklahoma State, playing for the AFL’s Collingwood Football Club since 2015. Mason has helped grow the game in DFW, but James hopes to eliminate common misconceptions many Texans have about the sport.
“The biggest challenge is simple awareness. Nine times out of 10, when we mention Australian football, people say ‘Oh, that’s rugby,’ because there’s a lot of familiarity with rugby,” James said.
“Once somebody has seen some highlights, once somebody has seen that it’s not as bash and tackle as rugby would be, and it’s a 360-degree game in the sense that basketball is – with no offsides and things like that – then people really start to get intrigued and enthused by the sport.”
Both James and Devils Vice President Paul Barnett, a Plano resident, hope to attract the sizeable Aussie population from northern DFW to matches while also pulling in a substantial number of American converts to the sport.
One way they look to further grow the sport is by inviting all adults, regardless of age, gender or skill level to try out. Until two separate male and female teams are solidified, everyone will train together with minimal contact and mandatory COVID precautions.
“People of all sizes and fitness levels can play this game, from the biggest basketballer to the smallest soccer player,” James said. “It is open to everybody. The women’s league went professional in Australia five years ago, and in some U.S. teams, there are more women playing than men.”
Anyone interested in participating can sign up on the TEAM mobile app or visit the website below for more information.North Texas Devils >