The Crows: AFL in Austin

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Interview by Molly O'Brien, Marketing & Communications Specialist, Advance. 

There are many difficulties associated with moving to a different country – things that we’re sure many Australian expatriates have experienced. Of these, finding a new social network, or even better – a group of mates – can be tough.

Having an already established organisation to help with this transition can make all the difference between having a great experience abroad and an ordinary one.

That is exactly what Austin-based AFL club, the Austin Crows, is designed to do. Bring Aussies together who are living in a foreign city to have a great time playing footy. And eat meat pies.

Advance spoke to Austin Crows President Tim May, an Australian native and Austin adoptee, about his experience running the club and how it has brought many Aussie expats together. He also divulged his personal recommendations on getting the most of visiting Austin, and his advice to those thinking about moving there permanently.

How did you land yourself in Austin, and how long have you been living there?  

I moved to Austin in 2005. My wife is American, and when we got married we had a handshake agreement that she would live in Australia for a certain amount of years before moving back to the US. After 10 years of living in Australia she tapped me on the shoulder and said it was time to move – it was a good innings! I have loved every second living in Austin since – it’s such a laid back easy going city.

How did the inception of the Australian Football Club in Austin come about? How was the national treasure of “footy” initially received?

It started with few of Australians just meeting for a kick of the footy at Zilker Park (a large park located downtown) back in 2006, and shortly afterwards we had enough guys for a team, and before we knew it we played our very first official game, v Dallas.

Recruiting players was a little difficult early on, until some college kids joined the club and we actively started to recruit a little more. Our player numbers really just improved from there, and now we have a large playing base. Everyone who has come and tried the sport has absolutely love the game and wish they'd known about AFL earlier. 

From then, we’ve gone from strength to strength, and competed in our first year at the National Championships run by the USAFL in Division 3 in Colorado Springs in 2008. 

It's a great club built on teammates and mateship, which you can see by the way all the guys hang out and meet up outside of footy.

Sport is known for bringing people together. Have you seen this through the AFL club in Austin?

Oh yes – I played sport for many years and this club is no different to any amateur sporting club in Australia. We are a real tight knit group; the guys seem to fit the mold of Austin – which is laid back and social.

After completing his studies in Australia, my son came over here. Apart from family, he did not know a soul. He joined the football club immediately had forty or so best mates – it just made his transition over here so easy.

Moving from town to town is difficult from a social perspective. Having an association with the Austin Crows is an easy way for foreigners and locals alike to instantly have a social community and more of a network.

Are there any other Australian initiatives in Austin like what you’re doing? 

Not that I am aware – apart from a couple of rugby clubs here that have been established for many years.

Is Austin reminiscent at all of Australia? If so, how?

Yes, it is – my wife bought me to Austin because she attended University here and just thought it would be the most “Australian-like” town to live in. 

It’s a very laid back, casual, outdoorsy place – people are incredibly friendly and relaxed – it’s not your big, flashy “look at me” city like LA or New York – prices are cheap, whether it be housing or necessities, and the weather is warm most of the year. There are numerous lakes and hills in and around Austin, so a lot of the time is spent on the lake, relaxing with friends. I don’t think I can say it’s like Melbourne or Adelaide or any other Australian city I know, it’s unique, ultra-relaxed, built on a foundation of music and entertainment.

Austin is establishing itself as an international centre of innovation. Do you think that this is the reason the city is attracting more and more Australian expats?

Absolutely, but I would say more so because Austin is very Australian in nature for the reasons that I have mentioned above – every Australian that we have hosted over here just wants to move here – the hills, lakes and litany of rooftop bars and restaurants, make it pretty hard not to like.

What are your personal recommendations/must-dos for people visiting Austin?

Rainey Street! It’s a place that really sums up Austin – a street downtown that has converted old timber houses into bars and restaurants – it’s just a great way to witness Austin.

Austin is also an event driven city – they have wonderful music festivals, such as South by Southwest, held annually every March/ April where would-be musicians come from all across the world to be discovered across a two-week period – there are bands strumming guitars all over the city – it’s so much fun.

There is another Event called Austin City Limits that is held in October – where the park downtown converts into eight huge stages and top musicians come to town to entertain hundreds of thousands of people over two weekends – it’s so much fun and is always a sellout.

Austin also hosts the US Formula 1 Grand Prix each year which is a must for motor heads. 

On any weekend (or weekday for that matter) I would recommend anyone to get a boat and spend some time on the beautiful lakes in and surrounding Austin – plenty of waterskiing, tubing and boats tying together blasting music across the lake as people just relax and enjoy the warm climate.

Are there any drawbacks to living in Austin? What advice would you give to people considering the move?

The only drawback I can think of is the traffic. I read the other day that over 200 people per day are moving to Austin – and unfortunately our roads here are feeling that impact, so patience is the key when getting around the city.

The heat is not for the fainthearted either. In Austin, it’s not unusual in summer to have 50 days of temperatures over 100 F (37 C) – fortunately, it’s a nice dry heat and the lakes are there to cool you down, so relief is never far away.

In your opinion, what’s the best thing about having a galvanised community of Australians living as expatriates?

Whilst Texans are very Australian-like, there is nothing like meeting up with a bunch of Aussies and talking footy, cricket and enjoying Australians unique sense of humor. 

It’s a real tight knit community where everyone is only too happy to help others adjust to life in a different country.

Most importantly – do you sell meat pies at the games?

Oh yes – couldn’t live without that. One of the Austin Crows sponsors is Boomerang Pies, which was established by a US guy who lived in Sydney for a reasonable amount of time and couldn’t bear the thought of not eating meat pies once he moved back to the States, so he established a pie company.

They have a van selling pies at all our games – not surprisingly the Americans love these pies and they are now selling them across the country at leading Grocery Stores.