Australian sport 'Oztag' lands in SUNY Cortland

The following is a republished press release from SUNY Cortland and not an article written by The Cortland Voice … to submit a community announcement, press release or information about an upcoming event, email Peter Blanchard at [email protected].

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There’s a new international twist to SUNY Cortland’s excellence in athletics, and it involves an innovative Australian sport making its American debut in Cortland, N.Y.

Oztag, a recreational sport that might be best described as a combination of flag football and rugby, is played by more than 40,000 participants across Australia. And this week, the game’s two top administrators are touring Cortland to tout their co-ed, inclusive activity for people of all abilities, from schoolchildren to college students to older adults.

On Thursday, May 5, the sport will be demonstrated from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. on the lawn in front of Moffett Center, then again from 4 to 6 p.m. on the intramural fields located on lower campus. Earlier in the week, directors Brendan Powell and Scott Park, a former National Rugby League player, introduced Oztag to students in a Cortland High School physical education class and representatives from the Cortland Youth Bureau.

“It’s fun, it’s fast, and it appeals to people who might normally hang back with other sports or activities,” said Lee Scott-Mack, associate registrar for SUNY Cortland’s International Programs Office. “And Cortland is basically the first place it’s being introduced in the U.S., so that’s pretty cool too.”

The non-tackling game is played with eight players on the field at one time. Similar to rugby, the goal of Oztag is to score tries, with participants wearing shorts with a Velcro patch and a strip of cloth attached to both sides. Defenders can prevent ball carriers from scoring tries by removing the cloth from their shorts, similar to flag football.

The sport, which Powell and Park took over in 2009, has earned high marks in Australia because it avoids tackling and it can be played by participants of all skill levels for fun and fitness. Participation numbers have grown from 3,000 to more than 40,000 since 2009, and Oztag hosted its first World Cup in December.

Some of SUNY Cortland’s own students were introduced to it during their study abroad experiences in Australia, a popular destination for many of the College’s undergraduates.

“It was so much fun,” said Kelsey Carpenter, an adolescence education: mathematics major from Camillus, N.Y., who studied on the Sunshine Coast. “I never thought I’d enjoy a sport similar to rugby, but we played it every week and actually got pretty competitive with it.”

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