Sav Rocca can count on at least one group with a rooting interest in his success here. That would be the members of the Philadelphia Hawks, an Australian rules football team that has been in existence since 1998.
Part of the USAFL, the Hawks and other American teams are sponsored by Australian Football League clubs. Philly is a sister organization of the Hawthorn Hawks, a storied club from Melbourne.
The roster of 30 players is a mix of Americans, Aussies and Irish. They practice weekly and play twice a month, from March to September, with a "Super Bowl" to cap the season. Games here are played in Fairmount Park and FDR Park. More on the team and the league can be found at phillyhawks.com.
Team president Ryan Kav-anagh says there's no one sport that prepares players for the speed, agility and kicking ability needed to compete. Some have a background in soccer, others in volleyball and basketball.
"The contact is different from rugby or American football," he wrote in an e-mail, "but there's plenty of it. I think the commonality is having something to do after work that is healthy, unique and fun."
Pat Miller, who helps handle the team's marketing and provided the football for the Rocca Pag 1 photo, says they're developing what's called a metro league this year. He calls it "a smaller version of the game, with more action, less players and smaller fields."
You can catch this hybrid of Australian rules at 10:30 a.m. Saturday at FDR Park. The first league game is June 9 vs. North Carolina. Don't expect to be standing alone.
"Our metro games attract around 20 to 30 people," Miller says, "and when we play local teams such as New York City and Baltimore, we can get about 50 watchers standing right next to the pitch." *