Dragging young children and teenagers away from their games consoles and on to a sports pitch can be a tough task for many parents, but Hong Kong is awash with sports clubs and outdoor activities. One sport which has a seen a dramatic rise in interest is Australian Rules football, or 'footie' as it is referred to Down Under. It is a variation of soccer and played outdoors between two teams of 18 players on large oval-shaped grass pitches. Players can kick and handle the ball, with the aim being to score goals. The Australian Rules Junior Football Club Hong Kong (ARJFCHK) is in its seventh season, with school children playing a modified version of the game, and the Junior Dragons club catering to teens who want to play full-contact football. The game is not limited to expatriate Australians. A morning at an Auskick clinic, which caters to children of all ages and levels, resembles a United Nations jamboree, with participants perfecting their drop punts, handballs and overhead marking skills. 'No previous experience is required as Auskick is not just about football but also about having fun, keeping fit and socialising with other children,' says Peter Dahl, president of the ARJFCHK. The Auskick development programme started locally in 2004 with the support of a handful of enthusiastic volunteers. The programme has steadily gathered steam and this year boasts about 200 children. For eight-year-old Peter Rossi, Aussie Rules is the highlight of his weekend. 'I play rugby as well, but prefer Auskick because I get to kick, handball and run more freely,' Rossi says. Promoting a game that is primarily played in one country is a challenge. But its presence is expanding, with numerous international schools including the game in their curriculum. Auskick clinics are held every Saturday morning and allow children to take part in a range of fun training drills before they put their skills to use in games at the end of the session. The aggressive tackling synonymous with Aussie Rules is not part of the children's version, but for older children in the Junior Dragons the opportunity exists to play the full-contact sport. Age is no barrier to playing nor is gender. Auskick attracts a loyal following among girls and boys. Lucy Tolhoek, almost nine, had no doubts about what made the game special to her. 'I love Auskick because I get to tackle the boys and all my friends are there.' For those children who want to experience international competition, the annual Asian Championships, comprising teams from a dozen countries, is played in conjunction with the senior tournament in a different city each year. This season, the tournament takes place during the latter stages of the World Expo in Shanghai, on the same weekend that the superstars from the Australian Football League (AFL) converge on the city to showcase the sport. Last year, the Junior Dragons played in the Asian Championships held in Kuala Lumpur, and will be out to dethrone the Singaporeans, Malaysians and Indonesians. Hong Kong Dragons president Dominic Dunn says the Auskick organisers and senior team are working to expand the sport into local schools and to attract more people to the game. 'It was really very inspiring to see so many Asian kids playing during the exhibition and Junior Championship games in Malaysia last October. Indonesia and Malaysia, in particular, have strong interschool competitions involving as many as 20 teams, without any expatriate Australians. In time, this is something we'd love to see emulated in Hong Kong,' Dunn says. Prospective players of any level, parents and coaches, can e-mail the Auskick organisers at firstname.lastname@example.org . Older teens who have grasped the basics of the game can e-mail email@example.com or visit the club website at www.hk-dragons.com to train and play with the Dragons.