After graduating from Miami University in 2004, Chet Ridenour still didn't have an absolute direction.

After graduating from Miami University in 2004, Chet Ridenour still didn't have an absolute direction.

He left Oxford with bachelor's degrees in finance and Spanish, but the idea of getting a job right away didn't satisfy the wanderlust that was bubbling up inside of him. He took a few odd jobs after college and spent two years saving money for a trip.

He spent six months backpacking across the Western Pacific Rim, traveling to countries like Cambodia, Laos, Australia and New Zealand.

"With no wife, no kids, no mortgage, I saved up some money and took off and went out to see the world," Ridenour said.

In Australia he found direction. The moment came at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, where Ridenour saw an Australian rules football game and fell in love.

Last Saturday, a little more than two years later, the sport that grabbed Ridenour's attention in a 100,000-seat stadium in Melbourne played out its first official United States Australian Footy League game in Columbus at Tuttle Park before a small crowd of lawnchair-toting family and friends.

"Things couldn't have gone any better," Ridenour said a day after his Columbus Jackaroos defeated the Cincinnati-based Ohio Valley River Rats 82-28. "We put on a good match and a good party afterward. The away team is glad to have another team within a couple hours' drive they can play."

Ridenour was all-state as a soccer player in high school. He started on defense for the Thomas Worthington boys team that won the Division I state title in 2001. His father, also named Chet Ridenour, described his son as the typical jock in high school, spending most of his time on the soccer field or in the weight room. He said his son went through a transformation in college.

Having declined scholarships to smaller schools, Ridenour chose Miami and eventually became president of the Delta Upsilon fraternity. There he learned how to motivate people as well as some organizational skills. He returned home from Oxford a changed man, said the elder Ridenour, who prefers not to use senior in his title. His son, he noticed, was more social, more dedicated. He was a leader.

"When he's motivated about something, he's going to do it," the elder Ridenour said. "It would take a bullet to his head to stop him."

Ridenour needed both his motivational and organizational skills to pursue his love of footy, if anything to save him on gas money. He eventually latched onto a footy team in Cincinnati in the spring. The Cincinnati team was one of the first to play an officially sanctioned game in this country, but Ridenour soon grew tired of the drive south. The entrepreneurial spirit he discovered in college once again began to take hold.

"Guys are interested in the sport," Ridenour said. "Just the name, it says different, says exotic, says something fun and unique. It might be something interesting just to go and check it out. When guys get here they see it's a hybrid mix of every sport they've played their entire lives and it just puts it into something new that they can really get into."

Last Saturday short cones marked off a field that was 135 meters long and 110 meters wide. There were four PVC pipes erected at either end like goal posts. The object of the game is for players to kick the ball through the posts. The main strategy is to tackle the person with the ball before they can pass it to another person or kick it through the goal posts. The ball looks like a football with blunted edges and is passed by kicking or punching it.

When looking for players, one of the first e-mails Ridenour sent out was to John Fisher, a friend and classmate at Thomas. He joined. Ridenour also scoured the Australian rules football message boards for prospective players. He was sending recruitment pitches to some of them so much, he said, that those boards' administrators believed he was spamming them.

Fisher didn't think at first it was going to be anything serious, but soon found that it would develop into a team that practiced up to three times per week.

"It's a way to stay competitive and a way to stay active," Fisher said. "It adds more when you're playing against teams from other cities rather than just goofing around out on the field kind of like pickup games."

There were four people at the first practice, but that number has grown steadily. Fisher soon found himself recruiting players. At practice Sept. 11, there were more new faces to go with the more than 20 that were already there. They opened with stretching, kicking and then did some passing drills with Ridenour keeping one eye on practice and another on his administrative duties. Soon, through, he was out there practicing with them.

The next step is forming a metro league, one that is recognized by a national governing body of Australian rules football. They've already played pseudo-metro league games between, for instance, a team representing Ohio State against a team made up of players from everywhere else.

The goal is to have club teams based out of Worthington, Columbus, Ohio State and other surrounding communities. Then they'll take the best from those teams and form a team that will travel around the country and compete for the national championship. In the meantime, it promises to be another avenue to bring people together.

"There's a neat camaraderie with the guys on the team and being part of something," Ridenour said. "It feels more than just being part of an adult coed rec team. You feel a bond between the guys even on the other team. You go out and have a beer at the pub and they'll be your wingman."