Chet Ridenour is a man of many talents — “Jack of all trades, master of fun” he said. He’s a DJ, a music trivia host (at Yabo’s Tacos in Upper Arlington), a fitness instructor, an ordained minister and puts on ’80s-themed roller skating parties. He’s also founder of STR8NOUT, a support group for straight allies to advocate for LGBTQ equality, and sings with the Columbus Gay Men’s Chorus. Ridenour joked he’s the “token straight guy” in the group.
While Ridenour has many things going on, Alive spoke with him about playing with the Columbus Jackaroos, the city’s Australian Rules football team. Ridenour was a driving force behind getting the Jackeroos established and is one of the team’s stars.
In 2007, an old college fraternity brother started playing with the Cincinnati team and said I should check it out. I played one game, and they asked me to play in the national championship tournament. I did and ended up being the team’s MVP.
Originally we were just going to be a Columbus chapter of the Cincinnati team, but our practices and recruitment started to pick up. We had enough guys to challenge the Cincinnati team to a game. Our first game was in Cincinnati in July 2008, and we beat them.
The first full season was 2009. In 2011, we started the women’s team, the Jillaroos. The dream is to have an Ohio State contingent — the Buckaroos. We’ve just continued to grow. We worked with the Dublin Convention and Visitors Bureau to [bring] the national championship to Dublin in 2014.
We currently have two members on the U.S. men’s national team, Rob Ward and myself. This year, there could be three guys from Australia coming to play with us in the late summer and fall.
We play eight games a season; half home, half away. May 4 is our first home game, at 3 p.m. against Toronto. It’ll also be the first home match for the Jillaroos. They play at 1 p.m. Both games are at Swickard Woods Park in New Albany.
People say, “Oh it’s rugby” — no, it’s not rugby. There are no scrums. You don’t have to throw it backwards, and it’s a lot less brutal. We call it soccer with tackling, non-stop backyard football or hockey on land. It’s played on a huge field — 180 yards long and 130 yards wide. With all that space you can fit a lot of people, so it’s 18 on 18; six defenders, midfielders and forwards. Soccer players make the transition well. They’re used to the running and aren’t afraid of contact.
We have Jack Awards every year. The best defender is the Jack in the Back. There’s a big box in the middle, so our best midfielder is the Jack in the Box. The best catcher, or marker, is the Jumping Jack. The guy who gets the most penalties is the Jack Ass. The biggest ladies’ man is the Jack Rabbit and the worst is the Jack Off.
With any team across the nation, you can walk up to a practice in any city and say I want to play. They will welcome you with open arms, invite you out to the bar [after] and immediately you’re going to have 20 good friends.