Duane Magoon with Artemis the Alaskan musk ox. All photos: supplied

In March, when the AFL season is kicking off, the temperature in Girdwood, Alaska hovers around -5C.

It can plummet as low as -39.

Girdwood has two schools, no McDonald's, a population of 2200 and access to more than 60 glaciers in the beautiful Chugach Mountain Range. A popular ski resort in winter, it's a 45-minute drive from Anchorage, which itself is a 5hr 30m flight from the closest major city, Vancouver.

Any way you slice it, it's an unusual place to find a Kangaroos fan.

Howard 'Duane' Magoon, a retired secondary schoolteacher from Girdwood, has a case for being the club's furthest-flung supporter.

He became a footy convert while watching the seesawing 1984 Essendon-Hawthorn grand final on ESPN. "It was madness," he says. "But there was reason to what they were doing".

Instantly hooked, his next step was to choose a club to barrack for. Understanding that "you don't pick a team lightly", he gave the matter due consideration before settling, correctly, on North Melbourne.

During his teaching career, Magoon spent nine months of the year working with the Yupik people in one of Alaska's remote Inuit communities. He'd fly 500km by plane from the nearest regional centre into villages with no road access. ("It was incredible," he says. "You're living in one of those places where the culture's still intact. I learned more from them than they learned from me").

With three months of the year available to travel, he became determined to follow the Roos on what must rank among footy's longest pilgrimages.

Now 72, he estimates he's made 12 trips to watch the team play or visit the club out of season.

On a good year, the journey from Anchorage to Arden St takes 29 hours. When connecting flights fail him it can be days. He's no stranger to laying over in places like Honolulu and keeping up with the Roos via the Watch AFL app on airport WiFi. In 2001, he was all set to fly out for a finals series when the September 11 attacks grounded air traffic across the United States.

He made his first visit in the 1990s, and has ridden the highs and lows ever since, from the club's memorable finals runs in 2014-15 to the more challenging downswings of recent seasons. He's travelled as far as Launceston, 12,700km from home to watch North Melbourne play Alastair Clarkson's Hawthorn. The Roos gave up a last-quarter lead, but he got a ringside seat to watch a spectacular thunderstorm roll in over the hills.

On his most recent trip, he sat among the North faithful for the Round 2 match against Fremantle ("I felt part of an extended family," he says), and was at a sold-out Marvel Stadium for the Good Friday SuperClash against the Blues.

Back home, Magoon now works at the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Centre just out of Girdwood. Regularly dressed in his Kangaroos gear, he's become a magnet for Australians who visit for the chance to see native Alaskan animals up close.

Among the centre's star attractions is an orphaned musk ox named Artemis. Attacked by a grizzly bear as a calf, she was abandoned by her herd. Later, she lost an eye, but after eventually transferring out of quarantine she adjusted to became a beloved part of the sanctuary's musk ox herd. Magoon says he thinks of her as a Shinboner.

Though Girdwood locals are often intrigued by his passion for the sport he describes as "the best in the world", despite Magoon's efforts they are yet to be converted.

To his knowledge, he remains the only Roos fan in Alaska.


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