It’s something most Aussies dream about – playing sport for their country. And sometimes, those dreams take a trip overseas. One of America’s great national sports, the National Football League (NFL) has seen many of our great sporting heroes head over to the states with a dream to make it in the big league.
And even if you’re not a sporting fan, your social media feeds and news channels have flooded you with coverage – making it extremely hard to avoid.
I sat down with Zac, who in his first year of university, decided to give American Football a go.
A: You grew up playing a mix of cricket, rugby league and rugby union – what sparked your decision to play American Football?
Z: After I got my acceptance letter to UC, I started to look into the different sporting teams that were available for me to play in. I had been playing sport since U/6’s so sport had always been a huge part of my life, it was only natural for me to continue playing as I went onto start my tertiary education.
I had always enjoyed watching and following the NFL, so when I discovered that UC had a gridiron team, I was extremely excited to try it out.
A: Have you set any goals for the season?
Z: Goals are something I definitely set out to achieve throughout the season. My main goal is to win a championship title for my team at the end of the season. But as for personal goals, I’m just working on learning the playbook and the rules as well getting stronger and faster each week on the field and in the gym which hopefully will attribute to our team’s success this year.
A: Why do you think there has been such an increase in popularity for NFL over here in Australia?
Z: I think with Jarryd Hayne and his transition from the NRL late in 2014 really made a lot people take more notice of American Football and the NFL in particularly. From that I think more and more kids are wanting to play after seeing their idol switch codes and find success. It’s a pretty inspirational story and has really influenced a lot of people, myself included.
There are more leagues being established in Australia due to the increasing popularity and it’s so cool to see more and more Aussie players going over to U.S to play.
A: How does playing American Football compare to grade rugby league?
Z: American Football is definitely more strategic based, where it’s basically up to the Offense coordinator working with the Quarterback to out-play the opposing teams defence. There are a lot more plays that you need to remember as an offensive player in comparison to rugby league where you really just play what’s in front of you and improvise a lot of the time.
American Football in my opinion is a lot harder hitting, with all the equipment on you seem to feel bullet-proof and throw your body around a lot more. You have much more time to take a breath in between plays and analyse your opposition so when you are playing its usually only for 10-20 seconds at a time, so most of the plays are extremely explosive. Compared to rugby league where you can be running on the field and making tackles non-stop for 40 minutes at a time.
A: You’re still relatively young at 20, do you have any ambition to play American Football at a higher level?
Z: It’s definitely something I’ve thought about a lot and definitely something I’d love to pursue. Playing college football over in the states has been a dream of mine for years and with the technology we have in the current day, it makes it extremely accessible for coaches over in American to communicate with coaches and analyse players here in Australia.
I’d love to think with some more experience and a lot of hard work, that dream could be a reality in a couple of years.
A: Lastly, what advice would you give to anyone looking to give American Football a go?
Z: My first bit of advice would definitely be just to give it a shot, you really have nothing to lose. I was fairly sceptical about playing when I first started, I was unsure whether I would be fast or strong enough but I haven’t even started full time training yet and I’m in love with the game.
There are positions for all kinds of individuals with different athletic abilities, so you’re bound to find one that suits you!
By Ali Gillett