Football is a truly American sport, but there is one team hard at work in Rockford this week that’s not American, but it’s doing its best to catch on to the sport and excel at it.
This is the Junior Australian U19 Outback National football team. It’s players are working out twice a day all this week at Rockford University. They arrived in Rockford last Monday.
“The University has been great!,” says head coach Luke Chapman. “All of the locals we’ve been talking to have been helping us out so it’s been fantastic!”
“We just saw the city the other day,” says Outback safety Bailey Devine-Scott. “We went and did some shopping. All the boys bought some merchandise and had a good time.”
The team is in Rockford making a pit stop before heading south to Mexico City for the International Federation of American Football World Championships. Coach Chapman wanted his guys to get adjusted to the time change here and to the climate before going to Mexico. He used his ties with local football coach Anthony Stone to come to Rockford.
So how popular is American football in Australia?
“American football back home it’s a really small sport at the moment, but it’s starting to grow a bit more,” says Devine-Scott. “A lot of people watch the NFL. I know quite a few New England Patriots fans. I just think they’re glory hunters anyway. A lot of Packers fans, but myself… Dolphins.”
There are some American college coaches here helping out at practice helping the Outback team grasp the finer points of the sport.
“We’ve been studying a lot,” says Outback running back Mitch Crookes. “We try to be smarter players because we haven’t been playing it for as long as they have so we try to learn as much as we can while we can.”
Six teams from six countries will compete at the World Championships. The Outback team is seeded fifth. Unfortunately it’s opening opponent Saturday will be the United States so they’ll be underdogs.
“Yes significant underdogs against the U.S. but as Australians do as Australians do we’ll go out and give it our best and see what happens,” says Chapman.
Crookes says he wasn’t expecting an early matchup with the United States.
“It was a bit of a shock. I didn’t really expect it since they didn’t even get close to playing us last time around, but we’ll do our best.”
“I love being the underdog!,” says Devine-Scott. “Nobody expects much from you. You can go out there and show them what an Australian team will do. We need to play football and win a gold medla. We’re going to show them we’re actually a serious competitor in the competition.”
After playing the United States the Outback team will p lay Sweden in pool play. If it should win both of thse games then it will play for the gold medal.