Is Australia a potential American football powerhouse?
Like many Australians nowadays, the NFL makes up a super-sized proportion of my sporting diet.
What started with SBS Super Bowls as a once a year tipple, morphed into the occasional binge via the internet and now exists as a slightly unhealthy addiction that sees me getting up at 3am on Monday morning to sneak in a status check of a Minnesota tight end’s hamstring injury.
Whereas the greater majority of Australians over the age of fifty who don’t refer to trolleys as ‘shopping carts’ will be quick to bemoan the helmets, player numbers or the game’s technicalities, I know I’m not alone in this obsession.
Free-to-air coverage of the sport on Australian TV has made the sport accessible to the masses (I can hear Ben Buckley scratching his head from here) and with greater exposure comes the understanding that the basics gist of the sport is super simple.
Despite the positives of more people getting into the game locally, there is always a nagging thought in the back of my mind.
Just how good could Australia be at the sport?
Now this is the point where I’m supposed to detail how Greg Inglis would be a great running back, Buddy Franklin a gun wide receiver and David Pocock an awesome tight end…etc.
Which is a great argument for down the pub on a crappy early October Saturday afternoon, but one that has about as much point as arguing who would win a fight out of Optimus Prime and Voltron.
It isn’t ever going to happen, so why bother?
No, what I’m talking about is moving into the future, how likely is it that Australians (and New Zealanders for that matter) can carve out a presence in the NFL and be dominant at the sports amateur level?
The simple answer would be to say ”not very”. Despite the fact that there are currently a handful of talented Australians in the NFL and US College system, NFL teams and American universities have a huge pool from which to select their players.
So, outside of any Colin Scotts-type experiments, it is unlikely they would need to cast a net to the other side of the world to secure talent.
Also in the most recent Under-19 American Football world championship qualifying, the Aussie Outback side (great name by the way) got rolled by American Samoa, by a lazy 96-3.
Which should be a write-off right there. This was, after all, a country we beat 31-0 in round ball football. However it’s actually where things get interesting.
In qualifying for the tournament, Australia was actually handed the world’s biggest hospital pass. Studies have shown that a man with Samoan heritage is forty times more likely to play in the NFL than someone who isn’t.
The silver lining in all this is that last time I watched the Toyota cup, athletes with Samoan (or for that matter any Pacific Islander) heritage weren’t exactly in short supply in this part of the world.
If an island of some 55, 000 people like American Samoa can leave a footprint on one of the world’s biggest sporting competitions, so too should Australia. Australia has first class facilities and a pacific islander population many times American Samoa’s?
This is without even taking into account the many local athletes of other cultural lineage who might have the goods.
Sure there is the issue of dollars, with Australia’s ingrained football codes offering a clearer financial pathway for the talented junior. But with major league baseball tipping money into the fledgling Australian league, is this just a case of American football scouts bookmarking Australia as a nation of punters (the kicking kind) without fully being aware of its demographics?
Personally I think it’s only a matter of time before we’ll see the trickle of Australians hitting the big time become a steady stream, and the national Aussie Outback team well ‘in front’ of the pack.
Which I’m sure every Australian sports fan, no matter what their background, would be proud to see.
Even if it did mean checking the internet at 3am in the morning to find out how our players’ hammys are doing.
Follow Chris on Twitter: @Vic_Arious
Chris Chard is a sports humour writer commenting on the often absurd nature of professional sport. A rugby league fan boy with a good blend of youth and experience taking things one week at a time, Chris has written for The Roar, Rugby League Player Magazine, US Sports Downunder, the QRL and People. Tweet him @Vic_Arious