Why Aussie punters are altering the NFL


There are only a few issues extra American than the NFL. Besides it’s now not solely dominated by Individuals…

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It was a easy play. With the Seattle Seahawks main the Detroit Lions 28-14 and holding the ball simply three yards from their very own endzone, all their punter needed to do was take the ball, absorb a while, after which step out of bounds. The Seahawks would concede two factors for a security, however the ball can be out of the hazard zone.

It was a quite simple play. However Seattle’s punter was no extraordinary punter. He was an Australian.

Michael Dickson took the ball within the endzone as if about to punt, stepped proper, noticed an opportunity and…ran. The Aussie punter defied the plan and his coach and bolted upfield. He made 9 yards to safe a primary down, and the Seahawks saved the ball, didn’t need to concede two factors, and received simply. After all, if Dickson had been caught earlier than making the primary down, it may’ve led to catastrophe. However once more, that is no extraordinary punter.

Dickson, a former prospect for the Sydney Swans within the AFL, had already shocked the NFL when he revived the artwork of the drop-kick – a kick in style within the 1920s and 30s however lengthy out of vogue in the present day. Generally it takes an outsider to open up the chances that have been at all times there, and Dickson seems like the person for the job – whether or not it’s drop-kicks or giving his coach a cardiac episode by working the ball when he was supposed to remain put.

However Dickson is simply the newest in a protracted line of Australians altering the face of the NFL. Again house the most important headlines are reserved for the likes of Jarryd Hayne and Valentine Holmes: rugby league speedsters risking huge reputations by testing out their working chops on a much bigger stage and an alien code. However Aussies have been taking a punt in far more literal sense, and assembly with main success, for years.

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A pioneer of Australians in American soccer was Darren Bennett, who performed efficiently for West Coast and Melbourne within the AFL, however discovered larger fame within the US, exhibiting Individuals simply how the booming boot of an Aussie Guidelines star can work of their sport. Bennett turned a bona fide NFL celebrity, and regardless of solely starting his profession with the San Diego Chargers in 1995, he was named within the NFL’s All-Decade Staff for the 1990s.

Bennett’s success impressed NFL franchises to go on the hunt for Australians to bolster their shares, having recognised that in Australia there was a goldmine of athletes who had grown up booting balls many a mile. Mat McBriar was an unknown within the Warrnambool and District Soccer League earlier than turning heads at a kicking competitors at Melbourne’s Waverly Park. Coincidentally it was Darren Bennett himself who helped McBriar get a scholarship with the College of Hawaii, from the place he moved into the NFL. McBriar turned the second Australian to be chosen to the Professional Bowl, and in 2006 registered a 75-yard punt that was formally the second-longest in Dallas Cowboys historical past.

Ben Graham and Saverio Rocca have been removed from unknowns once they upped sticks to go to the States. Graham had captained Geelong and was identified for his large roosts from fullback when he shocked the AFL world together with his transfer to the New York Jets. Graham’s gigantic left foot helped him turn out to be the primary Australian to play within the Tremendous Bowl, and earned him cash he may by no means have commanded within the AFL – with out having to do all the opposite stuff like marking an opponent or tackling.

Rocca adopted Graham a few years later, because the oldest rookie in NFL historical past – at 33 years previous. Massive Sav was well-known in Ozfor his potential to kick targets from distances mere mortals may solely dream of: in America he thrilled followers of the Philadelphia Eagles, and later the Washington Redskins, together with his thumping punts.

So Dickson has merely turn out to be a part of a proud and more and more prolific historical past of Aussie-NFL collaboration, the place native boys made good have been exhibiting the Yanks simply how arduous we kick down beneath, whereas additionally demonstrating a formidable athleticism and flexibility not at all times related to American-grown punters (see, for instance, Sav Rocca’s crunching sort out on the Arizona Cardinals’ Patrick Peterson because the latter tried to return one among his punts).

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You may undoubtedly anticipate to see extra big-kicking Aussies making headlines Stateside, particularly now that Dickson is exhibiting that Australians cannot solely kick a ball a rustic mile, however opening followers’ eyes to facets of their sport they could have forgotten have been there themselves. We’re not saying solely an Australian would’ve considered dashing out of the endzone towards directions, or drop-kicking kickoffs to pin returners beneath a excessive ball. However you may undoubtedly see the indicators of creativity and ingenuity there that come naturally to a bloke from Down Underneath. Any further, the NFL can be studying to not ship a Yank to do an Aussie’s job.

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