Australians continue to infiltrate American football, but unlike some, such as Sav Rocca and Jarryd Hayne, some are taking the developmental route of playing at the college level in order to gain some experience before seeking big paydays with NFL teams.
Three Australians recently had the opportunity to showcase their abilities in the college post-season bowl extravaganza.
Geelonger Cameron Johnston, Melbourners Will Gleeson and Blake O’Neill all played for major universities as punters, a skill they no doubt gained as rules players or ruggers.
Johnston played for the Ohio State Buckeyes in the Fiesta Bowl. His side beat the Notre Dame Fighting Irish 44 – 28. His first punt of the game was a badly shanked effort, but he got off two respectable efforts, including a 46-yarder that pinned the Irish inside their own 20. Johnston plans to return to Ohio State for his senior year.
Gleeson played for Ole Miss against Oklahoma State in the Sugar Bowl. He had one punt that traveled 50 yards and concluded the game with a 44-yard average. He will also return to play next season at the college level.
Blake O’Neill suited up for Michigan against Florida in the Citrus Bowl. O’Neill was a steady presence for Michigan all season, but a knee injury prevented him from getting on the ground. During the season, he had an 80-yard punt to his credit. O’Neill was a fifth-year senior, so he has used up his NCAA eligibility.