Does this man look out of place at a Redskins practice?
If the blue-striped jersey didn’t give it away, then the Australian accent was all I needed to peg him as an outsider.
This is Dan Benbow, a native of Melbourne, Australia, and a resident of Vienna, Va. He came to practice earlier this week to meet his new favorite Redskin, the growing legend: Sav Rocca.
Okay, he’s a punter. But in his previous life he was an Australian Rules Football (AFL) star. Decked out in his North Melbourne Kangaroos jersey (called a guernsey or sweater), Benbow was waiting to get a T-shirt signed for his father back in Australia for Australian Father’s Day (Sept. 4).
I had finally found my man to ask about Aussie Rules Football.
“It’s great that Sav is out there kicking,” Benbow explained. “But Sav had the amazing ability when he played for the AFL, to kick a goal from like 70 meters out.”
That’s only about a 77 yard-punt, for you Americans. Not a big deal.
“Our goals are probably about as far apart as the uprights here, and he would be able to launch it and, y’know, get it from that distance out,” Benbow continued. “It’s punting style, but there’s a couple of different ways to hold the ball, including one we call the torpedo punt.”
And that’s equivalent to a spiral punt for you NFL fans. The spiral punts are used in the NFL for distance and hang-time. Yesterday in practice, Rocca kicked about ten in a row of at least 50+ yards, with hang-times in the 4.7-4.9 second range.
Especially for the first week of practice, that’s fairly awesome.
Rocca spent most of his AFL career playing for the Collingwood Magpies, but had some successful years with Benbow’s beloved Kangaroos too. Even though Benbow moved away from Melbourne, one of his favorite players followed him to the states.
“Kicking from that distance out was always a good sight to see,” he said. “When he came over, that was great, but it was Philadelphia, so it was a little ways away. Now he’s in the neighborhood, so that’s great, and it’ll be great to see where he goes.”
See, I’m not the only one who follows special teams with a keen interest.
Poor Dan spent the next 10 minutes trying to explain to me what Aussie Rules is, by me comparing it to things that it is not. Here’s a recap:
- It is not really like the NFL
- It is not like soccer
- It is not like rugby (although the NFL is similar to rugby because of line play. Good to know for future reference).
Aussie Rules Football is most closely related to ice hockey, actually. Benbow explained: “It’s very fluid, a lot of running around, and you’re very much in motion the entire time.”
“The idea is that you’re picking up the ball or someone’s kicking it to you, and then you’re running,” he continued. “Imagine if the wide receiver, after he caught it, would then go on and kick it–that’s sort of how the game is played.”
And all while wearing short-shorts. Roll the tape!
With that much room to spare, Sav should have stepped back 10 feet.
Benbow was amazed that more Aussie Rules footballers don’t make the jump to the states, given their ability to boot the ball.
“Darren Bennett played for San Diego in the 90′s, but we haven’t had a lot of guys go from AFL to the NFL,” he said. “Which is weird because–as Sav can demonstrate–even if you’re a little bit past your prime in Australian Rules, you can still play here because you’re not required to run around the field all day.”
“And you get paid a lot more over here than you do over there.”
That never hurts.
Practice was winding down at this point and I wanted to make sure that Benbow got in prime position to get Rocca’s autograph. But I had to know how someone raised Down Under ends up on the opposite side of the globe.
“My wife’s from Michigan,” he said with a laugh. “I met her over in Australia; she was working at the same place I was working at. And we met, and one thing led to another, and here I am on the other side of the world.”
Nice to meet you, mate.
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