Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Tryouts for Leafa College gridiron team see massive turnout

Tryouts for Leafa College gridiron team see massive turnout

By Graeme Wong
Spirit News
December 17, 2071

They came from different parts of Australia. Some hailed from the big cities. Many, though, came from small towns and one prospective player even came from as far as Darwin. But out of 500 who tried out for the Leafa College gridiron team, only a handful would win the right to earn a scholarship to play this sport, which is now one of the most popular forms of football in this country alongside rugby, soccer and AFL.

"We had a difficult time evaluating the talent because there are so many good players that came through tryouts," said newly-hired head coach Dan Harding, the 22-year old great-grandson of former Hawai'i wide receiver Scott Harding. "The competition is really good because the quality of gridiron in this country has significantly improved and our national team is very competent.

"Players who haven't been able to succeed playing more traditional codes have found their niche playing gridiron and to see all these young men take a chance is absolutely satisfying. We think we'll have a very good first year."

The schedule won't be easy for Leafa, who open up their season with a very formidable opponent in the University of Alabama Crimson Tide, loaded with players who could be pursuing careers in the National Football League. But don't tell that to Lachlan Akai, a quarterback from Sydney and a first-year physiology student at Leafa who was excited at the prospect of traveling to America to play intercollegiately.

"I think it's going to be a really rewarding experience, getting out there to play against all those good teams across the pond," said Akai. "You can't get nervous when it comes to something as historic as this because there is no pressure on you. This will be our first year playing against the best teams from America.

"We think we will make Australia proud and bring some championships Down Under. The country will be in for a treat next year."

Cornerback Billy Ooji of Perth will be enrolling at Leafa College as a first-year student next month. The youngest son of former Mitakihara Magi cornerback and West Coast Eagle Tooji Ooji, Billy knew about the competitiveness of teams in the States and thinks he can make his old man proud.

"Dad always tells me, 'I bet you can't be as successful as I was back then, eh?'" said Ooji after tryouts. "That sparked a fire in me to be better than him. He won a lot of titles playing for the Magi in Canada. But this time, I plan to one-up him by winning a national championship for Australia and for our college."

"Everybody in America will think we're out of our league, that we're wasting time playing against the Yankee world-beaters," said another prospective player, halfback Ethan Wakamatsu of Gold Coast, Qld., a first-year student and a physics major. "We Aussie know our sports and we plan to show them that we can give them a run for their money. With all due respect to the Yanks, we've been running the tables in our own country for years. It's time for us to take on a new challenge."

The roster will be finalized at the close of the Spring semester, Dec. 31, 2071. Training camp for the 2072 college football season will begin at the end of the second exam period of the Semester 1, June 21 and conclude until July 21, when the coursework period of Semester 2 begins.