Contributed by: Brett Northey
On April 8th and 9th, the AFL's Collingwood Magpies held open tryouts in association with the Denver Bulldogs, the reigning 3-in-a-row USAFL champions. James Waddell, officially representing Collingwood, put a group of hopefuls through a series of athletic tests, with the results forwarded to the club for examination. Waddell would like this to be just the first of many trials, with the aim of finding young American recruits to take to Australia on scholarships, with a view to AFL careers.
Waddell's background is in Aussie Rules and professional baseball, representing Australia in the latter in 1992 at the Barcelona Olympics and scouting for the New York Mets since 1996. He first approached all AFL clubs with the idea of running an Australian football scouting program, and Collingwood were the club with the foresight to see it through this far. All high schools and colleges in the state of Colorado were contacted, although on the day only 21 athletes were tested. The average age was 29, and it's likely that most of them were players from the local Denver side. The prospective recruits were tested for speed (20m sprint), agility, vertical leap and endurance (using the 20m beep test). Also assessed were more subjective measures such as kicking (distance and accuracy), marking, handballing, and a game was played, although the emphasis was on building a database of athletic characteristics.
It would be reasonable to say that the turn out in numbers and demographics was probably a bit disappointing, and there are no plans to offer any players contracts at this stage. But obviously a task such as this cannot be expected to yield instant results, and Waddell is hopeful of funding to develop and expand the program. Time will tell whether Collingwood will pursue this method further.
On a good note for the Denver Bulldogs, they look to have picked up a handy recruit in Mike LeValley, a 26 year old soccer player. Many American clubs have noted that soccer players often make the transition to Aussie Rules more easily than players from other sports. If the Denver-Collingwood experiment is expanded, it may be done in conjunction with clubs around the US, and could prove to be a great recruiting avenue for the respective hosts.
Related earlier article: Collingwood to hold open tryouts in Denver, USA
World Footy News