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Tuesday, April 07 2020 @ 04:40 pm ACST

Making the Grade in the West - updated

North America

James (pictured left) and Jared Brunmeier (pictured at end of story) hail from Wisconsin, but since December they have been in Perth trying to make the grade in the Western Australian Football League (the WAFL is a AAA league for footy). The Brunmeier boys are completing the second stage of the first year exchange program between the West Perth Falcons and the Milwaukee Bombers. The first stage saw Brett Cousins spending six months in Milwaukee helping the Bombers to their first ever Mid American Australian Football League (MAAFL) title. This is the second time in Australia for both boys. In 2005 Jared spent a few weeks with Kevin Sheedy as part of the Essendon/USFooty exchange program and played reserves for the Hampton Rovers in suburban Melbourne, while James played in Sydney's amateur league. Both boys represented the USA at the 2005 International Cup with James being named to the All-International team.

Update: both the brothers played for West Perth reserves this weekend (Saturday 21st April) with Jared named best on ground in the Falcons' loss to East Fremantle.

According to USFooty's Paul O'Keeffe this is different. "This is a different experience. On their first trips they were really an opportunity to visit Australia. This is about learning footy and moving their game to the next level. They are going to be able to have a full year at West Perth including pre-season." The Brunmeier boys arrived in Perth November for the start of West Perth's preseason training. Through December, January and February the two boys worked with their new team mates on fitness and skills. From push ups, to 3Ks, to beep tests, to beach runs, to orienteering and tug-o-wars. If they didn't realize this visit was going to be different in November then by February they had a pretty good idea.

According to the Executive Director of USFooty's Australian Advisory Board, Tony Fairhead, the boys have fitted in very well. "They were given a car by a West Perth player Dustin Burns on the day they arrived....then things got better! The West Perth Coach, Todd Curley, has taken a direct interest in them. They have however been given only the same status as every other player on the squad. They are footy players not footy players from North America. They have been given an equal opportunity to be successful which is all they would expect. Their effort on the track and around the club has been outstanding."

Curley has been very impressed with the athletic ability of both boys. "We were all pleasantly surprised with the boys' skill level and how it continues to improve." According to Curley, "Their greatest area for improvement is their ability to read the play and their decision making under pressure." "Jared hasn't yet played a game at reserves level but he has impressed everyone at the club with his work ethic and eagerness to learn all about the game." James has been playing Full Back in West Perth's Reserves. "James has been going pretty well playing in an unfamiliar role at Full back, he has been a good contributor in all three regular season games and seems to be really enjoying his footy." Against Claremont, James picked up eleven possessions and was named in the best players. That was followed up with a fourteen possession game against Subiaco. Given this start, one has to wonder if they can make the firsts. Curley suggests caution. "Obviously it is very early in the season and at this stage the boys are concentrating on continuing to learn the game and consolidate a position in the reserves team but if their form warrants selection in the senior team later in the season we will pick them."

No matter if the Brunmeiers make the senior team at West Perth, the boys are blazing a trail for USFooty. Can post college players make it to the AFL? Todd Curley, for one thinks it is possible. "I definitely believe that there is a potential pathway for post college Americans to play AFL, but they would have to be talented athletes who are prepared to work extremely hard as they make the transition to becoming AFL players."

Jared being chaired off the ground by his Hampton Rovers team-mates

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