Part III - Arriving in Sydney

After what felt like several days in the air my flight finally arrived in Sydney, Australia on 2 August 2011 at 8:45am. I was welcomed at the airport by the Sydney Swans Academy Coach, Paul “Roosy” Roos.

Roosy told me that I would be staying with him and his beautiful family at his house which I found an unbelievable gesture.

After meeting Roosy’s family, Tami, Dylan and Tyler, I dropped my bags off in the guest room and Roosy took me to the Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG), the home of the Sydney Swans. As soon as Roosy and I pulled up to the SCG I could see smell the tradition. Roosy introduced me to every Swan staff member in every office and room we passed. In an instant I felt welcomed because of the friendly and polite greetings.

After I met with Swans head Doctor Nathan Gibbs and then headed over to have lunch with Roosy, Chris Smith (Smitty), and Michelle Fricke who works in the Swans Academy Department. During lunch I got a better feel of exactly what the Sydney Swans had prepared for me during my visit.

I had the privilege to spend most of my time training with the Swans Academy. Along with getting the opportunity to practice a couple of times with Dylan and Tyler's footy clubs. I also had the opportunity to work individually with Roosy, Smitty, and George Stone, Sydney Swans Development Coach.

When the Swans practiced I was able to sit in the stands of SCG and closely observe the flow of the great game of footy taking notes of players and things I had to pick up on.

The Swans arranged for me to fly to Melbourne and watch some footy live. My first live footy game I saw the St. Kilda Saints defeat the Fremantle Dockers in there round 20 match at Etihad Stadium. During that game I got a chance to chat with Swans Head Coach John Longmire and some assistant coaches. The next morning I had a kick with the great George Stone. Later that night I witnessed a thriller live along side Penny Stone, wife of George Stone (she is a huge footy fan) in the round 20 match up between the Sydney Swans and Essendon Bombers.

After the game I rode back to the hotel with the team and had a chat with a superstar of the AFL, Adam Goodes of the Swans (who had a shot to win the game after the siren) and he simply said to me that being in that situation is no different in a basketball game when you dream of winning the game with a last second shot.  The next day I learned that the AFL International Cup would be taking place in Australia over the next couple of weeks.

Footy teams from countries all over the world were visiting Sydney and were given a tour of the SCG. I remember sitting upstairs in the hallway waiting to have a kick with Roosy before the Academy training started and The USA Revolution team had walked by me. I had received an email from Head Coach of the Revolution, Matt Bishop, two days earlier while I was in Melbourne about getting a chance to meet the team since they would be out in Sydney. Coach Bishop introduced me to the USA Revolution team. I then hit the track with the academy boys and a few reserves.

I vividly remember two days before I returned home when I had a training session in front of all the coaches, recruiters and management staff. It was evident to all of them that I had progressed throughout those three weeks and that I showed the potential to continue to progress. 

I enjoyed every moment of my time in Australia. I really enjoyed spending time with Roosy and his family and getting a chance to really explore the Coogee and Bondi Beach areas. I had the opportunity to have a nice rib dinner with Roosy, John Blakey (Swans Assistant Coach) and their families. Goodesy came over to the Roosy's to have dinner with us one evening also.

I had the chance to visit Taronga Park Zoo, the World renowned Sydney Opera House as well as partake in the Sydney Harbour Bridge Climb with Tami Roos. I also had a chance to play ball basketball with Dylan and his club team. I went bowling with Dylan, Tyler, Darcy Cordell, and another one of their friends.  Throughout my visit in Sydney I gradually became a big fan of hot chocolate. Though I can't say the same about Vegemite though which was a tough experience for me. I think my first try of it will be my last.

All in all my visit to beautiful Australia was amazing. I’m elated and honored to be a part of the Sydney Swans family. I love the people, culture, scenery, lifestyle, food and I can't wait to get back out to Sydney next month.

Alex Starling

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