Part II - Off to California for the Sydney Swans Draft Camp

I was invited by the Sydney Swans to attend a Draft Combine held in Redondo Beach, in Los Angeles California, on June 28-30, 2011.

I attended this Combine with other NCAA athletes from various colleges around the USA. The athletes I was competing against for the opportunity to play in the Australian Football League (AFL) had both basketball and American Football backgrounds.

Chris Olson, a member of the California Australian Football League, who met me at the baggage claim at LA airport explained to me what a rare opportunity I had been provided with, to be tested for an opportunity to visit Australia and potentially win an AFL Contract. I was told that I would be competing with some of the most athletic players in the NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association).

Before the testing, I attended a conference in which Paul Roos, former Coach of the Sydney Swans and AFL player, as well as others explained to us the sport that is Australian Rules Football and we were shown footage of the best players in the AFL and shown the first 2010 drawn Grand Final.

After we watched the footage, all the athletes were taken outside and Paul taught us the fundamentals of kicking and handballing. We then performed various drills to test our skills.

I was then taken to the Velocity Sports Training Facility where I performed the same standard testing performed at the AFL Draft Camp held in Australia. They measured my height, weight, skin folds and the size of my hands. After a warm up, they tested my sprinting, my jump and endurance. I was told that I had excellent results and that my jumping would have broken the AFL Draft Camp records.

After the physical testing, I then asked Paul Roos if he could give me some additional kicking training. He showed me how to hold and drop a footy prior to kicking and just like shooting a basketball, if I continued to practice the fundamentals that I would improve. I then worked on taking marks and  fighting for position with Paul Roos.

Later that night, I was interviewed by Chris and Paul so they could find out more about my background and whether I would be prepared to learn a new sport on the other side of the world.

The following day I attended a local high school where I ran a 3 kilometre trial and then performed further drills. While running the 3 kilometre trial the quote that was in my head was Muhammad Ali's "don't quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life a champion". I finished first in the 3 kilometre time trial out of the athletes being tested.

After the time trial we did some more kicking and handballing with some of the guys who play AFL for the LA Dragons and a few Australians who lived in LA.

The Swans Draft Combine held in Los Angeles at Redondo Beach was an amazing experience.

I fell in love with Australian Football immediately and knew that if I was given the opportunity to play AFL I would do everything to make the most of it.

At the end of the Draft Combine, Paul said he would take the results back to Australia and discuss them with the Recruiters at the Sydney Swans.

We took some photographs and then I headed back to the hotel thinking how amazing it was that I was selected to be tested in the first place (out of all of the athletes in America) and what an adventure it would be if I was given a chance to play AFL in Australia.

My dreams came true when Paul Roos called a few weeks later to tell me that he wanted me to fly to Australia to train with the Sydney Swans!

I will tell you more about my trip to Australia in my next blog.

Alex Starling

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