Lehigh Valley Junior Rovers

The Lehigh Valley Crocodiles are a relatively young football team, compared to other Australian football teams across the country. Many of the players are still in high school, and the oldest player is barely 23 years of age. 95% of players attended the small local high school in the Nazareth Area School District, which probably makes it the smallest base from which to draw players.
Nevertheless, Aussie football is alive and well in this little pocket of the Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania. In fact, it is thriving to such an extent, that two weeks ago a Crocodile Junior team was formed made up entirely of 8th graders. Currently there are 28 players signed up, and at least 22 come to each training session.
Mitch Brown says, " I joined because I had never played before and I thought it would be fun. It is a lot of running and kind of complicated because the skills are hard to learn. Kicking and bouncing are the most difficult things to do, especially when you are running."
Ryan Seiple, another new convert, thinks Australian football is very different. He sees how Aussies can play a variety of sports, because Australian football seems to be a lot of sports rolled into one. "One thing is for sure," he added. "Its fun."
Joey Seydl, a linebacker and full back in American football, says, "I need to get in shape for other sports and this Aussie rules helps greatly. You have to be really coordinated to play which just helps with all other activities. I enjoy catching the ball best of all."
Ben Flurer, a wide receiver in his native football, seems to be a pure natural for the sport. "Ive been a wide receiver for more than five years and it has really helped. The ball is rarely delivered as a spiral so having good hands is really important. Aussie football is a lot more than just one thing. When you play American football, you either throw the ball, catch the ball, or block. In Aussie rules you have to do more than one thing ? kicking, running, bouncing the ball, catching and scoring. You get to play defense as well as offense. There are no time outs and you must be a lot fitter. You never stop doing something. In other sports you always have to wait for your turn. In this sport, it is always your turn."
Kenny McPherson and Nick Corkins were the first 8th graders to join. They both agreed that the sport looked fun to do, and was clearly athletic. Since they have been playing they found out that it really is a lot of fun. They are both getting in great shape and are improving rapidly. "Australian football is a great experience, and is a whole lot of sports combined. The best thing is that everyone is playing at the same time. You are always active, unlike American football where you have to sit out and wait a lot, and even then, sometimes you only get in for one or two plays. Australian football allows everyone to participate on an equal level. It doesnt matter what your size or ability, there is always a place for you on the field."
"Personally," Kenny McPherson added, "this is the best sport Ive ever played. It is a new sport so we are all starting as equals. I havent played American football since grade five, and for me to start again Id be lost because I dont know the plays etc. which can be really complicated. I am so glad that the chance to do something new came along. I love it!"
Nick, Kennys best buddy, fell in love with the game when he first saw a video his teacher had brought into class. "Theres no other game like it. It is great practicing with the seniors. They help me with my weaknesses and give me hints on how to improve my skills. They encourage me and never laugh if I make a mistake. Joining the Crocs was like making 25 new friends overnight."
The Lehigh Junior Rovers will be playing their first ever game of USFOOTY 11s on the 17th of March. It is hoped that nearby schools will also form teams, and within a year games could be organized. But for now the Junior Rovers are eagerly awaiting another USAFL team to form a junior team for the first interclub game in the land.

- Rob Giabardo

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