Troy Luff Diary

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The alarm sounds at 7.30am on a very wet and windy New York day, the 3 previous nights found us going to bed at the same time. Most of the players found it difficult to sleep as the body clocks were all over the place. We met in the foyer of our hotel and you could see the anticipation on everyone ’s faces. We jumped in those bright yellow cabs and headed for the Staten Island ferry terminal. We had the usual pre-game breakfast, a sausage and egg McMuffin, and boarded the boat. The mood was fairly tense on the way over, nobody new what to expect, all the talk was about the game and the enormity of what we were about to do. The concentration was broken by a large statue of a lady holding a torch; the boys thought it was worth a look.

We mull around the ferry terminal on Staten Island, preparing ourselves for the big match, players getting strapped in one corner, half a dozen or so kicking the footy around in the other. The onlookers aren’t quite sure what these Aussie guys are doing. Its 11pm and its time to pile into the Mafia owned cabs and head for Miller field. The players were a little surprised with what they saw, they knew AFL certainly wasn’t big in the States but the NY Magpies and the Revolution 2nds were putting on a pretty good show. The field had grass on it longer than our captain Michael Carey’s hair but this was America, home of Grid Iron and Baseball not AFL so what could we expect, at least it had the size. Everyone’s ready to go, time for a quick team photo and a pep talk from the coach, I said to them "today is history in the making and you are all part of it, its been a big 3 days so far but don’t think the Yanks are really going to care, they mean business. Enjoy the experience but whatever you do don’t go soft because these guys are out to win"

12.15pm and the siren goes (well it’s actually Rob Oliver yelling out "righto" but it will do) the first ball up of the first ever game between an Australian side and a USA side. It’s a fairly scrappy affair to start with, both teams getting rid of their nerves. A couple of goals to the Revo’s and the Balmain boys realize they are in for a game. The look on the team’s faces at quarter time was one of tiredness but also of surprise, we had no idea of the Revolutions standard and so far they were pretty good. My instructions were just to play direct footy and that they did. The 2nd term saw the Tigers lift the pace and show their class with a 5 goal term. The US boys were never going to give in and the 2nd half was a fairly even contest, the main difference was the skill level and what we call "footy smarts" as most of the Aussies grow up playing AFL they learn not only how to kick, mark and handpass but also how to play the game, at the end of the day this was the difference. The other telling factor was the difference in tackling ability and evasive skills.

As the final siren blew the boys looked pretty relieved at the win, it was a good game and the American boys certainly showed us how passionate and committed they are at playing our great Australian game. After the game I told all the players how in weeks, months and years to come they will remember this day how they were a part of history. US footy certainly has a good future if this game was anything to go by although someone needs to tell Chuckie that yelling out "chewy, chewy, chewy on your boot" will only put the player off through sheer laughter. It was a great honour and privilege to play the USA in New York and now we think its time to make it an annual event, the standard will only get better so we ought to make sure we bring a better team next time.

On behalf of myself and all the Balmain Tigers, thankyou so much for the opportunity to play the Revolution, it was fantastic to see the joy in each player’s eyes after the game when all had acknowledged what they had just achieved. Good luck in the future.

- Troy Luff

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