Macquarie University Essay

Justin Valley of the Pittsburgh Wallabies was the 2004 Macquarie University/USAFL Scholarship Recipient.  The USAFL would like to thank Macquarie University and everyone involved in setting up such a great scholarship program for us and would also like to thank Justin for being a great ambassador for USFooty.  Below is an essay written by Justin about his scholarship.


I arrived in Sydney to glorious 30 degree weather after a few very long connecting flights.  Ironically the weather in Pittsburgh when I left was also 30 degrees- but that was in Fahrenheit.  A cab picked me up and drove me over the Harbour Bridge overlooking the Opera House to Macquarie University.  At this point adrenaline completely made up for any jet lag I might have been encountering, and I was keen to get to training to meet up with the Kookaburras and get a run, and some touches on the leather.


I was immediately blown away with Roger Sheeran Oval which served as the Kookas home ground.  It was still set up for cricket, but the pitch was much larger than anything I had seen in the states.  The training was also unique to anything I had experienced in the past.  It was amazing to me to have 40 guys at training.  Little did I know that with the regular season still a good month away, these numbers would grow weekly. 

I was introduced to everyone and without delay work was done to give me a nickname.  I was called “Lilly” at first from my last name “Lilly of the Valley.”  Luckily that didn’t stick.  Other attempts were made such as “Pittsy” shortened from Pittsburgh, but finally everyone just started calling me “Bulk.”  Training went well, but it certainly showed that I was a bit rusty from the long winter and had a long way to go as far as my skills were concerned. 


The next day I went on an orientation trip to the Blue Mountains with a group of other Macquarie international students.  It was a great trip where I met heaps of people from all over the world.  We were all introduced to some very Aussie things.  We made a stop at the wildlife park so we could get the obligatory pictures with koala bears and kangaroos.  The weekend also included a trip to the lawn bowling center which was promoted to us as the Aussie sport with the highest death rate (this was due to the average age of the regular bowlers being over 70).  The weekend also proved as a great time to introduce us all to VB and Toohey’s New.  It seemed like everyone became a lot more outgoing after they became acquainted with the local drinks of choice.  We did a bit of hiking through the Blue Mountains to see the “Three Sisters” and really became acquainted with the other students, many of which I became friends with through the duration of my stay in Sydney and even now that I’ve returned to the states.


Returning from the Blue Mountains, I came home to the Macquarie Uni Village which would later be deemed “Little America” by all of the Yanks living there.  Our townhouse was really impressive, and it was said that this village was where the Canadian Olympic Team stayed during the Sydney 2000 Summer Olympic Games.  Meeting my roommates at first I must admit that I felt I should look around for the television cameras telling us we were on MTV’s the “Real World” because of the 5 very different personalities that would be living together.  Looking back, however, I must say that I couldn’t ask for a better mix of people with whom I learned so much and had so much fun with. 


That following week I went through orientation at Uni and started my classes and internship with the Kookas.  The classes I took were The Making of Australia, Australian Media, and Introduction to Visual Culture.  They were good classes for the most part.  I particularly enjoyed The Making of Australia because I really didn’t know anything about the subject, and the professor made it quite interesting.  My internship proved to be a great learning experience for me and hopefully something productive for the footy club.


This brings me back to the footy.  The first trainings went pretty well once I caught on to the drills.  One of the biggest lessons for me, initially at least, was to learn everyone’s nickname and yell them often.  Otherwise, I wouldn’t get many touches at all.  I did well during the marking drills especially, and this lead to me getting a start at half forward flank with the ones in the first match against Uni of Technology-Sydney.  Overwhelmed would probably be the word that best describes how I played.  I didn’t get many touches on the footy and found myself in the wrong spots throughout the match.  This match was a very good gauge of just how much I still needed to learn about the sport. 


The next match I was moved down to the two’s against Uni of New South Wales.  I started in the forward line with Rhino, a very experienced full forward.  I learned a lot from the way he made his leads throughout the match and we ended up winning by a point.  It was a great feeling to come away with the victory, and I finally got to sing the club song.  Although I didn’t know the words just yet it was quite a rush to sing with everyone and savor the victory.


During Easter break from Uni I got a chance to visit Melbourne for a few days.  Easter weekend was a great weekend in the AFL and I was able to see 2 matches at the MCG.  The first match was Carlton vs. Kangaroos, that was a back and forth battle that was won by the Roos in the final moments.  The next day I was able to watch the Bulldogs get beat by the Demons in a more lopsided match.  While in Melbourne I also got to meet up with Jeremy, a teammate from the Pittsburgh Wallabies and Todd from Lehigh Valley.  It was good to hang with some locals and to see some better venues to visit.  I also got to meet up with Jon from Lehigh Valley back in Sydney.  It was great to see them all and exchange stories about our experiences. 


The next significant step in my footy experience was a few rounds down the road when the Kookas took on Cronulla.  Tardy, the 2nds coach, decided to move me to the half back line to help me learn the game better by running forward in straight lines.  I must say that I did enjoy myself back there, and it was nice to get to make more tackles.  We ended up winning the match, and I snuck in a goal during the final quarter. 


In my third to last game against Holroyd-Parramatta things really came together for me.  I got to start in the 2nds at back pocket.  Although we ended up losing a game we should have won, I played my best game to that point and got voted player’s player.  Being voted player’s player meant that I got the mug and other Kookas had to buy me drinks that night at our sponsor the Epping Hotel.  It was a night to remember- or not remember depending on how you look at it. 


The next game was against Manly at home.  This was an important match to me personally because I wanted to win this, and the next match to leave Oz with more wins then losses.  Our back line really seemed to gel in this match keeping the ball down with our forwards.  We won handily over Manly, and again I received player’s player which was really an honor for me because of how well everyone on the club played. 


My final game was truly one of my best memories of my trip.  After a long drive to

Bensons Lane
to take on the Jets from Norwest we rucked up to the worst footy conditions I’ve ever experienced.  There was a constant heavy wind blowing directly across the ground.  The Kookas didn’t let it get us down as we went on to trounce the Jets 71-8.  After we had a good lead in the fourth quarter Tardy moved me into the guts and then up forward and told me to try to get myself a goal.  I ended up kicking one about half way through the final quarter and every Kooka on the ground came down to congratulate me which was really cool.  Towards the very end of the game Slimmo kicked onto Kinky who put it up to me around the forward line.  By this point I was able to judge the wind and took an overhead mark.  With the advice of Pistol Pete, our runner at the time, I lined up with a mountain off in the distance and kicked it.  The wind ended up bringing it back straight through the goal posts, and I’m now able to say that my last kick in Australia was a goal.  I again won player’s player, but I think that had more to do with my leaving than anything else as everyone who played that day deserved it. 


My final night out in Sydney was fantastic.  It started out at the “Ping” where I got to say bye to some Kookas that wouldn’t be making it out later.  From there a group of Kookas went down to “The Rocks” and met up with my American friends at the Lowenbrau.  We went from there to the “Obo” as Sticks likes to call it and ended up at one of my favorite restaurants of all time “Pancakes on the Rocks,” the 24 hour pancake shop.  It was the perfect ending to an absolutely amazing experience. 


I’d like to take the opportunity to thank everyone who made my trip possible.  Thanks firstly to Macquarie University for having me and giving me this great opportunity and to the Kookas for allowing me to be a part of a great footy club.  Thanks to USFooty for giving me the chance to represent them.  Thanks to Chris and Tony Adams for their help organizing my trip.  Thanks to Dave Ulonska who got me interested in this great sport a few years back.  Thanks to the Macquarie abroad team and Dawn and Ryan especially for all your help.  Thanks to Finn, Tardy, Jezza and Steely and all of the Kookas for their help and mateship on and off the ground.  Thanks to my family and friends for all their support.  Lastly, thanks to Slim and Hushy for helping me pack and getting me to the airport on time to make my flight out of Sydney…I never would have made it without you.  Best of luck to the Kookas I hope to see you all again soon. 


- Justin Valley

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