Danny Harris arrives in Australia

Journal 1
February 17-26

Finally, after three long months of preparations and waiting my journey began at 3 a.m. on the Friday morning of February 17th for a 7 a.m. flight out of Orlando. The week before, I spent my time between Tampa, where I attend university, and Ocala, my home town, saying my goodbyes to friends and family. The anxiousness of leaving and spending the next few months of my life in Australia far outweighed any sorrow and sadness of leaving my good friends and family behind. The excitement of beginning my travel to Oz also dissolved most the fatigue from not sleeping a single minute the night before.

As I waved goodbye to my parents and sister at the terminal gate, the moment hit me that I’ve finally begun the trip of a lifetime. But before that “trip of a lifetime” could begin, I would have to endure over 22 hours of planes and airports.

The first leg to L.A. was rather smooth and easy. Then, having only an hour and a half to wait until the international flight to Sydney eased my patience a bit but only if I had a tranquilizer I’d have been more positive towards the 14 hour flight. The fellow passenger next to me on the flight was a middle-aged mom from Tallahassee, FL with 3 boys who were all either in college or recently graduated. Therefore, with the similarities we connected quite quickly and well which made the flight so much easier to bear.

Upon landing in Sydney, a great rush of relief swept me as I knew I could soon fall into a bed and even sooner allow my feet to step onto solid ground. As I walked through to the exit of Sydney International I felt the warm, humid summer air creep about. A man with a sign reading “Macquarie University” stood at the gate by the last exit leading to the pick-up area. I walked straight to him and he said aloud “Ay mate, you Daniel Harrison?” To which, I promptly answered that I was and after a while of waiting for a missing student we hopped in the van began the drive to the university.

Despite some mentioning of and finger pointing towards the Sydney Olympic area, the driver was quite silent as was I due to the lack of proper sleep. Finally, after almost 24 hours of travel we pulled into my new home for the next couple of months. Luckily there was a bed with clean sheets and a decent pillow, so I drop my bags and just collapsed.

The next two days were full of sleeping and a little exploring of the local area and university. I couldn’t spend too much energy because my first training would begin on the Tuesday of the first week, so sleeping a lot was the best option. This idea proved to be an ideal choice because the first training was very tough on my body.

As I walked to the oval on my first training with the Macquarie University Kookas, loads of thoughts were running through my mind; “did I leave my kick behind in Florida and had it also endured the trip over?’, “will I be able to handle training?”, and more importantly “will I play up to their standards?” Once all the players had arrived we ran two laps, stretched out, and then the head coach (Bully) introduced all the new guys. Once my turn came around, I had about 50 plus set of eyes glaring at me waiting to hear my short intro. After I told them I was the American scholarship player, some yelled out “Oh the new Cheesehead!” referring to last year’s scholarship recipient, James Brunemier. Once asked what my nickname was I mentioned that I didn’t happen to have one. That changed quite soon as the club president already had in mind, “Disney” due to the fact that I live in Florida.

The rest of training went well as I ran hard, kicked quite well, and thoroughly completed all of the conditioning drills. I was very pleased by my effort and achievement on the first day of playing Aussie Rules in the homeland of footy.

The next day I rested and recovered from a hard night’s training. As Thursday’s practice came around and the same hard, strenuous work of running up and down a 180 meter plus field quickly became a reality. I never really minded the smell of grass until that first week of training as we were constantly being punished by tons of consequence push-ups. But there are reasons for those sorts of punishments to which I would later learn of. The remainder of the weekend was left to socializing with fellow neighbors and roommates and preparing for “uni” as the Aussies have dubbed college.

- Danny Harris

Posted in 
Watch AFL