Saturday, July 13, 2024

New NFL academy to be opened in Australia

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The National Football League has announced its second international academy will be opened on Australia’s Gold Coast in September 2024.

In partnership with and based at A.B. Paterson College in south-east Queensland, the first NFL academy in the southern hemisphere will drive Asia-Pacific talent development and player pathways, including college scholarships. This builds off the success of the NFL’s International Player Pathway program, as well as the increasing flow of talent from the region into the league.

“We are excited to bring the NFL Academy program to Australia and the Asia-Pacific region, underlining the league’s ambitions and commitment to grow the sport and the fan base in the market in the long term,” Charlotte Offord, general manager NFL Australia and New Zealand, said.

Philadelphia Eagles left tackle Jordan Mailata, one of the NFL IPP’s major success stories, will be an ambassador for the NFL Academy in Australia, and shared his excitement at how many journeys this opportunity could shape for young athletes.

“Football has changed my life, and opening an NFL Academy in Australia will no doubt help many more young people change theirs.” Mailata said.

“The Asia-Pacific region is rich in sporting talent, and I look forward to seeing the next generation of football players out there craft their own pathway to playing in the NFL in the years to come.

“(I’m) so grateful for the opportunities and pathway that I had, but I’m so excited for the next generation to achieve their goals in a much easier way.”

Student athletes from the ages of 12-18 years old will be eligible to apply for a place in the elite football development program, with the NFL Academy to hold talent recruitment camps on the Gold Coast, in Sydney and Auckland starting in late June this year, with successful trialists to join the academy’s first academic class.

The NFL’s first international academy was opened in Loughborough, England, in 2019, and has expanded opportunities for European and African talent, with over 40 alumni securing college football scholarships in the U.S.

The NFL Academy will “combine full-time education with intensive training in American football”, per the NFL’s release, while also supporting the growth of flag football in the region, with an eye towards the sport’s inclusion in the 2028 Olympic Games in Los Angeles.

“The NFL Academy, alongside the ongoing investment and development in NFL Flag, will not only see more boys and girls engage with our sport, but offers more pathways for young athletes to play the game in the region in the years ahead,” Offord added.

The NFL also announced that they, along with A.B. Paterson College, will fund the building of an elite high-performance NFL Academy facility on the college grounds, to be completed in 2026.

The Australian contingent in the NFL has grown to eight players with the Jaguars recently signing tight end Patrick Murtagh from the 2024 IPP class, joining veteran defensive tackle Adam Gotsis in Jacksonville.

While the unveiling of the academy is a huge step for growing the sport in the Asia-Pacific and identifying talent at a younger developmental stage, Australia’s NFL player tally could also swell by the end of this week.

The likes of Iowa punter Tory Taylor and Utah tight end Thomas Yassmin could hear their names called on day three of the 2024 NFL Draft, while Jotham Russell from this year’s IPP class is in position to be allocated to a select team if he goes undrafted.

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