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Luke's Journal
Luke Woolrich from the Hampton Rovers in Australia played with the Milwaukee Bombers during the Summer of 2004 through a player exchange program to help the club in terms of coaching, skill, and enthusiasm. The following is a diary of his experiences here in Milwaukee with the Bombers.

May 28, 2004

Hello to everyone at the Rovers,

I made it here in one piece, I’ve never been on a 29 hour flight, it killed me. I got to America on Thursday 6th of May and it has been one hell of a ride so far, there is so much to see in this place. I’m over whelmed by the fact that I’m in America, I’m in another country and that I’ve never been this far from home.

 

Anyway the footy here is like 3rd division southern league, we had our first practice match on Saturday 16th in Chicago at about 4.30, we had enough for 16 a side and the ground was not bad, it was on the lakeside and in between 4 baseball pitches. We used pvc pipes for the goals and didn’t have a score board. The team was called the Chicago sharks, a good bunch, from what I’m told they are the only team the Bombers get along well with in a social way after the game. The Sharks had 4 aussie’s in the team. The 1st one was their full forward he was about 6’’5 strong mark, good kick and quite fast, his name was Warrick, very nice bloke from Shepparton. The 2nd bloke was their centre half forward, he was 6’’ good mark and kick but a bit slow, he was nice as well but he was quiet and from Shepparton as well. The 3rd bloke was full back and had a thumping kick, very slow but smart he was from La trobe. The 4th was a winger or flanker back and forward about 5’’10 and he was an arse hole from Pakenham. He announced at the start of the game that the game should be a fair one with no fights, we’re all mates here and no dirty play, we were cool about that. We all shook hands and introduced ourselves.

 

During the 2nd quarter he ended up belting someone in the head and that someone was me, I turned around and grabbed him and said “what the **** was that for? You said that we are supposed to be mates”. I let him go and went on with the game, the siren went 5 minutes later for half time and he came up to me and apologized and told me it won’t happen again, I didn’t care I was over it.

 

I absolutely blitzed in the first half and cramped the second half, I didn’t pace myself and also I haven’t been disciplined enough to keep fit. That will all change. As for the American player’s for both sides they have a lot to learn about how the game is played and also the skill is far from good. I found some players had a great mark but couldn’t kick and vice versa. Some could handball but couldn’t bounce. There is a lot for me to help these guys with, first of all it’s going to be skill, second it will be talk, and third it will be understanding the way the game is played and positioning. We’ve had two training sessions since I’ve been here and the first training there were 6 and the second there were about 16 or 17.I’ll tell you what though, these guys have great endeavor for getting the ball but it’s disposing of it that has to be worked on.

 

Prior to our game (Friday 14th) Plugger and I went to a school to show 1st graders to 5th graders about the game. This was great fun but I didn’t realize how much energy was required to teach. Plugger and I managed this quiet well, first there were 6 classes, and each one went for 50 minutes. We started with their names and we were shortening and lengthening them such as Max would be Mad Max, John’s would be Johnno’s and William’s would be Billy you get the idea. The kids loved that and that was good because we had them interested straight away, we even gave their teacher’s nick-names. After all that we showed them an Australian football and asked them the difference between this and an American football. Most of them could spot the differences, such as the shape and the lacing. After that we showed them the primary skill and that was kicking, some were natural’s and some were struggling, some would throw it in the air then kick it. There were only about 5 or 6 that could place the ball on to there foot.  So next was the handball, they were all struggling with this cause all there sports you can throw the ball. Some threw it in the air and punched it and some had the patience to master it. Next was bouncing the ball, this one was by far the hardest for all of them because once again the sports over here you can run with the ball or you play with a round ball which are obviously easier to bounce and some of the other sports you don’t have to bounce it at all. None of them succeeded unfortunately. Last of all was marking, by far this was the easiest for them. Most of them could mark on the chest and take the overhead mark, over here they call it a catch not a mark, so Plugger and I were drilling it in to them that you call it a mark not a catch. The groups were about 11 or 12 a class and that was just bearable. My job was to help the individuals that had no idea. Out of about 75 of the kids, only 4 or 5 knew what the game was but didn’t understand it to well. Hopefully now all 75 of them will now know about aussie rules, hopefully they’ll share it with their friends and eventually we have started something big in America.

 

On Wednesday 19th I’m glad to say that I was part of the first ever Metro footy game for the Milwaukee bombers. They were held on the lake front of Lake Michigan. Metro footy consists of 4 teams called Emus, Cockatoos, Kookaburras and the Galahs, I’m in the galahs with Plugger, Jared and Brother James. The Metro footy goes for 7 weeks then has a break for a month because of the summer and then starts up again for I think 5 weeks, It’s yet to be finalized. There is 8 to 10 a side depending on turnout, 2 games are played, one at 6.30 and one at 7.30. There is a points system for the team who wins and the team who has best turnout for their team. (2 pts for win, 1 pt for turnouts). There is only 2 goal posts, 3 is max in the centre and 4 10 to 12 minutes quarter’s for each game.

 

The results from Metro footy were outstanding, 27 players turned up, 25 didn’t show. Half of the 25 are studying, most are finishing this week and there are 6 injuries plus the rest are overseas so that’s all good. Two of the injured players showed up and this proved that these players have commitment plus the 27 already there for a first night of Metro footy. I found this to be the perfect way these guys can learn about the game without it jeopardizing their position for the nationals as a team. It’s basically training but with a competitive side to it. It is still full contact but gives the guys a chance to make decisions under pressure, also helps them with finding and creating space. There is also everything else with the game that some of them must learn. These would be the 1%, Talk both constructive and encouraging and skills. I’ll keep you up to date with the rest of my footy life over here but just for future interests I’ll be playing the 5th of June against Nashville, the 12th I’m going to Atlanta to play in the East vs. West all star game, the 26th we play Chicago swans apparently there a bunch of head hunters ( Jared. B could tell you that), there are more games later but I’ll keep you updated. Training is also every Sunday and once a month we have a board meeting at Plugger’s house. I’ve ordered some Milwaukee bombers jumpers to be signed.

 

Luke Woolrich

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June 22, 2004

 

Hey Rovers, I will warn you now that this is a long letter so be prepared to sacrifice some time to read it. Thanks.

Well the Milwaukee Bombers had their second match of the year and it was played at home against the Nashville Roos from Tenneessee and we pumped them by 61 points. From this game on they count if we win or lose because it will decide which division of the nationals (The finals) we are in.

The field was set in a park where there is a picnic area, perfect for the spectators and two baseball fields. We managed to fit the field in between all this, the size we got was about 160m x 110m. It was perfect, add the PVC goal posts, the scoreboard leaning on a picnic table, the mini cones as the boundary line and you have a football field.

The field was hired through the local county and we had a time limit on it as well, 10am to 3pm. The main game we started at 1pm, Prior to the main game we had a curtain raiser (reserves basically), only a 10 a side intra-club match. That was for those who missed out on getting picked in the main game. That curtain raiser was 2 25 minute halves and the main game was 2 20 and 2 25 minute quarters.

Over here the visiting team has the choice of how many players they want to play with, (because of the travelling distance) the least they can have is 14 players otherwise they forfeit and the hosting team gets the win. Anyway they had apparently told us that they'll have a full 22, but when they arrived they only had 16, we were upset about this because we had to give up players, not that we wanted to, but we wanted an 18 on 18 game of our own team mates. There are a few new players so full games give us an opportunity to get our team game plan down without interruptions like this one. We decided to give them 3 of the Chicago Sharks that we borrowed.

One thing I didn't mention is that through the season we have to drive 5 hours or more to play or an hour or more flight, what ever suits the players individually. The problem there is that some players go to school and can't afford it or some have work commitments so they can't leave the state, this all brings me to tell you that we have teamed up with the Chicago Sharks, who we happen to get along with and we are borrowing 5 to 6 players depending on availability of our players, 3 of them are the aussie's I spoke of in my last diary entry. This was Milwaukee's idea so we get to pick 4 of there players that we need but they get to play in our home games even though we aren't travelling. The Sharks bring 2 or 3 extra of their choice depending on our availability.

Anyway the game was on a beautiful 28 degree day with a light breeze sweeping across the field. The ground was almost flat but the lawns hadn't been mowed, for some of us short players, the grass was up to our knees (exaggerating), it was that long you couldn't even bounce it. The only good thing was the grass cushioned your fall.

The coach gave us our rundown on what he wanted and what he expected from particular players, he eventually said something about everyone, he talked that much that I was forgetting stuff he said at the start. He went a little overboard I think. Most of what he said was direct but started to get into to much detail and it got the point where players were responding "so basically you want me to..." and he was like "yeah that's it".

The first quarter would of been a blow out if we had of kicked straight. One of the aussie's from the sharks kicked 2.4, he was blitzing because of our centre clearances, so adding to that we were giving our forwards first use of the ball, playing like champions, totally catching the team off guard. We ended up finishing the quarter with 3.5 to Nashville's 1 goal, which they got from a free kick in the centre from an illegal shepherd. Our player argued and gave away 50. I played on the ball for the first 15min then went to half back flank. From our centre to half forwards they did the best job on locking the ball in the forward line.

The second quarter was identical to the first with no changes to the side, we ended up kicking straighter and this resulting in 7.6 to us and a measly point from Nashville, which was a rush behind anyway. We just purely dominated all over the ground.

At half time the scores were 7.6 to 1.1. We got a dressing from the coach, by what he was saying he barely had nothing negative to say. The only concern was keeping them goalless for the rest of the game. After all that there were a few changes and last thing said by the coach was he asked an aussie player from the sharks, "what do we call the 3rd quarter back home" and he replied "the premiership quarter", the coach said we basically bang the nails in the coffin now.

Well the third quarter we did as the coach told us, we kicked straight and had all the play, Bringing our score to 10.8 and Nashville 1.1 not even able to add a point for their effort, not much of an effort though. I rested the last 5 minutes of the quarter to give some of the bench a run for those who hadn't. We came off the ground at 3/4 time acting like the game was over. We honestly deserved to be acting like that but as you would all know stranger things have happened in footy. The coach was pleased with the football we just played and doing everything he asked but, he said don't take the pressure off yet, we still have a quarter to go and I want you to bury them.

The fourth was easily our worst for the day, they kicked the first goal, could of had another if it wasn't for one of our players chasing a man down from almost 30m away and just got him as he kicked and it hit the post. We kicked out and made a switch across half back which proved costly, turning it over and the Nashville boy kicked truly. So they had 3 scoring shots to our nothing. I was still on the bench listening to the coach cursing some of our players, yelling out and telling them off, dragging a few. I ended up coming on with about 10 minutes to go and we managed to get 2 goals back and a couple of points, which should of been goals, just our players taking it to easy, but I could clearly see that we were running out of legs and Nashville looked like they were just warming up. The game came to an end with the bombers 12.12 to Nashville 3.5, we scored the same amount for the last quarter as they did so it was obvious there that we almost stopped playing.

Just to give you an insight on the grade of football we played today, I felt like was at home with the Rovers playing Ajax. Some of our passages of play were brilliant, the talk had improved from the last game, the skills had also, 1%ers was our strength today not giving the ball up hardly at all, we played like a team, we shared the footy and listened to our coach.

I was a little p***ed at the fact they didn't give us much of a game, I mean they were chasing a lot of tail, crap disposal's and they had no team orientation. They looked like they picked up some guys on the way up to Milwaukee. Nashville had 2 aussie's 1 was there full back and the other was a forward flanker. Both decent footballers but, they couldn't do it all themselves. There full back was there best for the day, his 1%ers alone where respected by his opposition. Nashville also had 2 American’s that were descent, one was on the ball and he had a bad day and the other was there CHF, he could take a mark but his kicking was shocking. The onballer was fit but just had no impact on the game.

Compared to our first game the competition was worse but we played like stars. Throughout the game there were bad disposal's, punching on their own instead of marking, not listening to the talk, lack of talk and not helping team mates. All of these were happening but not at all as much as last game. We got way more positives out of that game than negatives. We have improved massively, not to mention the help from 3 of the shark players. Brad in the FP and Paul in FB or CHB (aussie's) and Jezza in the BP (yank). Paul and Brad were big contributors for our game solid in defence and great in attack. It was good to have them because they could lead by example for our American players we wish to play there.

As for me in the game I had a big impact in the first quarter with centre clearances, I felt like Sam Mitchell, The second I played on the back flank giving plenty of run out of defence, using my voice for the switches. The third I went back on to the ball where they had me tagged by there fit onballer he slowed me down heaps but I could say he had the better of me when it counted. I rested late in the 3rd and came back on in the fourth with about 10min to go straight into the forward pocket, where I linked play from our centre's to our full forward resulting in the 2 last goals for the game. My fitness is almost back to its best, but I have to condition myself a bit better for the heat over here, you know more fluids and that stuff.

I believe I'm having more of an impact with some of these guys, which is proving itself in our footy matches as well as the metro footy. Things such as the kicking, handballing and marking have improved, 1%ers and talking has jumped better than expected. It's great how there dealing with the pressure of football on the field, there not just giving the ball up. I even have a few guys ringing me asking about certain aspects of footy. At training and metro footy this happens continuously, I love the fact they want to learn. I may not be the ideal footballer to show them about footy but what I can show and teach them gets them a little closer each time to becoming a footballer. This whole program is a touch and go type of thing and so far it's been a success for me and the two clubs I represent, Bombers and Rovers.

Well the 12th of June East.v.West game in Atlanta, Georgia proved to be a blinder in both aspects. I got their on Friday the 11th and was staying at the Marriot with 3 other Milwaukee bombers. Nice Hotel with great food and Hospitality as you would expect from a 4 star place. The weather was 32 degrees with about 80% humidity, very hot. That night we had a meeting in a room with all the East players and coach, we were waiting for the coach as his flight was a little late, we didn't end up seeing him until the next day. That night we picked our jumper numbers and I grabbed #3 there was no #23 at all. The 2 team mates I went down with bought it for me ($50) as a present for being a part of their club and representing the East, which was great of them.

Saturday the 12th was game day and the weather was 35 with 90% humidity, we had a fantastic breakfast from the hotel and headed off to the footy fields. When I arrived I looked straight at the ground and couldn't believe the condition, sorry Rovers it was better than ours. Anyway we met the coach of the East and he had picked the teams. He read them out and I was in the 1st game with 2 of my team mates (Jared Brunmeier’s brother got picked in the 2nd game). The West coach came over saying he was short and we need 3 players, (Last night we found out West was having trouble with numbers) not to mention they already had 7 East players in the team, they were still short. So they looked at the list of the first East team to see if there were 3 guys from the same team, well what do ya know there were 3 Milwaukee Bombers. So we were selected to move across and that we did, man I was p***ed off but, I thought well I'll show you and that I did.

The first quarter I played reasonably well, there were 2 problems, 1 I didn't know most of the guys names and 2 when ever I get the ball they didn't move, they thought I'd get it run and kick goals, what I was doing was yelling out while I've got the ball "lead", Some just had no idea, so I was just pumping it in long and hoping. During the first break I was hammering down the water and not coping well with the heat but I had to address these guys on what to do, I said "when ever I get the ball run at me screaming for it and I'll hit ya on the tit".

The second was heaps better in that they did what I said and we got results. I changed on the back flank giving them run out of defence. The day was getting hotter and it was killing some of us. At halftime the coach was very pleased with what he was seeing and let us know. I was just sucking down water and some Gatorade.

The third quater was our best but hurt ourselves with poor kicking I kicked the only goal for the quarter. Our FF kicked 4 points, his kicking action was that of a rugby player and he just couldn't kick straight, great mark though. I cramped with about 7 or 8 minutes to go, I came straight off drank the rest of the Gatorade and drank a bottle of water, stretched and rubbed it down, put on deep heat and rested for 12 minutes.

I came back on with about 15 minutes straight to the back flank and was once again clearing the centre half back area. I was working over time stopping them from going forward trying to get a clear passage out of defence, we did it on two occasion's and got goals and we levelled the score with about 3 minutes to go. I was cramping everywhere at this stage. An East player got a free kick from a controversial call for kicking in danger. I hurled abuse at the player and he just scraped the goal in. I went straight into the centre and told our centremen to go in for ball attack it hard, kick or punch it I don't care we have to go forward and that we did but it got locked up about 30 out and then the siren went. I didn't mind to much, it was a great game to play in and be apart of.  Us 3 Milwaukee players made the difference in the West, if we had of played for the East, we would of pumped the West. Every player came up to me and said things like "great game, your awesome, you this your that" I just said thanks to all of them with a big smile, but inside I was like guys it's my national sport, not being arrogant but of course I'm going to be okay at it.

 

In terms of standard, the first game was borderline of 2nd and 3rd division Southern Footy League, more 2nd though. The second game, which had the best of the yanks and also the other aussie's, was of a very good standard, I think it would be safe to say almost our standard of football (VAFA C grade).

Well there you have it, my latest update, be expecting one next week sometime as I am playing against the Chicago swans this week who are bunch of head hunters apparently, just ask Jared Brunmeier.

 

I am off now to impress girls with the accent, just kidding.

Take care everyone at ROVERLAND and you'll here from me soon.

 

 

Luke Woolrich (Wooly #46)

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