LOS ANGELES (AP) — California coach Sonny Dykes has prepared for the travel challenges associated with a season-opening game in Sydney.
Dykes has spoken with NFL coaches who have taken their teams to London, prepared onboard exercises for players and consulted Nike for compression apparel they can wear during the flight when the Golden Bears depart the Bay Area on Aug. 20 and arrive down under on Aug. 22.READ MORE: 1st U.S. Case Of COVID Omicron Variant Confirmed In San Francisco
But for a real understanding of how taxing travel to and from Australia can be, Dykes could have just asked Oregon State punter Nick Porebski.
“When I first did it, I was jet-lagged for about two days,” the Melbourne-born Porebski said at Pac-12 media days. “It is a tough flight. You’re sitting there for a long time. Your legs are going to get heavy.”
Porebski is one of a growing number of Australians to find success playing what his countrymen call American football, fueling growth in the sport back home.
A Cal spokesman said approximately 70,000 tickets have been sold for the Aug. 27 game against Hawaii at the 83,500-capacity ANZ Stadium, the first college football game to be played in Australia since BYU defeated Colorado State in 1987.
The eight-team professional National Gridiron League will begin playing its inaugural season in October. Rugby star Jarryd Hayne’s stint with the San Francisco 49ers last season resulted in increased media interest, while ESPN’s Australia networks regularly broadcast NFL and college games.
It is a far cry from how Porebski discovered football.
“The first time I actually watched American football it was on at like 2 o’clock in the morning on some weird channel,” Porebski said. “It definitely has grown, though. Even had a few mates who had Super Bowl parties over there. It is taking off, and I think in four or five years, it will be really big.”READ MORE: Trevor Noah To Host 'The 64th Annual GRAMMY Awards' On CBS
Porebski grew up playing Australian rules football starting from 5 years old, but had to give it up due to shoulder injuries. He then started working with Prokick Australia, a program that has helped the winners of the last three Ray Guy Awards as the top punter in college football transition to the American game.
“The rugby-style punt, that’s pretty much an Aussie-rules kick,” Porebski said. “The thing that we have to learn is the spiral with two steps and kick.”
The Beavers found Porebski when he was at a junior college in Utah, but have since sent an assistant coach to Australia to recruit.
“And it’s not just kickers,” Oregon State coach Gary Andersen said. “There’s some very talented young men over there. And there are some quality people over there that are helping these kids get better.”
Stanford coach David Shaw has welcomed Australian coaches to observe practice. He believes the Pac-12 could play a major role in continuing football’s upward trajectory there.
“There are opportunities for other Pac-12 schools possibly,” Shaw said. “We’ve heard a lot about how excited they are about this game and if we can help that in some way, shape or form by our conference investing in a game like this, you never know where it could lead.”
Cal offensive tackle Steven Moore is thrilled for the chance to play outside the U.S., as he and the other Bears big men could benefit from the lengthy nature of the trip. Since Dykes puts the starting offensive and defensive linemen up front on team charter flights, the 6-foot-6, 310-pound Moore is already thinking about a lie-flat seat in first class.MORE NEWS: 'Video Music Box' Founder, Hip Hop Influencer Ralph McDaniels Shares His Journey In New Showtime Documentary: 'This Music Is Really Powerful'
“That would be cool,” Moore said. “I definitely don’t want to be sitting in a little chair all the way to Australia.”