The NFL play-offs are upon us, and while interest in the sport has continued to grow down under, there’s never been so much hype around those on the field as well.
Currently, five Australians are set to suit up in the post-season, with a sixth fighting his way back from injury.
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Eagles: Jordan Mailata, offensive line and Arryn Siposs, punter
Since debuting with the Eagles in 2018, the ex-Rabbitoh has thrived and is now considered one of the best left tackles in the entire NFL.
That’s no mean feat, when you consider the difficulty of the position – even by the standards of the sport, and he was duly rewarded in 2021 when he was handed a contract worth more than $100 million.
He’s not the only Australian on the high-flying Eagles, either.
Arryn Siposs took over as the punter in Philadelphia at the beginning of last season, taking the job from fellow Australian Cameron Johnston, who now plays for the Houston Texans.
Siposs is unfortunately on the injured list right now, after being hurt making an incredible play in early December.
While that incident looked like it would rule him out for the season, the most-recent update was positive.
“The way I’m progressing at the moment, I’m looking to be able to [kick] sometime early next week or at the end of the week, but definitely looking forward to getting back out there and starting to put a lot more emphasis into that side of the game instead of building up the strength,” he told reporters.
49ers: Mitch Wishnowsky, punter
The West Australian was an absolute star in college for Utah, being named a unanimous All-American and winning the prestigious Ray Guy Award for the best punter in college football during his debut season in 2016.
He followed that up by being named the best punter in his conference in both 2017 and 2018, and was drafted in the fourth round by San Francisco as a result.
Using such a high draft pick on a punter is unusual, but that’s how good Wishnowsky was – and has continued to be, signing a four-year, $18.7 million contract extension at the start of this year.
Jaguars: Adam Gotsis, defensive line
Gotsis was drafted in the fourth round by the defending champion Denver Broncos in 2016, and it was some brutally unlucky timing for him.
After several years of being mainstays in the playoffs, culminating in that Super Bowl win, the Broncos did not reach the post-season in his four years with the team, before following that up with two lean seasons in Jacksonville in 2020 and 2021.
Finally, he gets his chance to shine when the lights are brightest, with the Jaguars securing a play-off berth in their last game of the regular season.
Ravens: Daniel Faalele, offensive line
The 23-year-old was drafted by the Ravens this year in the fourth round and was viewed as more of a long-term project, after not playing his first American football games until 2016.
While others, such as punters, can use their background in Australian rules to help with transition to a new sport, Faalele was learning constantly.
“I felt like I could fit into this offence perfectly, and work and learn underneath this great coaching staff and the veterans that are in front of me,” he told Wide World of Sports earlier this season.
“They just set a really good example and I’m super grateful to be in this position.”
Due to injuries, Faalele played far more than expected, but is likely to be only an emergency cover this weekend.
Seahawks: Michael Dickson, punter
The Seahawks scraped into the play-offs by the skin of their teeth, but Dickson has continued the high level of play he’s exhibited since arrived in Seattle.
Like Wishnowsky, Dickson is a Ray Guy Award winner (2017) and was also good enough in college to prompt a team to use a precious draft pick on him, with Seattle selecting the Kirrawee native in the fifth round of the 2018 draft.
Now, the two Aussie punters will face-off this Sunday morning.
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