With the National Gridiron League (NGL) National and Regional combines now finished, it is full steam ahead as the league moves towards the pre-season and season proper.
While the NGL is in full set up and recruitment mode, here is what I have gathered, confirmed and deduced so far on Australia’s first professional American Football League.
Consider it a brain dump to clear space for more NGL news coming your way.
The NGL have confirmed the inaugural season will feature eight teams across New South Wales (NSW) and Queensland (QLD). Further teams are planned for future seasons across Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia as early as the 2017/2018 season.
The confirmed teams for season 2016/2017 are:
- Wollongong Devils
- Sydney Express
- Central Coast Cyclones
- Newcastle Miners
- Brisbane Outlaws
- Gold Coast Kings
- North Coast Heat
- Logan Wolverines
All roster spots have been filled for season one as of late July. The majority of these are international players recruited from top level American college programs, second tier American and Canadian leagues and the top European leagues.
— Richard Chungong (@RichDaFactor3) May 6, 2016
Player numbers may change as some are waived and others are re-signed from the existing player pool.
The word from the NGL is that 50-60% of players will have been on NFL or CFL (Canadian Football League) squads previously, with the majority of college player signings coming out of NCAA Division 1 schools, the highest quality of college football below the NFL.
50-60% of players will have been on NFL or CFL squads previously
I have run through some of the squads manually and can confirm that this is primarily the case, with others coming out of Division 2 schools either leading their division in their positions, or also having previous Division 1 experience.
Players coming in from Europe and Asia are also leading the way in their leagues such as Japanese receiver Takashi Kurihara who had camp try-outs with the Baltimore Ravens, and Anders Hermodsson, one of the top quarterbacks in Europe out of Sweden.
3Local player signings
A total of 29 local players have been signed for season one. 19 of those came out of the NGL National Combine held in the Gold Coast in April.
Each team will have the discretion to recruit as many local players they like in their first season, with the numbers as they stand ranging between two and four players per team.
Each of the eight teams will consist of 41 players, 13 less than an NFL squad of 53, but only just short of an active NFL game day squad.
This will require players to be more versatile to provide depth at various positions, and most likely mean there will be no designated spots for special team positions such as punt returners.
All head coaches announced so far are American out of college and international coaching programs. The coaches are as follows.
- Michael Torres – Brisbane Outlaws
- Bill Stafford – Gold Coast Kings
- Brandon Wright – North Coast Heat
- Kevin Magouirk – Logan Wolverines
- Nathan Slutzky – Wollongong Devils
- Richard Bonds – Sydney Express
- Sean Embree – Central Coast Cyclones
- John Klacik – Newcastle Miners
The assistant staff I have been told are also complete, with 14 of those announced so far, and more announcements to come.
I caught up with two of the coaches when covering the NGL National Combine.
All but one of the stadiums have been confirmed, with all teams to cycle through the stadiums through the year rather than playing “home” games at one stadium.
The stadiums confirmed so far are:
- Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane
- CBUS Super Stadium, Gold Coast
- Central Coast Stadium, Gosford
- Hunter Stadium, Newcastle
- WIN Stadium, Wollongong
- Campbelltown Stadium, Sydney
A further stadium in Melbourne for games in January is yet to be annnounced. Teams will generally train out of university or club facilities through the season.
There will be no preseason games in the first season. All players will fly in around Auguest 28th for a league wide camp, before breaking off with their separate teams to prepare for the season proper from September 5th.
Teams will have just over a month to work on schemes, players and positions before round one of the season.
The first game of the NGL season will begin on the 9th of October, with the Sydney Express taking on the Gold Coast Kings, and the North Coast Heat meeting the Newcastle Miners.
You can see the full schedule here.
The aim of the NGL is simple. To be the best football outside of North America. Currently, after the NFL, the CFL is considered the best quality league. From there players are spread through various Arena leagues, such as the Indoor Football League and Arena league and other smaller leagues.
The NGL will be the best football outside of North America
These leagues tend to be volatile in player salaries and team sustainability, and with games in Arena leagues being played on half sized fields with differing rules, the NGL aims to bring a quality and a salary comparable to the CFL with only minor variations from NFL rules.
Longer term, the NGL is aiming to be a true second tier to the NFL, surpassing the CFL in player quality, and providing a pathway back to NFL camps.
By far the biggest concern with the announcement of the NGL is the sustainability of the league in an over-crowded professional sporting landscape that is Australia.
The NGL Managing Director Marcin Soluch commented on this concern when talking to the Sydney Morning Herald last February:
The league doesn’t derive its operational revenue from football operation. Football operations will not sustain the actual league purely because that can go up that can go down. The league does operate its own separate business entity which funds the league. It’s an investment fund. The league basically operates the hedge fund and the league is funded by the hedge fund. – Marcin Soluch
There is no affiliation currently between the NGL and the existing Amateur leagues in Australia despite early efforts. Players may be recruited from state based leagues as per any league or sport, but there is no official relationship to make this happen apart from normal scouting practices.
The aim after year one remains though to develop the local game through coaching camps and clinics according to Director of Football Operations Kirk Mastromatteo.
Year one is to bring the product down the field but as we move forward, we’re not just here to play our game, we want to develop the sport, develop the game here in Australia. – Kirk Mastromatteo
More information on teams and players can be heard on the AussieFaithful Podcast including breaking news and exclusive player interviews.
The official NGL website has basic signing and team information, while you can follow along here for in-depth player interviews, such as that with North Coast Heat quarterback Dante Nania.
Do you have more questions about the league, the rules or the players? Send them on in the comments below, via voicemail (and feature on the Podcast) or on any of the social platforms, just search for AussieFaithful.