Former LA Rams star Todd Gurley says he can “definitely see” NFL matches played in Australia in the near future, but he’s not as certain that a planned NRL combine in the States will be as successful as hoped.
No official NFL matches have been played in Australia, but an exhibition game between the Denver Broncos and San Diego Chargers was held in Sydney in 1999 in front of a huge crowd at Stadium Australia.
It’s most likely a game would occur in 2026 when the Rams have nine home games scheduled; the NFL likes to use the teams with nine (instead of eight) to play international match-ups.
NRL great Mark Carroll showed off his muscles to former NFL player Terrell Davis in 1999. Picture: Gregg PorteousSource: News Corp Australia
Back then it was a novel concept, with articles at the time referencing Crocodile Dundee and Nicole Kidman, while much was made of the Broncos leaving Denver on Sunday local time and landing in Sydney on Tuesday, therefore losing an entire day and leading to comparisons to Rip Van Winkle.
But the sport has become immensely popular over here since then, with the NFL showing a genuine commitment to growing the game that peaked with the launch of the international series in 2007.
Three matches were played in London this year and another two in Germany, with more than 50,000 fans rocking up to the match in Frankfurt between the Colts and Patriots.
College football has already played some games in Australia, while the NHL took a couple of pre-season games Down Under for the first time this year.
The NHL took a couple of pre-season matches to Australia this year. Picture: Darrian Traynor/Getty ImagesSource: Getty Images
“It’s not that far when you think about it. It’s not that much of a difference from LA to Germany to what it is coming out here. Once you get past 10 hours, it’s all the same,” Gurley said, with flights from LA to Sydney roughly four hours longer than the trip to Frankfurt.
“I think it’d be a great opportunity to play here.
“I don’t know how it’d work, but I think the NFL would have to mandate that the teams come here for six or seven days (for jet lag and to grow the game).
“That’s how it started with the London games, but guys just get there like three days before the game which is tough to get acclimatised to.
“These players are going to London, Germany, Mexico City, and for some of them, this is the first time they’ve left the country.
“I reckon they could come here for the week, play the game and then have a bye week. I can definitely see it happening.”
There’s every chance we could see Australian star Jordan Mailata feature in one of the games given his Philadelphia Eagles are one of two NFL teams designated to Australia as part of the NFL’s home marketing area initiative.
The other team is the LA Rams who won Super Bowl LVI and have increased their footprint in Australia with an event on Monday morning in Coogee where Gurley was on hand to promote a flag football event featuring state champions Arndell Anglican College.
Former LA Rams star Todd Gurley has been in Australia for a couple of weeks. Picture: SuppliedSource: Supplied
The LA RamsHouse connection has been strong in Australia for two years, and it could become even bigger if the NRL goes through with its plan to hold a combine next year when it opens the season in Las Vegas to try to encourage college stars who missed out on the NFL to switch codes.
Gurley, who scored 79 touchdowns in the NFL, was intrigued by the idea but warned it would be tough to get young Americans to move to Australia given there were increasing opportunities back home with new leagues popping up.
“Not bad, not bad at all,” he said when told about the combine.
“The only problem I’d say is that those guys love football.
“So for them, it’d be a big risk to step away from their comfort zone.
“Yes, it’s similar because you need an athletic ability, but half the people playing college football probably don’t even know where Australia is located, so they’d probably be scared about such a big move from that standpoint.
“You’ve got to remember there are so many other alternative leagues starting back up with the XFL and the CFL and others, so those players still have options.
“If they’ve got the funding to do (the combine) then they (the NRL) might as well try it.”