Picking Off Pigskins in the Outback
W.F. West Grad: Austin Emery Represents Washington in Australia’s Down Under Bowl
By Jordan Nailon
When Austin Emery boarded a plane for Australia at the end of June he didn’t know quite what to expect. Never much of a traveler, Emery had never even set foot on an airplane before. What’s more, he was headed for a foreign country to play football in a different hemisphere where rugby reigns supreme.
Now recently returned from the Outback as a freshly coronated Down Under Bowl champion, Emery has a kangaroo pouch full of one-off experiences to harken back to as he prepares for his next big adventure. On Aug. 10, Emery, a 2017 graduate of W.F. West High School, will take off for North Dakota where he is set to turn out for the football and baseball teams at Dakota College at Bottineau.
“That was my first time ever being on a plane. It was about 40 hours total of being on a plane,” said Emery. “I was little bit nervous and didn’t know if I was going to freak out from being cooped up that long.”
The hard hitting safety was able to survive the turbulence, cramped quarters and ensuing jet lag but there were plenty of unfamiliar and unsettling experiences lying in wait for Emery once he reached Australia.
“I saw a spider that was probably bigger than my face,” said Emery, whose run-ins with strange critters didn’t end with arachnids.
“We went to this little wildlife sanctuary and we saw a whole bunch of kangaroos running around,” added Emery, who noted some of the bouncy marsupials appeared to be posturing for a fight. “I was like ‘I don’t want to have to box this kangaroo.’”
Not all of Emery’s close encounters with Australian wildlife inspired his fight or flight response though. In fact he created an instant kinship with a koala.
“I just wanted to take him home. It was just so fluffy and cuddly,” said Emery. “It just grabbed onto me and I was like, ‘Oh my God!’”
All together Emery spent five days in Australia and there was plenty of hard hitting football action packed in around the sightseeing. His team practiced together four times and then went on to win both of their games in order to capture the Down Under Bowl championship. Doing his part to represent Washington in the Outback, Emery snagged a handful of interceptions in the two games and even returned one of them 90 yards for a touchdown.
“It was a little bit different not knowing anyone. People were huge. They were big down there,” said Emery, who shared the field with fellow Americans, including three other Washingtonians, as well as players from Australia and New Zealand. “There were some pretty big boys down there.”
The games were played under traditional American football rules and Emery said that besides different names for the plays the offensive and defensive sets were similar to the schemes he’s used to from American prep football. However, he said that the officials called the game different than he was used to.
“There was one play where the long snapper made a bad snap to the punter and one of our guys tackled the punter as he went to pick up the ball. They threw a flag on that and called it a dead ball,” recalled Emery who covered the field as a safety in both games. “That didn’t make any sense to me. I still think that was a bad call.”
The Down Under Bowl was played on a field that typically hosts rugby matches and Emery said that the rugby players were keen on teaching the intricacies of their preferred sport to anyone who would listen.
“After one of the practices the rugby players were playing and then we got all the kids together and the rugby players were showing us how big the ball was, how to run the ball and what the rules were,” said Emery.
While he was intrigued by the prospect of rugby Emery said he has no plans to give up the huddle for the scrum anytime soon.
“I’m just still going to do what I do,” said Emery of his plans to gear up for college football. “Just work hard, and whenever I get tired I’m going to try to exceed my limits.”
Unlike his trip to Australia Emery will have company on his big adventure to North Dakota. In fact, he will have kin by his side in the form of Tanner McDonald, his cousin and a fellow W.F. West graduate trying to carve out a place on the gridiron at Dakota College at Bottineau.
With the Outback fresh in his mind as he prepares to leave the Mint City for North Dakota, Emery says that he would recommend a trip to the Down Under Bowl to anyone who has the chance to go.
“I would tell them that it’s definitely worth it. You get to meet a lot of new friends and you have the opportunity to see a lot of new people and see what they have,” said Emery. “I would definitely recommend for them to go down there. It’s a great experience and kind of a once in a lifetime chance.”
Additional information on the Down Under Bowl can be found online at https://downundersports.com/downundersports/football.php.