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Saturday, January 17, 2009

Two Aussie's in NFC Championship

Today in the NFC Championship Game here in Arizona there will be two Australian Punter's going head to head. For the home town Arizona Cardinals there will be left footed Ben Graham and from the visiting Philadelphia Eagles right footed Sav Rocca.

Arizona Cardinals Ben Graham is a former Australian rules football player, who attended Deakin University in Geelong. Ben played 219 games for the Geelong Football Club in the Australian Football League from 1993 to 2004. Graham was renowned for his long, accurate kicking and known for his torpedo punt.

Graham signed with the N.Y. Jets in 2005. In this 2008 season he started with the Jets and was release. Signed by the Saints and played in one game and was released. On Sunday he's playing in the NFC Championship game. Go figure!

Saverio 'Sav' Rocca is the Philadelphia Eagles Punter. Born in Melbourne Australia and his background is also from Australian Rules Football. During his 14 year career in Aussie Football he became one of the greatest goal kickers in the history of competition.

Sav was noted more for his ability to kick accurately from great distance which ultimately led to his tryout with the Eagles. When he converted to American Football he made the history books as the oldest rookie in the history of the NFL, taking the mantle from fellow Australian Ben Graham.

So, on Sunday people around the world will watch the NFL Championship game between the Arizona Cardinals and Philadelphia Eagles and many won't know the the two punters got their start and training as Australian Rules Football Players.

Both punters are noted for their Aussie Drop Punt Technique. The Aussie Drop Punt Technique is being used more and more by American Punters when they need to punt the ball down inside their opponents 10 yard line.

A little information on the Aussie Drop Punt:

Darren Bennett was an Australian Rules Football player from Sydney Australia before making it big here in the United States as a football player with the San Diego Chargers.

Darren came to San Diego in I believe 1994. I was living in San Diego at that time working my kicking consulting business.

Bobby Beathard who was the General Manager of the San Diego Chargers called me up and asked me to come over to their training facility at the stadium one day to check out some rugby player.

It was Darren Bennett. He was not a rugby player but an Australian Rules Football Player. Most people don't know the difference and neither did Bobby.

I watched Darren take a bunch of steps (way to many) and boom several punts high and far. He was the real deal. However, he ran about 5 to 7 yards before actually punting the ball.

Bobby and special teams coach Chuck Priefer watch and smiled. They asked me what do you think. I said sign him and let me work with him. They did sign Darren to a contract.

However, I was unable to work with Darren because a couple weeks later I joined the Minnesota Vikings as their special teams coach. I did recommend for them to send him to NFL Europe to get some playing experience.

In 1995, Darren played for the Amsterdam Admirals. He did very well and started his career in 1995 with the San Diego Charger.

Darren was a two time Pro Bowler with the Chargers in 1995 and 2000. He had a great career.

Darren Bennett is credited for the introduction into the NFL of the "Aussie Rules kick" or "Drop Punt" as it is known in Australia. Instrumental in the advancement of Australians into the NFL , currently half of the punters in the NFL make use of the Aussie Rules punt in pooch punt situations.

Below is a photo series of Shane Phillips (Melbourne, Australia) demonstrating the Australian Drop Punt Technique. Shane was my assistant for six months. Before he left to go back to Australian we got together and put together an Instructional Drop Punt Video. It will be on my web site in 2009.

In these two photos: The Grip and Drop

Below: First Step and Setting up the Drop

Below: Two Hands / One Hand & Drop

Below: One Handed Drop

Below: The Perfect Nose Down Drop

Below: Punting Straight Up & thru the Ball

Below: Punting thru the Ball

Go Cardinals!

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