Australia Captures 5th Place at IFAF World Championship

Behind the strong arm and legs of their quarterback Jared Stegman, Team Outback from Australia withstood a rejuvenated South Korea to beat them 42-14 and claim fifth place in the 2015 IFAF World Championship at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium in Canton Ohio.

The Australians did not have as easy a time of it as they did in their first encounter with Korea on the opening day when they whipped them 47-6. Stegman was a difference maker when it counted. With Australia up 27-14 with less than three minutes left in the game and Korea pressing, Stegman, ran one in from seven yards out and then  Jack Marton bulled his way into the end zone for the final score, ending Korea’s hopes.

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Yet, this was a game in which the Australians needed to prove to the rest of the football world that they belonged. In the two previous tournaments Australia took part in (1999 and 2011) they had only won one game. They walk away from the 2015 tournament with a 3-1 record and a burning desire to show that Australians can play this game.

“We just really wanted it because that’s how we are as Australians,” quarterback Jared Stegman said. “We don’t give up. We want to fight until the end of the whistle every play.

“It was never really a question of lying down for us. We wanted to come out and get the energy from the start of the game, which we didn’t have in the other games, learn from our mistakes and put it away.”

Three plays epitomized Team Outback’s never-give-in attitude and proved that if nothing else Australia battles until the final whistle on every play.

The first came on a 6-yard touchdown run from running back Conor Foley. Looking as if he was buried at the 10 on a third-and-goal situation, he managed to break two tackles and then spin out of another to put Australia up 14-0 late in the first quarter.

The second came on an interception by Damien Donaldson, who, looking like the option quarterback he sometimes plays, picked the ball off on his 35 and returned it five yards before lateraling to Calvin Young, who raced 60 more yards to pay dirt to extend Australia’s lead to 20-0 lead late in the second quarter.

The third was a fumbled snap on the PAT following the final touchdown. Damien Molloy picked up the loose ball and when confronted with a would be tackler took a leap over his head, scoring the two points and knocking over the defender at the same time.

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“We want to make the most of every opportunity when we have the ball,” Australia coach John Leijten said. “We want to get on the scoreboard.”

That is exactly what Australia did. Even though Korea generated almost the same amount of offense as Australia (271 yards v. 274) it was Australia that made each yard count.  Stegman was 18-of-27 for 224 yards and a touchdown – he tied a tournament record six touchdown passes while Daniel Strickland led all receivers with 88 yards on five catches, and a touchdown. Tyson Garnham hauled in nine passes for 70 yards.

Nate Lansdel added a touchdown along with 39 yards rushing, and the Australian offense recorded three touchdowns on the ground.

“While we’re back home the next four years, we can do some tours of the Outback and progress to the next World Cup,” Strickland said. “We can come more fundamentally sound and jell as a team from Day 1.”

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While South Korea goes home winless, they improved on their performance from the first two games and scored their first ever touchdowns in IFAF World Championship history as San Hong Kim scored the country’s first offensive touchdown and then Bo Sung Park ran one in as well.

“This tournament allowed our players and staff to not only experience physically but to see what American football is outside of South Korea,” head coach Sun II Beak said “From Day 1 until Sunday when we leave, it will be a learning process. I would like to take what I learned here and apply it to South Korea.”

Roger Kelly is an editor and a writer for AFI. A former PR Director the B.C. Lions of the Canadian Football League for 7 years, he now lives in Sweden writing about and scouting American Football throughout the world.