ELF Playoffs: Hamburg Sea Devils RB Glen Toonga continues upward curve as he takes aim at the Raiders Tirol

This weekend, running back Glen Toonga and the Hamburg Sea Devils will host the Raiders Tirol in the playoffs as they look to reach the European League of Football (ELF) Championship Game for the second year in a row.

Since week 1, Glen Toonga has obliterated all other competition with explosive, decisive, downhill running. He currently sits at 1,468 yards and 21 touchdowns with an average of 5.7 yards per attempt, miles ahead of any other running back in the league.

It is therefore no surprise that the Sea Devils’ overwhelming offensive success has been almost entirely down to the 27-year-old east Londoner. But for Toonga this was not always the way as he had previously only pedestrian numbers in Europe.

Toonga’s European football journey began in 2018 when he was picked up by the Dresden Monarchs in the German Football League’s heyday. The Monarchs at the time were one of the premier clubs in not only Germany but in Europe too and lent heavily on the passing game.

It was here where Toonga first found a home outside British football. Due to the Monarchs picking up an American receiver to complement their offense the team opted for Toonga as their Euro running back. Toonga finished the season as the sixth ranked rusher in the league and compiled 991 yards and seven touchdowns over 16 games – four more games than ELF plays.

Toonga returned to Dresden the following season but saw a dip in production as the league leaned even more heavily on the passing game. Toonga this time finished fourth in the league but with only 895 yards and four touchdowns.

However, by this time Toonga had not only established himself as a productive, reliable running back but he was also European, giving teams plenty of options as he didn’t count against their import quota. Toonga found his talents in high demand and ended up going to play in Poland with the Lowlanders Białystok where he dominated.

Due to Toonga’s impressive, and more importantly consistent, performance in Europe he was beginning to turn heads and was eventually invited to the 2020 CFL Global Combine. Unfortunately, Toonga wasn’t drafted in the CFl Global Draft but was determined to carry on playing.

Following the Covid-19 year of no football, Toonga decided to go back to Germany as he wanted to not only play at the highest level of football in Europe but also put up tape in a bid to draw attention from NFL and CFL scouts following his unsuccessful combine in Bristol, United Kingdom, the year before.

This time around, Toonga joined the Allgäu Comets and a number of his former teammates from London. This was an awakening experience for Toonga, as it was the first time he was relied upon fully as one of the sole, paid imports on offense, an experience he now credits for his current success in Hamburg.

During his time at Allgäu, we first got a taste of what Toonga could really be when relied upon as a three-down back. As the bell-cow for the team, Toonga placed second in the league in rushing and racked up 1,100 yards and 13 touchdowns in just nine games, beating out a handful of Americans on the leaderboard.

As the German league drew to an end, Europe began to view Toonga for what he really was as opposed to a complimentary European; a three down back who can carry an offense.

And as the 2022 ELF season comes to its final stages, we stand before a young man from Hackney, London, who began his career in the backwaters of British University Football and has since elevated himself to be not only one of the best Europeans on offer, but also one of the best players in Europe, period.

If Hamburg hope to return to their second championship game in a row they need only pin their hopes on one thing and one thing alone, Glen Toonga running rampant in the Raiders’ secondary.

Daniel Mackenzie is a Press Association graduate who works in journalism and communications in the third sector. Daniel began playing football for the London Warriors and Team Great Britain and has since played across Europe.