IFAF World Championships: Australia Faces Korea in Opener

After waiting and anticipating for what has seemed like a small lifetime, the 2015 IFAF Championships are finally here.

Australia started their official preparations for the World Championships in February with a national selection camp, and since the roster was announced, the players and coaches have been occupying their time before they made the long trip to the United States. When that time finally came, an 8-day training camp at Ashland University was next on the agenda.

Australia - Team Australia practice1

So after almost 5 months of concentration and build-up, you’d expect nothing less than to be prepared. And Australia are, just not in a conventional sense.

If you talk to the local Ohio football players, reporters and spectators, they’ll give you the same reaction when you tell them how very little film and knowledge that Australia has of upcoming opponent Korea: bewilderment. You’d be told that’s a recipe for disaster.

Whilst all previous research, regardless of the quantity, should be taken with a grain of salt knowing that coaches love to keep things interesting and surprisingly new come game-day, Australia has barely a fraction of what they’d like to prepare with. Korea has kept everything under wraps superbly well.

The official IFAF World Championship website only recently updated its section on Korea, and even then, they were forced to make form-guide references to a singular tournament warm-up game in which they stunningly lost to local side Seoul Kisan Golden Eagles 28-20.

What is there to take from that form however? Did Korea play their full-strength squad in that match? How good are the Golden Eagles? Was this a disposable game in which the coaches trialled new schemes and plays?
And so the mystery continues. Undoubtedly, the Koreans will have the same amount of game film to work with, as the Australians haven’t played an official game in a while.

Australia - Aus. v Korea 2007

Australia v. Korea 2007

These two teams have met before however. In 2007, Australia hosted the Koreans for a World Championship qualifier and lost 13-22. The home side hasn’t forgotten about it.

Although head coach John Leijten wasn’t part of the Outback team then, he often channels the burning sense of desperate retribution that comes from the four members who were in order to give his squad extra motivation.
The question then becomes this: how do you prepare for an opponent you know nothing about?

All week long, the coaching staff has been working tirelessly to make sure that their players are well-drilled and technically sound in order to be ready for anything. The players who are able to adjust best on game-day will get the advantage in a match where every one could be important.

For example, these teams can be loosely matched. In previous World Championships, they’ve both struggled against the stronger sides and both have one win each (both low-scoring games). They’ve also barely had the pressure of being strong chances to win games on an international level.

Australia - Team Australia practice10

With all of this in mind, the second half of Thursday’s game is when we’ll see the better team; when the coaches get their first opportunity to properly counteract what they see early on, it’ll then all become clear.

Until that point in time, all there is to do is speculate. It’s fair to say that you could give favouritism to either side, and there’s hardly a better stage then the opening game time slot of the World Championships for such a potentially intriguing arm-wrestle.

Photos (except from 2007): Elissa Manera

Chris is an Australian gridiron journalist who has just started covering the sport at local, state and international levels within his home country. He's passionate about the growth of the sport in Australia as well as around the world.