The Australia U19 Lacrosse team is on Long Island!
36 members of the Australia U19 Lacrosse training team’s 76 current members made the trip to the States during their winter break to get a taste of a Long Island summer… as well as a lot of lacrosse! I got out to Adelphi to take in some of the action, and I was thrilled to get a great update on the state of Australian Lacrosse in addition to seeing some of the young international stars of tomorrow.
Australia U19 Lacrosse On Long Island[fvplayer src=”https://youtube.com/watch?v=mG4Emi6YGSA” splash=”https://i.ytimg.com/vi/mG4Emi6YGSA/hqdefault.jpg” caption=”Australia U19 Lacrosse on Long Island”]
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Back when I was living and playing in Perth (2001), the lacrosse scene was small, but those who played were dedicated. The dedication part hasn’t changed much at all, which is good, but neither has the size of the community (at least not much), but now there seems to be some movement to change this fact.
Lacrosse in Australia competes with AFL (Australian Rules Football), and Cricket. Both sports are hugely popular, and run during the warm Summer months. For our US readers, think baseball (cricket) and football AND soccer (AFL) in terms of both play and popularity. Soccer, lacrosse, and other sports run during the winter, when some of Australia’s fields can be turned into wet, muddy lacrosse pitches.
With both AFL and Cricket making large pushes to hold on to, or even increase, their already strong levels of popularity and funding, lacrosse has been forced to get creative, and part of that is maintaining a larger U19 training squad, for longer periods of time. The hope is that by allowing the best young players to play together more, the overall level of play can be elevated, and that more players will be attracted to stay in the game.
I am interested to see if this results in long-term growth, but in the meantime, it seems like a very smart short-term move. With Japan, Israel, England, and other FIL nations starting and improving youth lacrosse programs, and with the Iroquois program picking up serious steam, Australia already has more competition, and they will have even more soon. A top 4 finish in 2018 is no longer guaranteed for anyone, outside of the US and Canada. The Aussies know building the future starts now.
Where Australia really needs to see movement is overall participation numbers. With more players, come more athletes, more funding, and more competition. Until the Aussies have that in place, every FIL championship will be a battle. Growing the Game has long been a topic of discussion in Australia. It was when I was there, and it still is today. But it seems like people are tired of talking, and this U19 program is a step in the right direction
In my humble opinion however, more needs to be done.
The single best thing that could happen to Australia Lacrosse is for a manufacturer to pop up in the country. They would need to keep it simple at first, possibly making one extremely affordable beginner’s stick, and one good, but basic men’s stick that any positional player could use. Basic but protective gloves and padding would help, but the sticks would be the first priority, and would likely take up 2 years of work and planning.
The reason I say this is because lacrosse gear is exceedingly expensive in Australia. Import taxes, high shipping rates, and exchange rates can all push the cost of gear up to two to four times the cost we see in the US. Can you imagine spending $600 on a new helmet? Me either. And that kills potential growth quickly.
Now, the goal of this new company would not be to get every current player using their stuff. I know, that sounds crazy. The goal would be to get every NEW player to use their gear, AND to get as many new players playing the game as possible. Their goal would be more than just owning the current market… it would be to make lacrosse mainstream in Australia, and own that market. It would take guile, cunning, and quite a bit of luck. But it’s possible, and would do wonders for the nation’s ability to compete for an FIL medal on a consistent basis moving forward.
But did I mention there was another big sticking point? This manufacturer would also need to be aware that lacrosse has a long ways to go in terms of numbers in Australia, but that some day, in the future, it MIGHT be big enough to earn a good living making gear. Basically it would be a 15-40 year investment that would run at a loss for years, possibly decades, before the land down under truly saw its lacrosse boom bloom. Of course when that happened, they’d be rich, but there sure is a lot of risk and time (and loads of hard work) involved.
The Australian plan might be smaller than my grand idea, but it answers current questions better than my plan does, and has a lot less risk to it, while providing a solid foundation for the near future. The only problem is that it doesn’t truly shoot for the stars, and in this booming age of lacrosse, I think that’s what countries need to do to compete for future medals. Maybe there is an Australian investment tycoon reading this (WHY? I have no idea), so if that is the case, call me. I have ideas. I’ll share them for free.
Ok, back to reality.
The reality is that the Australia U19 Lacrosse Team that came over was a solid group of hard working and invested kids. There were more than a couple who could play college lacrosse here in the states right now, and I’m willing to bet there are just as many great young players who stayed back in Australia, and just couldn’t make the trip work for one reason or another. This is a good, athletic group, and they seem to be finding some identity. It’s probably the most well run, and deep, Aussie U19 team in a long time.
The Aussies have some good athletes in the midfield, and a couple of players showed flashes of brilliance and good lacrosse IQ in transition. Sam Koczwara scored a couple of nice goals with both hands, and with his size, he could be an attractive college recruit in the US. The face off work was better than it’s ever been before, and with Matt Schomburg schooling the boys, it should continue to improve. The middies could shoot the ball well, and many possessed a solid overhand shot on the run.
Defensively, the long poles were of good size, and possessed good athleticism. They don’t stay on the hands of opposing attackers enough, and could use to improve their stick work on ground balls and running through traffic, but when you learn that many of these guys have only played the game for 2-4 years, you see their existing ability as nothing short of impressive. All of the poles took direction well, and played very hard.
The attack units were very unselfish, and moved the ball well. Players had good speed, and many seemed to possess the ability to use both hands equally well. One or two attackers stood out as dodgers, but overall, the Aussie attack didn’t seem as dangerous as a top level attack group should. The American poles threw a lot more checks than their Australian counterparts who focused on body more, so maybe that accounts for the lack of consistent dodgers (outside of Gordon Purdie Jr.). Either way, the Aussies need a boost in their attack scoring department.
In goal, the Australian U19 Lacrosse Team had a bunch of keepers get time, and while each had bright spots, I do think a starter could emerge from the group, but I didn’t catch the kid’s name. He was smaller, but confident, and I liked what I saw.
It was great to see an increased push towards competition from the U19 guys who came over, and the passion these kids possess is clear. Get another couple thousand kids playing and Australia could lock that medal spot back up again in the near future.