Outback Camp: QB Coach: “No Clear Favourites” In Tight Position Battle

Article written by Chris Guscott @Chris_Guscott

It’s no secret that the quarterback is the focal point of an offence, and in a lot of cases, the entire team. So whilst there are only three present at this year’s camp, the responsibility of their position isn’t lost on them.

Quarterback coach Ross Smith has the smallest group to govern, but the quality of the group is what matters most.

“There’s good leadership from them; I’m asking them to lead from the front. They’re competing as a group as well which is always great. They’re a bunch of coachable guys and a bunch of guys who are smart,” Smith said.

Simon Whitehead, Mark Shoebridge and Jared Stegman are those guys who will all be looking for their first spot on a World Championship roster, and the feeling within their small group is a positive one.

Outback Quarterbacks

“We get a lot of work in but it makes everyone get a lot of coaching done so everyone really improves during the week,” Whitehead said.

Shoebridge added, “…we all know each other, we like to push each other but we also like to support each other. We also get a lot of time with Ross one-on-one, and we’re really quite tight…we’re able to speak to him on a player-to-player level.”

The level of competition for the illustrious quarterback spots certainly isn’t minimised however in spite of this.

“It’s definitely a tight contest going through with only three of you looking for minimal spots, yet it also helps with the odds because there aren’t that many of you to fill the spots that are available,” Whitehead said.

Outback Quarterbacks

Smith added the same sentiment; “…we’ve made some big plays and some mistakes so everyone’s still learning, everyone’s still striving to get better. The fact that they’re competing means that it’s making my life tough, which is a good thing.”

To further add to the intrigue of the quarterback selection dilemma, 2011 World Championship starter Kiernan Dorney was unable to attend the camp but still remains heavily in the discussion for a spot after being involved with the Outback training camps in previous years.

When asked about Dorney, Smith was precise in his answer.

“Kiernan is still in the mix certainly. He’s a good quarterback, he obviously started at the last World Cup, so in some respects we know what we have in him. I have a depth chart in my head obviously, but it’s pretty fluid right now and changing on a daily basis.”

And when he was asked about whether there were any clear favourites in the race so far, he was even more precise.

“No. No clear favourites. Favourites, but no clear favourites.”

Outback Camp: Experience Shining Through For Defensive Backbone

Article written by Chris Guscott @Chris_Guscott

There are plenty of new faces in the 83-man squad at this year’s national selection camp, which has been a big encouragement for the coaches and the future of gridiron in Australia. However, there’s one group at camp which provides plenty of experience to solidify the team: the defensive backs.

“We’ve got a lot of depth, so (we have) guys that have played in Europe, guys that have played in other championship series’, a lot of guys who know each other so it helps to have that chemistry coming into camp already,” Wolfe said.


In a group of 13 players, almost half have played for the Outback before and all but one of those were at the 2011 World Championships in Austria.

Victorian Safety Scott Wolfe was part of that group, and recognises that with experience comes developed elements which take time to perfect.

“We’ve got a lot of depth, so (we have) guys that have played in Europe, guys that have played in other championship series’, a lot of guys who know each other so it helps to have that chemistry coming into camp already,” Wolfe said.

“We can rely on each other a little bit more to make the right play, make the right checks, calling the right coverages and relying on the right person to be there at the right time.”

Whilst the group of veterans is picking up where they left off, Defensive Backs coach Ben Walker sees them taking the younger guys along for the ride.

Outback camp defensive backs

“The experienced guys can help the younger ones through, there’s a good mix there,” Walker said.

“We’ve got Wolfey and Bluey (Damien Donaldson) who have played overseas. So while the current guys we’ve got have a lot of experience at home, as far as buying into JL’s (HC John Leijten) system, they’re certainly helping them through which has been great.”

However, instead of the younger ones becoming content with learning and observing behind the veterans, Walker has been impressed with their competitive nature.

“It’s making them compete a lot harder then what they’d traditionally would if they didn’t have those guys there. I guess it’s that typical fight or flight response, and I would hate to think that the guys that we brought in would take the flight option, but they’ve been digging in hard.”

Outback Camp: Coordinators Impressed As Practices Wrap Up

Article written by Chris Guscott @Chris_Guscott

With five full days of practices in the books, the 83-man squad which travelled to Runaway Bay has left the coaches with some really tough choices to make come the camp’s conclusion.

The squad as a whole has left the coaches highly impressed of the level of play, as well as the progression that’s occurred throughout the practices.

Defensive Coordinator and Head Coach John Leijten has seen firsthand the progress his squad has made.

“Practice is steadily improving, so from day one until the last practice today you see guys getting better,” Leijten said.

Outback Camp 2015

“Overall, it’s just a fight through two-a-day practices for five days back-to-back; it’s also physically and mentally draining. But we have a really good group of guys who you can see are working really hard to improve, and that’s all you can ask for.”

Overall, Offensive Coordinator Paul Manera also has been impressed by the squad and consistent talent level.

“Practice is steadily improving, so from day one until the last practice today you see guys getting better,” Leijten said.

“For the most part, I’m very happy with the players, their attitudes, the way they’ve been able to pick up everything we’ve been giving them; very pleased,” Manera said.

“We’ve got a couple of guys here who are still green and learning, but for the most part there aren’t too many busts that we see out there.”

Excluding the match-length scrimmage planned for tomorrow morning as the final impression point for the players, the coordinators and position coaches will need to rely on film and notes as drills and group practice drills have finished.

Outback Training Camp 2015 Scrimmage

The offensive and defensive lines have spent plenty of time in the trenches against each other perfecting their trade, whilst the rest of the squad has been combined for open passing drills and coverage practice.

Manera is already in the midst of trying to answer some of the questions presented to him by his offensive unit.

“We measure the players daily and we’re already having discussions based on personnel groups, depth chart, how many people in each position we’re going to take so there’s some issues as well,” Manera said.

“If we’re going to take extra receivers (for example), they have to be someone that can win us a football game, as opposed to taking receivers for the basis of it. We’re still working out that mix.”

Leijten shares the same thoughts when referring to his side of the ball.

“You make a list every day. It’s too soon to make any decisions, but there are ideas from every position coach; they have ideas about what the depth chart is by their position but it’s also constantly changing, so literally every snap, every day counts,” Leijten said.

“Ultimately it’s about being perfect in July, not just now. We’re happy with how it’s going.”

Senior World Championships: Germany edges Australia 30-20 in thriller in Innsbruck

Germany clinched a berth in the playoff game for fifth place, but Australia not only scored their first points of the 2011 IFAF Senior World Championship, but also pushed the European Champions every step of the way in an honorable 30-20 defeat.

Outback quarterback Kiernan Dorney threw three touchdown passes, including two to team MVP Locklan Gilbert as he caught 3 passes for 107 yards. German receiver Niklas Roemer also reeled in two six-pointers and the MVP honors as part of a team-leading 8 catches for 153 yards.

“It was really difficult,” Admitted Roemer afterwards. “Australian players are really good at covering the players. They don’t let themselves be beat deep. It was tough to create space on deep routes, so we tried to take what they gave us.

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Applications for Senior Australian National Representative Team

Gridiron Australia is calling for applications from suitably qualified coaches who are interested in becoming part of the Senior Australian National Representative Team which will be seeking to qualify for the 2015 IFAF World Championships. Applicants are being sought for Offensive, Defensive and Special Teams Coordinators and Positional Coaches.

Head Coach John Leijten is seeking a team of highly experienced, knowledgable coaches to assist him in developing and implementing a four (4) year development program that will see Australia qualify for the 2015 World Championships to be held in Stockholm, Sweden.

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