Englishman fueling American Football

Mount Intermediate’s Ella Jackson gives the modified version of the game a go with plenty of gusto. Photo: John Borren.

Englishman Graham Whyte is sharing his adoration for American Football, also known as Gridiron – and hopes to see it grow here in the Bay of Plenty.

Graham is a part of a new programme through the New Zealand American Football Federation, called ‘The Champion’s Project’, which is working to develop American Football in New Zealand schools and colleges.

The Englishman, who absolutely loves the American sport, has been playing since the early-1980s and has been on the field at a national level in the United Kingdom.

Previously head coach of local American Football team – the Tauranga City Tridents which are currently preparing for the National finals in Auckland this October – Graham is now working to flourish American footy among local youth.

“Kids are interested in anything new aren’t they?” says Graham. “And if it’s running around catching a ball with their friends then it’s great you know… the kids are the future really.”

The version of football that the programme is introducing to school students is non-contact and involves five against five players.

“I would say the nearest thing to it would be ripper rugby, so basically the kids wear a belt with tags on and instead of contact tackling they just have to rip the tag off and then the tackles made,” says Graham. “It’s a way of getting kids into the sport without the gear and the cost of the equipment you need.”

Graham has already started visiting Western BOP schools, getting kids fired up to play this summer sport later in the year. So far, the response has been great, says Graham.

“They love it already…the enthusiasm is there. The taster sessions have led to students from Mount Intermediate attending the weekend practice sessions, as they enjoyed their experience in school.”

Graham says the game is for everyone to get amongst: “One of the things we are pushing is girls – we want girls to be fully involved in the sport as much as anybody and students of all abilities…we’re inclusive and want everyone having a go”.

He will continue rallying interest for the game during next six months, and has goals set for the future. “Hopefully one day new clubs will start up and there’ll be competition within the region and then we can go on and take on Auckland!”

To enquire about the sport in the BOP, email Graham Whyte at: grawhy68@googlemail.com

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