Gold Coast hosts NFL talent quest

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American football is about to touch down on the Gold Coast as the NFL Combine comes to town for the first time.

The Gold Coast International Combine will see athletes from across Oceania assessed by NFL scouts in a move to uncover international football talent.

The extraordinary gridiron success of Australian Jordan Mailata has inspired the NFL, one of the world’s largest sporting organisations, to extend its search for talent outside American borders.

More than 300 athletes have been put through their paces in a series of testing days in the Oceania region. The tests were conducted by Queensland’s Pacific Sports Management, who has liaised with the NFL on the program.

“We conducted a series of agility tests across New Zealand, Samoa, Fiji, Tonga and Australia,” says Brett Pickett, general manager of commercial for PSM.

“Not only was it not hard to travel to all those Pacific islands, it wasn’t hard to find some truly exceptional talent.”

The tests, which included broad jumps, short shuttles, and the 40-yard dash, were recorded and forwarded to the NFL for further assessment.

“The NFL has realised there’s really strong talent out there in the world,” Pickett says.

“And that’s exactly what we found – big, strong, fast, explosive guys. The NFL will be very impressed.”

The hopefuls will be whittled down to just 75 top performers, who will then appear at the NFL Combine at RACV Royal Pines at Benowa on the Gold Coast.

A further series of drills and agility tests will narrow the field down to just five, who will be accepted into the NFL’s international pathway program.

It’s the first event of its kind to be held outside the USA and will showcase the Gold Coast to the NFL network’s 80 million subscribers.

“This deal will mean millions of Americans will see firsthand not only the International Combine but the Gold Coast as a world-class tourism and major events destination,” says Tourism Industry Development Minister Kate Jones.

For Pickett, the Gold Coast – fresh from hosting the 2018 Commonwealth Games – was an easy pick to host the Combine.

“The Gold Coast ticks so many boxes: a great way of life, great climate, great facilities. Both the Gold Coast Council and the Queensland Government have been so supportive. We worked closely with both to make the Combine possible, and it’s been very easy,” he says.

“The US is one of our key international markets so to be able to work in partnership with an organisation like the NFL on a strategy to promote the Gold Coast and Queensland is a real coup for the state,” Jones says.

The city’s strong sports legacy added to its attractiveness to the NFL. More than 50 Queenslanders were among those tested by the talent scouts.

“As a place with a reputation for breeding high-performance athletes, the Gold Coast was an easy sell to the NFL.”

Already an American institution, the NFL has a growing fan base in Australia. High profile Australian players like NRL star Jarryd Hayne, and now Mailata, have raised the game’s awareness locally.

When the Combine comes to town on October 6, that could expand exponentially – efforts are underway to turn the Combine into an annual event on the Gold Coast.

“This international outreach is a part of an evolution of the NFL,” Pickett says.

“With any luck, it could mean the same for the Gold Coast.”

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