As the Legends Football League enters the 2014 season in the United States, a pair of players from Australia will be exposed to the on-field product. Jayne Caldwell and Tai Emery competed in the inaugural season of LFL Australia in late 2013 and will be the guests of the Atlanta Steam, a second-year franchise based in the Southern US.
Caldwell served as the starting quarterback for the Queensland Brigade while Emery competed on the offensive and defensive side of the ball. Both are not only impromptu ambassadors for their respective league, but are making the journey to the South in order to improve their game.
With ambitions of becoming a global brand, the LFL is hoping the exposure of its Aussie players to the US will bear fruit. Eventually, the LFL is aiming for a World Cup event, in which champions from LFL US, Canada, Australia and Europe would compete in a playoff.
In a season that saw the Brigade finish with a .500 record, their first two games were blowout losses. Of note, the second game was a 41-0 whitewash which was subject to a significant amount of criticism, especially towards Caldwell, who struggled in the passing game with a chronic series of interceptions.
Based on the online criticism that Caldwell and her Queensland teammates received after that second consecutive loss, the initiative to bring them to Atlanta and expose them to another aspect of the league was well conceived. Unfortunately, the criticism concerning the team’s performance was somewhat uncalled for.
Comments such as missed practice time, not being in shape and lacking discipline with no leadership were out of line. With due deference, such comments should never have been published. Considering that players are not compensated for their efforts, balancing career, personal lives and athletic duties are not so easy.
As this was a new sport to all the participants on Queensland and throughout the rest of the Australian league, this was not an appropriate criticism for players who are not compensated. Should there be goals to expand rosters or add more teams, this may discourage potential competitors.
While Caldwell and Emery have not been deterred, their journey to the US is one that shows a willingness to learn. Steam head coach Dane Robinson, serving in his first season at the helm, shall be the liaison for the franchise. Practices and conditioning under his leadership shall be observed by Caldwell and Emery, with the hopes that it will promote a better preparation for the next Australian campaign.
Ironically, Caldwell may be of some assistance to the Steam. Robinson is not the only “rookie” in a key position with the Steam. His quarterback, Dakota Hughes is only 19 years old and she has the pressure of helping the Steam repeat as Southeast Division champions.
With the Steam opening their second season on the road against the Toledo Crush, having relocated from Cleveland, the contest shall prove to be a key test for Hughes. Considering that Caldwell has endured high pressure situations lining up behind centre with Queensland, she may be able to relate some of her experiences to Hughes.
As the program of visiting LFL US franchises may be an excellent concept to consider with future competitors in LFL Europe, it is essential to prevent what occurred in Australia with Queensland’s struggles. Upon reflection, it may have been wiser to have Australian players brought to the United States before regular season games were even played down under. Those involved must understand that growing pains and the patience to deal with them shall be essential in hoping to achieve any global ambitions.