Sydney gridiron giant Ernest Christensen’s league legacy

Reproduced from The Daily Telegraph

A SYDNEY footballer has swapped league and union for America’s favourite game and is preparing to take on the world’s best. 

E.E Christensen, the legendary rugby league writer whose career spanned some of the game’s greatest moments, was a giant of the Sydney and Australian sportswriting scene last century.

His grandson, Ernest Christensen is a giant in a completely different sense – the 145kg, 196cm 26-year-old is an offensive lineman for the Outback Australian Gridiron team, which next month heads to Austria for the 2011 World Championship of American Football.

“I have played a lot of league and union, but I decided to try something different ,” said Christensen, who plays for the Bondi Raiders in the NSW Gridiron Football League.

Christensen and his Australian teammates have a pretty handy ring-in – NFL punter Ben Graham – but have a huge challenge in the group stage, where they face a college-heavy US team, Mexico and Germany.

Graham is able to play for the Australian team because of the current pay dispute in the NFL, a player lockout that also means other countries will likely field NFL veterans as well.

The US team are obvious favourites, and will field a team made of division one, two and three college players – but Japan were the runners-up last year.

“The US will of course be the real test, but Mexico will be strong as well – they provide plenty of players to the US college system,” said Christensen.

Christensen plays on the offensive line, with his key job to protect ‘blind side’ of the quarterback – made famous by the bestselling book and then Oscar-winning movie of the same name.

E.E Christensen was the doyen of Sydney sportswriters from the 1940s until his death shortly after he returned from the 1980 Moscow Olympics, the seventh Games he’d covered for the Sydney Sun.

He edited the game’s official year book across three decades and is remembered as one of the great figures of Australian newspaper journalism.

by Sam Weller