Outback Head Coach John Leijten Reappointed for 3 years

Last week Outbackgridiron.com talked to Coach Leijten about his reappointment, the past WC and the Outback’s future.

Outbackgridiron.com
Congratulations with your reappointment, was it a hard decision to make?

Coach Leijten
No, not at all! The whole process of starting the Outback program was very hard and difficult at times but I believe that we can build something special in 3.5 years. That’s how long we have till the next World Cup. Starting from scratch is always hard but now we have made a start we can build from here. I love working with the Australian players, they will give it everything they have each time we go out and everybody involved with the program wants it to succeed, therefore we will…

Outbackgridiron.com
The IFAF World Gridiron Championship preliminary games for Team Outback Australia were played in Innsbruck, Austria in August, 2011, with the finals played in Vienna. How did you experience the World Cup?

Coach Leijten
The World cup was very well organized and a great event. The Austrians pulled out all the stops, we played in very nice stadiums and in some awesome cities.

Outbackgridiron.com
Looking back at last year’s World Cup. Where you happy with how the team performed?

Coach Leijten
Success can be defined in a lot of ways, although we weren’t successful winning games we were able to set a standard for all Outback teams to come. The way we kept fighting each game earned us the respect of the other countries and somewhat changed their minds on Australian football. If the chips would have fallen our way a couple of time we might have been able to beat Team Germany but as it was they were still a little bit too good for us on the day. Overall I was happy with our effort, desire to win and our ability to fight till the end.

Outbackgridiron.com
The next World Cup will be hosted by Sweden in 2015. What can we expect from the Outback till then?

Coach Leijten
We are very busy with our planning. At this point I can’t go into too much detail but behind the scenes we are working on all our plans to improve on all aspects in our program.

Outbackgridiron.com
That is a little vague. Isn’t there anything you can tell us about your plans?

Coach Leijten
Well, it involves planning of home games, sponsoring, marketing, Pr, training camps, everything we need to build a strong National program and to make sure that at the next World Cup we will win games.

Outbackgridiron.com
Sounds like you have big plans! How are you going to pull this all off?

Coach Leijten
We do have big plans and we are going to pull it off! We are currently looking for people that have the expertise, the desire and time to help us to make this happen. I believe that in the future Gridiron will become more popular, look at Jesse Williams, Brad Wing, our Aussie NFL punter they will all help us to get more exposure. We still have more Australian players going to play college football in the States and that will ultimately get more Australian kids into playing our game. Not all of these players will make it into the NFL but playing a very high level of football, receiving a free education with a potential of becoming a NFL millionaire will definitely make it more interesting for young kids to start playing the game.

Outbackgridiron.com
When scouting for players to be on the Outback Australia Gridiron Team, what were you looking for? 

Coach Leijten
First and foremost we are looking for players who are willing to work extremely hard for 3.5 years to prepare for the next world cup. The reality is that our domestic league doesn’t prepare us for the level of football played at the world cup. That is why we need players who can put in all the hard work. Our new yearly AGL will help our players to play at a higher level of football. Football players come in all shapes and sizes but we need our players to be athletic; strong, fast in all directions.

Outbackgridiron.com 
On a side note, you recently came back from the USA where you were part of the World Team that beat Team USA. What was that experience like?

Coach Leijten 
It was an awesome experience! I have been a part of some championship teams and this win definitely was right up there. Putting players together from all over the world, prepare them to become a team in a week and beat the USA at their own game is very rewarding. It has all reconfirmed that players from all over the world can become good football players. I was very fortunate to have been a part of the 2012 World Team, I am very proud of what the team has accomplished. Part of my job in the NFL Europe was to work with European players, a lot of them where just as good as their American counterpart. It is an exciting time for football in the world because I believe it is going to become a lot bigger in a hurry.

Outbackgridiron.com
As Coach of the Australian Team, what were your expectations going in to the World Cup?

Coach Leijten
I expected us to play hard and never quit. We have been lucky to play our first game against the USA. Playing the best football country in the world gave the players the right motivation and the ultimate football experience. To the last man, all of our players told me how excited they were about playing the USA. The top 4 countries in the world are out of our league, we knew that going in.  All we wanted to do against the other countries was play to the best of our ability. I believe that as a team we were able to achieve that!

Outbackgridiron.com
Team Australia earned the respect from the IFAF Officials, as well as their opponents, for their determination and “never giving up”, what can you add to that? 

Coach Leijten
Never giving up is ingrained in Australian culture and I knew going in that this would be the case for us at the World Cup. Out players gave it everything they had, I am very proud of them and the way they handled themselves the whole tournament.

Outbackgridiron.com
Looking back now, what would you change in preparing the Australian players to successfully compete in future World Championships?

Coach Leijten
We were limited with time in our preparation, this time around we have our program up and running so to speak. The current players now know what is expected of them, we have set the bar. Hopefully in the next couple of weeks we will be able to reveal more of our plans.

Outbackgridiron.com
Even though it is three years away and quite a lot of planning, how do you think the Outback Australia Team will do in 2015?

Coach Leijten
Just over 3 years isn’t a long time if you look at all the work that needs to be done. Our first game as a team was against the USA that is a very difficult thing to do! It is our goal to play more games together as a team in preparation of the next world cup. If we are able to become a team that is a cohesive unit because they have been playing together and with all the hard work coaches and players are putting in at the moment I have no doubt that next time we will win games at the world cup. Competing at the world cup is great but winning games is the goal!

Outbackgridiron.com
The 2012 National Gridiron championships commence in March and are being played in various States of Australia, what are your thoughts as to who will do well?

Coach Leijten
The NSW Wolfpack have a proven track record that they are the team to beat. I would say that they are the favourite to win it all. WA Raiders were impressive 2 years ago and they might be the surprise team but Victoria Eagles might find that extra motivation to finally beat NSW. Queensland Sun Devils also have been working hard so who knows, the great thing about gridiron is that you have to play first. 

Outbackgridiron.com
What do you think about the changes this year with the Nationals being played in various locations rather than in the one State?

Coach Leijten
I believe that this new structure will help all Australian players to play on a higher level. If the states get more serious with their preparation in regards of practicing together the level will go up. The more the players will be able to practice together, the coaches are able to work together the level will go up. The tougher the competition the harder teams have to work to compete that will only benefit our sport in the future. In the future this new set up will also grow to a “real” national competition, we are only a few steps away from that!

Outbackgridiron.com
What caused these changes to come about?

Coach Leijten
I believe it is a natural progression. All other sports have a national league and for gridiron to grow where we all want it to be this is the next step.

Outbackgridiron.com
Will you be scouting at the Nationals again this year for future Outback Australia players, if so, what will you be looking for in the players?

Coach Leijten
We will have scouts at all games. I am not sure how many games I will be able to scout myself. We are looking for athletic playmakers, players will be able to receive invitations for local testing combines.

Outbackgridiron.com
It’s amazing how much of the Australian Public don’t know that Gridiron is played throughout Australia, as well as the National Team known as “Outback Australia” who compete internationally representing their Country.

What are your thoughts on that?

Coach Leijten
In a way it isn’t surprising, we are a small sport and just recently we started to have ads on TV to recruit players, coaches and referees. Before that you would have to know a player, coach or someone involved in the sport to know about it. The TV ads in Victoria have worked really well. Hopefully the state teams will promote the games well so that more people will hear about them.

Thank you for your time coach and good luck!

 

by Sam Weller