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From New York to Melbourne: an American dream

American Alex Aurrichio is hoping to make it onto an AFL list. Picture: usafl.com
I ended up making a high tackle in a game and I had the ball when the ref blew the whistle. In American basketball when that happens, you drop the ball and walk away. So I tossed the footy away and walked away, and then the ref blew the whistle and called a 50m penalty
Alex Aurrichio

WHEN Alex Aurrichio told his friends weeks ago that he would be leaving New York to travel to Melbourne and try out for an AFL career, he received the odd rolled eye. 

But mostly the 24-year-old American received support for his next sporting adventure, something that has unfolded quickly but is an opportunity he is keen to make last. 

"It's all pretty crazy, I'm halfway across the world and during the holiday period, too," Aurrichio told AFL.com.au

"My buddies are more interested in me making it so they can come out and visit, I think." 

Aurrichio touched down in Australia in December, and is determined to be listed by an AFL club as an international rookie. 

But unlike several other international athletes, like American Mason Cox and Ireland's Conor McKenna, who were courted by a number of clubs, Aurrichio is doing it the other way around. 

He has come to Australia, put his name forward, and is prepared to spend some time at a VFL club to catch the eye of AFL scouts. 

"The clubs want to see me progress a bit, and see how I go before they make a decision. I think that's one of my attributes – I'm a quick learner," he said. 

"I've always been playing sport all my life – this is what I love to do: pick up the ball and compete, no matter what it is." 

Previously, the ball was of the soccer or baseball variety, sports the 198cm prospect excelled at back home for Columbia University. 

His journey to Melbourne has its origins in April, when Aurrichio was invited to test at the international combine in Los Angeles. 

He is a soccer goalie, and scouts believed his height, athleticism and ballhandling would translate well to Australian football. He tested well at the combine but did not receive any AFL offers from clubs. Still, he wasn't deterred. 

He scoured YouTube for clips of the game and was drawn to its physicality and movement. "In soccer, on a busy day, I'm involved three or four minutes out of 90. I like the constant action [of Australian football]," he said. 

Aurrichio found the USAFL competition in New York, joined the local Magpies team, and after winning the national title with them was encouraged to piece together a highlights tape and send it around to AFL clubs.

"A week later I was flown out and it happened in the blink of an eye," he said. 

"Since I got here I've trained with Collingwood, Sandringham and Coburg VFL teams, and I've spoken with Essendon and Adelaide," he said. 

"I'm just bouncing around and seeing if I can get my hands on an opportunity." 

He is quickly getting his head around the game's rules and intricacies, and feels with every training session he's more confident, more aware of where to run, and more hopeful his gamble will pay off. 

"I struggled with a few things early on, one being making too many high tackles just because I'm a taller guy. It wasn't like I was head-hunting, but they were already that low next to me and I was just trying to make a tackle any way I could," Aurrichio said. 

"I ended up making a high tackle in a game and I had the ball when the ref blew the whistle. In American basketball when that happens, you drop the ball and walk away. So I tossed the footy away and walked away, and then the ref blew the whistle and called a 50m penalty. 

"It was a kick right in front of goal and it took us a while to overcome that. I was furious on myself because I didn't know. Some of these rules are pretty obscure, I don't think anyone would ever think to tell you that. 

"The players have been really good in directing me and getting a feel for it. I really want to put a year into this and give myself a full shot." 

Alex Aurrichio completing an agility test. Picture: usafl.com.au