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Saturday, January 12, 2019

Former Fremantle Docker Max Duffy gets his kicks out of gridiron foray with Kentucky Wildcats

Max Duffy is hoping slowly but surely Australians will take over and reinvent punting in American football.
The former Fremantle forward is part of a wave of Australians strutting their stuff in the US — and he believes there’s plenty more to come.
In his first season of college, Duffy helped the Kentucky Wildcats beat Penn State in the Citrus Bowl on New Year’s Day — the program notching 10 wins for the first time in a season since 1977.
Duffy averaged just under 45 yards per punt in his debut year, putting him in the top 15 in the college ranks.
“I had over half my punts inside the 20, which is the stat for punters that you really want,” Duffy said during a flying visit home to Perth.
“In the Bowl game I thought I had a pretty good game. I was against the All-American returner so the best returner in college football and he only managed to get a yard in my nine punts.
“It means a lot for me to go over there and contribute and be able to hold up in a big game.
“If us Australians go over there and do well during the regular season or some smaller games it’s obviously good for us but we need to make sure that we get it done in the big games, especially in the SEC.
“I’d really like to build on what I was able to do this year and hopefully finish in the top 10 or the top five and contend with Arryn Siposs and Ben Griffiths who are going over there.
“They are all the big kicks from the AFL and hopefully I can match those guys.”
Duffy admits he surprised himself with how quickly he has developed, but is still not contemplating an NFL career.
“I got into my masters program, which I wanted to do and I’ll see out my three years at Kentucky,” he said. “If I’m lucky enough then I’d be happy to do it, but it’s still a long way away.”
Duffy used Pittsburgh Steeler punter Jordan Berry, who hails from Melbourne, as a regular sounding board and says the Australians have the advantage of being able to stick together, with Michael Dickson (Seattle Seahawks) and Cameron Johnston (Philadelphia Eagles) also turning heads in the NFL.
“Slowly, hopefully, it’s a full Australian takeover,” Duffy said. “The more they’re starting to allow us to kick the ball the way we want to kick it and trust our skill set, the better it’s going to be.
“Michael Dickson has started kicking drop kicks from the kick-offs now and they’ve never really seen that before and Cam Johnston did more of a football-style kick where he went out to the right a little bit and kicked it across his body to the left, which gave them a really good net punt.
“It’s definitely set in in the college scene and if it can set in in the NFL scene it’s going to open the door for so many more AFL guys.
“We’ve done a few different things at Kentucky. The main one for me that has really been handy in big games has been to roll out to the right and kick across my body, which not many guys can do effectively. That was a big weapon for us.”
Duffy, 25, has been blown away by the support for college sport and has embraced life in the US.
He played in front of a crowd of 100,000 in Texas during the season. He was also able to show former Dockers teammates Alex Pearce and Jack Hannath what it was all about when they visited in November.
“Just to see the fanfare and the way the whole town gets behind the team is so different to anything we have here,” he said.
“It was really good to have those guys, I think particularly Alex gets a good insight into how we run things and he might have taken something out of it.
“I’m staying with Alex while I’m here so while he’s doing the pre-season I get to put my feet up and relax.”
Next time he comes home, Duffy will have his ring from that bowl victory.
“It’s definitely unique to America and we don’t see very much of it here,” he said. “I think it’s pretty cool that next time I come back I can bring my ring and show everyone.”