Former Collingwood player Flynn Appleby is making big plays in Grand Final week – just probably not in the way he dreamt growing up.
The 24-year-old, who played 11 games across three seasons at the Magpies including eight in their 2018 Grand Final push, was delisted at the end of 2020 and captained the North Melbourne reserves in 2021.
But he then made the switch to American football, taking the well-trodden path to a college scholarship through Prokick Australia, eventually signing with New Jersey’s Rutgers University.
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In the process he became the latest Aussie to run out for the Scarlet Knights, following Adam Korsak who became the all-time NCAA record-holder for punts, punting yards and single-season net average over a spectacular five-year stint. He now plays in the Canadian Football League.
It’s quite the legacy to live up to for Appleby, but he is already impressing observers after a terrific play against powerhouse Michigan on the weekend.
Taking the snap and then sprinting forward while arcing out to his right to get more distance – which Americans have taken to calling an “Aussie rollout punt” – Appleby boomed a punt downfield which rolled and ended up travelling 75 yards, or three-quarters of the entire field, which is about 69 metres.
The punt pinned Michigan back inside their own 10-yard line giving Rutgers a better chance of stopping their fancied opposition on the ensuing drive, flipping field position perfectly.
“Rutgers just pulled off one of the great Aussie rollout punts you’ll ever see on an American field. Just mesmerizing,” college football writer and podcaster Alex Kirshner proclaimed on Twitter.
Former NFL punter turned media personality Pat McAfee quoted the video with a gif which summed up his feelings: “Dear God.”
While punts like this are much harder to pull off at NFL level, or against college teams who are rushing more defenders at the punter, it was still a remarkably impressive feat which showed Appleby’s natural kicking skill.
“I think it was part of the recruiting process looking for someone that sort of had similar attributes to Adam and we’re pretty similar in style – the skill set and that sort of stuff,” Appleby told USA Today’s Rutgers Wire earlier this year.
“So, everybody’s got their own little different aspects of their technique and so it’s just understanding that and trusting it – just been refining that for the last eight months probably since I got here.
“It’s been a great process to learn all that. It’s a whole new sport to understand the rules and all that sort of stuff as well. So it’s been been a great time.”
Originally published as ‘Dear God’: Ex-Magpie stuns USA with mind-blowing ‘Aussie punt’