Plenty of new college football fans for 1st game of season
Fri., Aug. 26, 2016
SYDNEY – It was more than two hours before the start of Saturday’s U.S. college season opener between California and Hawaii, and Anthony Goodluck and his son were already milling outside Sydney’s Olympic stadium, soaking up the early atmosphere.
The rental company manager, dressed in a Cal Bears jersey, and son Jaiden, with a long “Cal” scarf wrapped around his neck, came 590 miles south from Brisbane for the big game.
The weather was cooperating, with sunny skies and light winds on a late winter day and high temperatures of around 68 degrees expected. Despite nearly 3 inches of rain in the past week, the stadium turf was firm
“I actually coach some gridiron in Brisbane, and I’d take college football over the NFL any day,” said Goodluck. “I’m a big Miami fan – go Hurricanes – but after that I love Cal. We’re really looking forward to seeing our first game.”
It’s the first time college football has been played in Sydney. The last American football of any kind was an NFL preseason game at the Olympic stadium that attracted 73,000 spectators in 1999.
Organizers said two weeks ago they hoped for a crowd in excess of 65,000, but on Friday said only 45,000 tickets had been sold.
Early arrivals Saturday had a chance to try their luck throwing an American football through a hole in a net in a radio station promotion. Foot-long hot dogs were big sellers at the outdoor booths, but in keeping with the multicultural nature of western Sydney where the stadium is located, Asian and middle Eastern goods also featured prominently on the menus.
Michelle Hubbard of Melbourne was an early arrival for another reason – her son, Ben Scruton, is a walk-on player for Hawaii and will travel back with the team when the Rainbow Warriors leave for Honolulu right after the game.
“I had to get him his visa,” Hubbard said. “And I have four tickets if anyone needs them. Ben bought them nearly a year ago for him and his mates. Now he’s in the stadium as an official member of the team.”
Scruton was offered a spot after Hawaii conducted a scouting camp in Melbourne earlier this year. He’s like many other Australian Rules players who have earned spots on college teams and in the NFL, mostly as punters.
Another set of parents were dressed in Cal uniforms – Greg and Cynthia Madden – who traveled from Southern California to support their son, Cal defensive end DeVante Wilson.
“We can’t wait to get in there, to get this thing started,” Greg Madden said as a marching band warmed up inside the stadium.
Both teams brought cheerleading squads to Australia, and Hawaii had 30 members of its marching band for Saturday’s game.
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