Sometimes the best opportunities are the least expected. David Bentley wasn’t planning on going to Australia when he signed up for a professional football recruiting website, but it was a chance he couldn’t let pass. On the recruiting site, which mostly focuses on connecting players with European teams, the Northern Sydney Rebels noticed Bentley’s highlight reel and physical stats and reached out to him. Bentley will leave for the land down under at the end of July.
Bentley played varsity football for the Red Devils five years ago. After graduating from Grand County High School in 2014, Bentley briefly attended Dixie State College before transferring to the College of the Redwoods. He played football at the junior college in Eureka, Calif., for the 2015 and 2016 seasons. Since leaving California, Bentley has been in Moab working at the Lazy Lizard Hostel and frequently traveling to Mexico to visit his family. He has never been to Australia.
“It’s going to be crazy,” Bentley said with a laugh, obviously more excited than nervous about his upcoming adventure. “I’m going to be in a suburb right outside of Sydney called Manly,” he said. The ocean-side Manly is best known for its beaches, a few of which are popular tourist destinations. Between the beautiful ocean and the bustle of downtown Sydney not far away, Bentley may have to work hard to stay focused on the sport.
The football league Bentley will be part of is known as Gridiron Australia. The league consists of 70 teams throughout seven of the country’s eight provinces. Most of the teams field rosters for each of the four divisions: men (18 plus), women (also 18 and older), colts (boys ages 14 to 18) and juniors (boys ages eight to 15). Speaking about the Northern Sydney Rebels, Bentley said, “They’re considered a semi-pro team.” He explained, “They can’t pay me for playing, but they can pay me for coaching the younger teams. They’re going to help me find places to live and find side work.”
Gridiron Australia uses the rules of the International Federation of American Football to govern their games. IFAF rules are identical to those used by the National Collegiate Athletic Association in America. The main thing Bentley will have to get used to is playing on a rugby pitch. Interestingly, the league still uses yard markings rather than the metric system. However, a rugby field is about ten yards shorter than an American football field, so the playing area only measures 90 yards and the end zones are slightly shrunken as well.
For the Rebels, Bentley will play the same position he did in high school and college. On the defensive line, he uses his physical presence and athleticism to clog running lanes and harass the quarterback on passing plays. Bentley said, “I’ll most likely be playing defensive end for them, but I’ll probably play a little defensive tackle and offensive line, too.”
Going to play football in Australia will be an experience unlike anything Bentley has ever done. He doesn’t have any qualms about the choice, though. “It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” Bently said smiling. “I get to go explore the world and play some ball.”