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‘Just flesh and bone colliding’: US sports fans go nuts over NRL

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First it was AFL that caught America’s attention as sports-starved fans searched desperately for some action, and it wasn’t long before the NRL followed suit.

With major American sports leagues shut down because of coronavirus, Sports News many used their spare time Stateside to tune into what little live sport was still running Down Under.

Former NFL punter turned podcaster Pat McAfee has gone viral for voicing his newfound love of Aussie Rules after he discovered the game in the early hours of the morning on his side of the globe, calling it “potentially the best sport I’ve ever seen”.

He made special reference to Collingwood’s giant American import Mason Cox but if rugby league was feeling left out, it can sleep a little easier knowing it’s also receiving some love in the US.

American website Sports Illustrated was captivated by Round 2 of the NRL last weekend, which was played in empty stadiums as fans were locked out because of coronavirus.

Used to watching NFL players bash into each other with helmets and shoulder pads, writer Dan Gartland was struck by the sheer physicality of the rugby league – which became even clearer when you could hear every tackle because there was no crowd noise to drown it out.

Although he was trying to pay the code a compliment, Gartland did omit the “league” part, Press Release Distribution News instead often referring to the sport only as “rugby”, which might irk some footy fans who would rather watch paint dry than a rugby union match.

“What happens when you take a vicious contact sport and strip out all the ambient noise? Australia’s National Rugby League found out,” Gartland wrote.

“Without the roar of the crowd, the collision of bodies could be heard clear as day.

“In the US, we’re used to hearing loud tackles in football games. But that’s the result of the plastic shells of helmets and shoulder pads colliding. There is no protective equipment in rugby (except for the occasional soft helmet), so the sound you’re hearing is just flesh and bone colliding.”

Unfortunately for Americans, their love affair with Australian football codes will be short-lived after both the NRL and AFL announced their seasons would be suspended as the world grapples with the crippling health pandemic.

Still, it was fun while it lasted.

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