Aussie NFL quartet to make sporting history
AUSTRALIAN sporting history is set to be made this week with four Australians, including rugby league converts Valentine Holmes and Jordan Mailata, potentially facing off when the New York Jets play the Philadelphia Eagles.
Former Cronulla NRL star Holmes and Mornington Peninsula-raised punter Lachlan Edwards will suit up for the Jets on Thursday at New Jersey's MetLife Stadium.
Mailata, the giant-sized former Sydney Rabbitohs junior, and Geelong-born punter Cameron Johnston, are members of the Eagles.
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Holmes said he hopes the historic moment inspires other Australians to embark on NFL careers.
"It's actually a pretty cool stat," Holmes said.
"It shows Australians can do stuff like this as well and hopefully it can open some gates for younger guys and the generations coming through."
The Jets-Eagles game is the fourth and final pre-season game for both teams before the start of the NFL regular season.
While both teams are expected to rest their elite players to avoid injuries - the Jets said quarterback Sam Darnold and running back Le'Veon Bell will not play - Thursday's game could have career-defining implications for Holmes, Edwards and Mailata.
Johnston appears to be the only Australian assured of making it on his team's 53-man regular season roster when they are named on Saturday.
NFL teams will slash their pre-season rosters from about 90 to 53. Holmes is almost certain to miss the final cut and end up on the Jets' practice squad.
The former NRL speedster has been given few opportunities in the Jets' first three pre-season games and needs to have a breakout performance at running back and punt or kick returner on Thursday for any chance at the 53.
Edwards, the Jets' punter the past three seasons, has been placed in a pre-season competition with American Matt Darr and needs to cement his position with a strong game.
Eagles coach Doug Pederson said on Tuesday the 203cm tall, 157kg Mailata was dealing with a "lower back" injury but dismissed it as being serious.
"We were just resting him," Pederson, explaining why Mailata missed practice sessions earlier in the week, said.
"We'll get more evaluation today and we will have an answer but he should be fine."
Mailata had a patchy off-season and there was speculation in the Philadelphia media he may not make the team's 53 but improved performances in recent pre-season games led to his stock rising.
Mailata's back injury also created speculation the Eagles might use it to place him on their injured reserve list for the regular season, to avoid them using one of their valuable 53 player slots on the inexperienced Aussie.
Johnston, one of the NFL's premier punters, has the luxury of not facing competition for his job.
In 2015 sporting history was made when four Australians - Patty Mills and Aron Baynes for the San Antonio Spurs and Dante Exum and Joe Ingles for the Utah Jazz - played during an NBA game.