65,000 fans expected for ‘Bows season opener vs. Cal in Australia

The goal posts went up at Olympic stadium in Sydney, Australia, today, more than three weeks before the opening U.S. college football game of the season between California and Hawaii.

A group of Australian athletes from outside “gridiron,” as it’s more commonly known Down Under, had a chance to kick field goals through the posts. Others sampled some of the American-style menu, including two-foot-long hotdogs and buffalo wings, which will be served at the stadium on Aug. 27 (which will be August 26th in Honolulu).

Organizers are even promoting tailgate parties outside the stadium for the Saturday midday start locally, which is 10 p.m. Friday in New York and 7 p.m. on the U.S. west coast to provide better viewing times back in the States.

Rainbow Warriors Head Coach Nick Rolovich
Rainbow Warriors Head Coach Nick Rolovich

A spokeswoman for the New South Wales state government today said organizers were expecting a crowd “in excess of 65,000” in the 83,500-seat stadium first built for the 2000 Sydney Olympics. California Memorial Stadium, which the Golden Bears call home, has a capacity of 63,000.

There were a lot fewer than that today when a bevy of Australian football players, including rugby union stars Israel Folau and Bernard Foley, Australian rules footballer Gary Rohan and Western Sydney Wanderers soccer player Shannon Cole, were among those trying to kick the American football.

Also there was Sydney-born Colin Scotts, a University of Hawaii Rainbow Warriors alumni who played as defensive end and tight end in 1987 for the St. Louis Cardinals.

Organizers said Folau, Foley and Cole slotted successful field goals over the newly installed posts.

Many of the Cal Bears, including running back Tre Watson, are describing the game as a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

“A lot of us have never left the country, so we’re excited to see a new country and experience a new culture,” Watson said in quotes provided in a Cal Football news release. “We feel very blessed to be one of the two teams chosen to go on this trip.”

Cal cornerback Darius Allensworth said the Golden Bears, who began training Monday, will be aiming to provide entertaining football for many in the crowd who are unfamiliar with the sport.

“It adds a lot of fun to it,” Allensworth said. “It’s going to be fun playing in front of the fans … who may not know exactly what to cheer for.”

Jason Elam // AP
Jason Elam // AP

The neutral-site game will be the first college football game played in Sydney and the first significant American football game played in Australia since 1999 when the Denver Broncos beat the San Diego Chargers 20-17 on former UH all conference kicker Jason Elam’s 30-yard field goal on the final play of the game in the preseason American Bowl. Also played at the Olympic stadium, that game attracted more than 73,000 spectators.

It is the first college football game to be played in Australia since BYU defeated Colorado State in 1987 in Melbourne. Then, a crowd of 7,652 watched BYU’s 30-26 win at the 32,000-seat Princes Park stadium, far less than the 20,000 organizers had hoped.

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