It has been a landmark year for Paul Manera, the Broken Hill born former college football star. With the sports company he runs with wife Elissa going from strength to strength, and an induction into the Far West Sporting Hall of Fame earlier this year, Mr Manera has received yet another accolade – he’s been named the national team coach for Australia’s women’s Flag Football side.
Flag Football is a variation of American football where instead of tackling opponents physically, players remove a flag or a belt from the ball carrier to end a down. It is designed to be a non-contact game that emphasises running, passing, and agility. The sport is often used as an introductory form of football for children but is also popular among adults for recreational and competitive purposes.
“It’s a real honour,” Mr Manera told the Truth. “Anytime you get to play or coach for your country. It is a great challenge, and I am really looking forward to it.”
After a rigorous application process the former University of Hawaii offensive tackle is looking forward to a special journey with the first ever national side Australia has produced in the fledgling sport.
“It’s really special. Flag Football is a growing sport. We’ve been teaching it in schools for the last 16 years and for the sport to now have a national team that goes overseas and competes in tournaments. I think that’s pretty special,” Mr Manera told us.
The first assignment for Coach Manera and his team is at the Intercontinental Cup in Malaysia beginning in October. And being the first just adds to the excitement.
“We are setting a platform and a foundation for future Australian teams to follow,” he points out.
That platform and foundation has been under construction for quite some time now, with national combines already held to identify the best athletes and a tournament being held in Sydney this weekend (Gridiron New South Wales International Flag Football Tournament) will help find the best talent from around the country to represent Australia in Malaysia in October.
“We will check out the film from that tournament and start to identify who the best players in the country are and start with train-on squads in each state and pick our final squad for the Continental Cup from there.”
The three-day Continental Cup tournament will be held in Kuala Lumpur over three days, with Mr Manera’s side, once selected, to have a five-day training camp prior to the competition starting.
“That’s the platform for establishing us as an international flag football nation. And from there, we switch our focus to future tournaments such as the World Championships and striving to qualify for the 2028 Olympics in Los Angeles.”
With scholarships now available at US Universities for talented female flag football players, now is the time for any interested Aussies to get involved in the game.
“There’s definitely a pathway for people who are aspiring to get an education, they can play women’s flag football in the USA at a university, get a scholarship and get a free education,” Mr Manera said.