6 weeks left. What started as 7 months is now down to 6 weeks. I have that much time to help my footy team win the flag for their second year in a row and say goodbye to all the amazing people I have met here. I know this time will fly by, so I need to make sure I am making the most of it.

A few weeks ago, the people here Did something I am still having a hard time wrapping my head around. Behind my back and in coordination with my parents, A few very special people here paid for my parents to come here and surprise me for a week in Gingin! We all met for what I thought was a birthday lunch for my coaches, but it turned out to be a front to surprise me. Needless to say I was beyond speechless, and the week they were here went by way too fast. Luckily they were able to see me play 2 games and able to meet all the amazing people I have been telling them about. I will never be able to thank these people enough for their generosity and love they have shown me. I know I will always have a home here in gingin with these people, and I plan to come back with my girl in the next few years to prove that these people actually exist! When I try to tell everyone back home how good I have it here I don’t think they believe me; thankfully now my parents can vouch for how amazing these people really are!

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So 6 weeks: 6 weeks till I see my parents again, 6 weeks till I see the USA again, and the biggest weight on my heart, 6 weeks till I see Gabrielle again. Can you imagine dating someone and falling in love with them for 2 and a half months, then not seeing them for 8 months? Needless to say when I see her in Florida for the first time I just hope I don’t throw up from excitement. I am more than ready to pick that part of my life back up, and my next task is to settle back down in Chicago so we can see where life takes us 🙂

Ok we have our last home game this Sunday, then one more regular season game before finals start. I will keep my mind and body focused on my training and weight lifting program with buzz, and I am ready to give all I have to help my team win the flag again this year!

Love you all, and will let you guys know how we pull it off!!

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Oi Mate!

Well I am now down to 70 days left here (I’m sure you could ask my girlfriend the exact amount of days, hours and seconds and she could tell you at the drop of a dime! Hey she misses me, no judgements!) We have our final few footy matches over these next few months, and at the moment I am with Sunny and crew up in Carnarvon on a fishing trip. When I return back to the Perth region on Thursday, I am meeting up with a USAFL Revolution Player Chip Price to join him and his team for a training session lead by Jason Akermanis (Ex-AFL player and former Brownlow Medalist) I’m really excited to see what he can teach me to be a better player, and I am excited to meet another American Footy Player. Next weekend we have a home game against Wongon Hills and I hope I am able to give another good performance for my team.

With such little time left here, I am starting to feel a little homesick and missing my family and friends and girlfriend specially. But having the people here that I do like Sunny and Buzz and Gecko and his Dad Dennis have made this place really feel like another home away from home. I know I will be back to visit these people and this smal Australian town, and I cannot wait till these guys come to Chicago next year to visit me! (that’s right Chicago Swans, these will be a heap of guys coming to Chicago in the beginning of July next year and they want a game! Let’s give them one!)

Alright all, keep the emails and Facebook communications coming. If Jake tell me one more time to “GET THE F*@K Home” on Facebook one more time I just may have to! Haha, just kidding. I am continually impressed with my girl and my family’s ability to be supportive of me and what I am doing here all this time, and I cannot wait to hug them in the Airport in Florida when I come home in September!

Here is a picture of what I’ve been doing this week. Today we caught nearly 62lbs of Snapper Fillets! Just the Meat! I will be taking a few pounds back to Gingin to eat in the next weeks.

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Nothing but love,

Jason

So now that I am well settled into my new life here, I seem to find it a little silly to write about my day to day activities. Really, I have settled into a solid routine here: work Monday to Friday 7:30 to 3:30ish, eat a bunch of eggs when I get home, work out or train or run, come home, text my girl and go to sleep. Fridays i help Buzz with AusKick where kids learn how to play footy. Saturday’s I rest and stretch, and then Sunday I play footy and try to not kill myself and then recover the rest of the night. Pretty simple, solid weeks, and my body and mind are happy because of it. I am slowly but surely getting in the best shape of my life physically, becoming a better footballer than I could have ever imagined, and am able to save a bit of cash so when I come home I will have some money to get me back on my feet. I am happy with my life here, yet at the same time know that in a little over 3 months I will be ready to get back home to Chicago and get back to the life I left 🙂

I guess something I could report back on was our game 2 weeks ago. In possibly the worst weather conditions I have ever played in, the Gingin Eagles played the Toodyay Lions up at Toodyay. The wind was blowing about 150 miles per hour, the rain was coming down in buckets, and the field looked more like a mud wrestling pit with 4 posts at each end. The first game we played this year, we faced Toodyay at Gingin and they beat us. Toodyay was also the team that Gingin beat last year in the Grand Final to win the Flag. Needless to say this was a MUST WIN game on all accounts.

We smashed them every single quarter. Possessions after possession, tap after tap, and contest after contest. As a team,web eat them and it felt awesome!

Sunday night we had our presentation night and the awards were given for that game. Much to my surprise, I was awarded as 4th best on ground for the side that day! That.felt.awesome.

Alright I guess that is all for now. The eagles are now on a 6 game winning steak and we are kicking some ass! I still love all the support and kind words I get from all of you via Facebook and emails and such.

For everyone who doesn’t know (and that would be everyone except Gabrielle and my mother 🙂 haha) I am Stateside in 96 short days. While I cannot wait to see you all, I am already a little sad to have to leave this place and these people. I know I will be back here to visit later in life, and I hope most of these guys here get a chance to visit me in the states.

Alright I will try to keep you all up to date a little better than I have been! Miss you all!

-Jason

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So first and foremost I apologize about the laps in these blogs. This last week I had the incredible and amazing opportunity to travel to Melbourne with a bunch of guys from my footy team. I flew down on Saturday with Sunny, Moey and Ruley, while most of the other guys flew in the night or the day before. After the 4 hour flight we caught a quick cab to our Hotel in St. Kilda and then raced to the MCG, the biggest Footy stadium in Australia to see the Sydney Swans play the Richmond Tigers. although Sydney lost, it was still an incredible experience!

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After the game, the 4 of us raced to the other stadium in Melbourne, Etihad Stadium, to see the West Coast Eagles (Perth’s local team) play the Bombers. In another upset the Eagles lost, but it was still an incredible game at another incredible Stadium.

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That night a bunch of the boys went to the casino and I joined them for a while, but after traveling all day I was pretty buggered and just wanted to get some sleep. The next day I woke up and had a quick lift, and then before we knew it we were off to another game. That day we went to go see the Western Bulldogs play the North Melbourne Kangaroos. rusty on our Gingin Team is mates with a player from the bulldogs, and was able to get us tickets to the friends and family section of the game at Etihad. That game was a really intense game, and while I didn’t really barrack for either team, it was a good example to see some great footy played.

The following day was one I was looking forward to for a while. A few weeks ago I emailed the Collingwood football club saying I was an American in Aus and would be visiting Melbourne to see some footy, and would love to come by for a tour of the facilities if possible. Well go figure they emailed me back and said “come on by!” that morning I took Ruley with me and we saw the Wespac Center, the training facility of the Collingwood Magpies. The entire squad was there recovering from the match the day prior, and most just waved to me when I walked by and waved to them. At the end of the tour I was allowed to hold and take pictures with the 2010 Premiership Cup the Pies won that year. A pretty surreal experience!

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That night we as a team all went to the Carlton Vs St Kilda game at Etihad stadium. What a game that was! St Kilda ended up with the win, and was a great way to end the trip with the team.

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The next day I left my team as they flew back to Perth so I could fly to Sydney. In Sydney I was fortunate enough to be set up to get to meet 2 professional Footy Clubs, the GWS Giants and The Sydney Swans. That Wednesday I woke up early and caught the train out to Rooty Hill and walked to the Giants Facility. Through a connection set up by Al Macglashin, I was able to meet Lachlan Buzsard, the Acadamy Manager for the GWS Giants, and see the team and the club. I got to see Dynal Shiel and Izzy train on the Field, and afterwards got to have a chat and take a picture with AFL Legend Kevin Sheedy, the head coach of the Giants.

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The next day was the day I have been looking forward to since the day I came to Australia. That morning I walked to the SCG (Sydney Cricket Ground) to see the Sydney Swans. Just before I left Chicago our Footy Club decided to once again become joined with the Sydney Swans and become the Chicago Swans again! With this new reunion, I was sent as the ambassador to the Swans to officially welcome the new partnership. After a quick interview with the Swans Media, I was able to sit in the Stands with AFL legend Adam Goodes and watch a live training session. Our main contact at the Swans, Jared Crouch reserves coach, gave me a tour of the facilities and organization. Jared played for 10 years with the Swans and is now plays a key role in developing young talent for the Sydney Swans. Jared has been kind and generous with the Chicago Footy team, and has really made me feel proud to be a Swan.

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After my quick trip to Sydney, and having caught up with my old friend Pete, I jumped a quick flight back to Melbourne to see my beloved Pies take on the Geelong Cats. the Collingwood Football Club swung me 2 tickets to see the game from some premium seats, and what a game it was. I had a friend of a friend use my other ticket, and him being from Chicago as well just made the whole night better! With the Pies winning the game it was a great end to an amazing week!

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The final piece of the puzzle that needed to be done was waiting for me when I flew back to Perth that weekend. After landing in Perth on Saturday, the very next day I had a game with my team the GinGin Eagles. Well needless to say that game we played like we have never played before, and came away with a win against the undefeated team in the competition! Couldn’t have been a better way to cap out the week and the experience as a whole!

Needless to say I am 5 days away from being halfway done with this whole experience. Through the help of Big Al, Tony, my coaches and team mates, and friends I have met, I am amazing myself day after day how lucky I am. I could never have imagined this experience would be as amazing as it has been, and only being half way through there is still plenty of time for more to happen.

Thank you all for your continued support and love you all send through emails and Facebook, and please know I read everything you send me. It really means a lot!

Love you all and will talk to you soon,

Jason
(or “America!” as my team mates call me! Haha)

First of all, so sorry for waiting this long to write another blog. Been pretty busy with the start of the footy season, and with a pretty rough start,my focus has been on improving my skills and fitness.

Our first game at home was a huge slap in the face to what I have gotten myself into here. Playing the team that the Eagles played last year in the grand final, these guys from Toodjay drove to Gingin with one purpose: beat Gingin. They came out hitting hard, and playing very well, and when the dust was settled they came out on top by 12 points. While I do not feel I played poorly, I do know that my gave my best effort which still seemed subpar to the skills the rest of my team mates. I know they have years or experience over me, but I still don’t like feeling like I didn’t contribute much to my team. Needless to say it was a hard loss on everyone, and the team got a wake up call that this season would not be a walk in the park. Just to remind you all, Gingin went 12-0 last year and won most of their games by a lot! Obviously this season is off to a different start.

The following week we all made the 2.5 hour drive north east to Delli. The drive was long, but we rocked up with a healthy side including the aged but still incredibly talented and strong Buzz Fewster. Filling our forward pocket, Buzz took mark after mark and kept our side on the board all game. While the score was close for most of the game, the sting from last week really got to us in the final quarter when we just started making the goals rain, winning the game by a landslide. Needless to say it was an enjoyable ride home after getting showered by the team in the locker room for experiencing my first Gingin win!

The following week we hosted Darin at home. Having lost our last game at home, the boys had a sense of urgency that we needed to win this game. Not just for ourselves, but for the town and fans who have shown up looking for a winning side. While I would like to report more on this game, this is about all I remember. I remember some of the ruck taps I had and some of the tackles I had, but in the middle of the 3rd quarter I went to tackle a guy and somehow we bumped heads and I saw stars! My trainer said I slowly got up, asked the umpire for water thinking he was a water by, and then stumbled off the field with the help of both trainers. They said I had what could be described as “jelly legs” and from the look of the footage I saw, another 10 ft of walking and I would have been down. I was sent off the field to shower up, and then diagnosed with a concussion. After the game I was having a hard time remembering where I was and what had happened that whole day. That sensation of being lost and confused nearly tore me apart, but luckly I was able to call Gabrielle and talk to her a bit and regain my composure and understanding of what was going on around me. That night we had our presentations and awards and dinner, but I couldn’t give you any details of that night. It is all a haze. With the help of Gecko, I woke up every 2 hours that night to make sure I was alright, and the next day I felt heaps better. I also realized the next day that at some point during the game I got a terrible cork in my left left that is still rendering me limping around and feeling like a wuss. Overall that day was horrible: lost the game, knocked out, and screwed up my leg. I don’t want to have another one of those days.

This Saturday, I am flying to Melbourne with around 15 team mates and our coach for a week away to see some great footy. We have the Sydney game on Saturday at the MCG, and then a few games at Etihed the rest of the weekend and Monday. Tuesday I am flying to Sydney to see a few training facilities and do an interview with the Sydney Swans on behalf of the Chicago Swans team I play for at home, and I am super excited about that. Finally Friday night, the 18th, I am flying back to Melbourne to see my beloved Pies hopefully smash the Gellong Cats. I bought tickets right behind the goals in the heart of the excitement. I once again cannot wait for this game!

I will do my best to stay more up on this so you all know what I’m doing. With the season started my head is really focused on footy and getting as good as I can get for not only my team here, but so I can contribute to my team at home at nationals this October. While I may adorn the eagles jumper this season, I never forget my team back home and what they mean for me. You blokes are the reason I am here, and I cannot wait to give back what I am learning.

Love you all, and please send messages/emails/texts whenever you can. You don’t know how much they mean to me, and how much I love reading news and love from back home.

Xoxo,
Jason

“Ponyboy”

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So I have been finding it funny the reaction I have been getting to these blogs. Most of my friends and family are telling me they love reading them and want me to write more so they can imagine what I am doing, while others have told me they can’t read my blogs anymore because it makes them feel like they are doing nothing with their lives. If you are one of those people who hates reading these because you keep saying “how the hell does this guy keep getting so damn lucky with everything???” then I would just stop reading this one now, because this is really going to piss you off. In an attempt to be as humble as possible, I recognize that by some weird lining of the planets or something I seem to always end up on the sunny side of situations. I don’t carry a rabbits foot or have a horseshoe tattoo (yet!), but my family and friends will tell you I have the uncanny ability to fall into a pile of shit and come out smelling like roses. I try to never count on this luck, but it always seems to help me out when I need it. Whoever or whatever is watching over me making sure good things always happen to me, thank you.

So last night was our final training and jersey presentation/players auction. Thursday night I went up to the grounds for a kick with some old guys and while taking a routine lazy mark from Sunny, ended up jamming/breaking the tip of my pinky. It is pressed between two Popsicle sticks right now and more purple than a beet root, but won’t effect my playing tomorrow. Either way training went well and afterwards the coach announced that I would be starting in Sunday’s game against Toodyay, the team the GinGin eagles played last year in the grand final and beat to win the premiership! Needless to say this team hates GinGin and is coming looking for a good hard match. Good thing is so am I 🙂

After the jersey presentation the team held their annual players auction. This fundraiser allows people to bid and “buy” players for the season. Should a person own the player who is voted “Best and Fairest” for the game (MVP for American lingo) wins money for that game! It is a good way for the club to make a bit of cash, and a good way should you buy players correctly to earn a bit of cash yourself! Good thing is my group was bought by our trainer, so should I need to be taken care of with muscle rub downs or taping I have a good feeling he will be looking after us first, as we are now an “investment” to him.

After the players auction is when the big news happened. I saw this guy pull up in this really flash car right outside of the hall we were having our banquet in. I thought “who does this guy think he is parking on the sidewalk???” Well he got out of the car, walked up to the front of the room and was introduced as the general manager of Prosser Toyoto here in WA. He said that his company has been talking with the GinGin Footy Club for a while, and through the work of my coach Christian Kelley and the supporters of the Football club (Glen Rule, Wayne Fewster, etc…) they have decided to provide a sponsored car for players participating in the exchange program. It took me a second to realize it, BUT THAT IS ME!!! They are giving me to drive while I am here in Australia, a brand new 2012 Toyota Camery Hybrid! All I pay for is gas, and they provide the insurance as well. This car has everything; keyless entry, keyless start, Bluetooth stereo, back up camera, and is brand new!!!! I took it for a spin last night and you can’t even hear it run when just the electric motor is kicked in! But when you put your foot on the gas she goes! Honestly, I felt like the luckiest man in the world last night. Ultimately they were saying “you flew to Australia to come play the sport you love; here is a brand new car” once again I ask you this mom: where is the horseshoe located on me??? How am I so damn lucky????

I am still feeling the adrenalin rush from last night, and today I am (once again more luck) going to the Subiaco Oval to go see the West Coast Eagles play the Hawthorn Hawks, for free. This is a huge, huge game here in Perth! The commissioner of the country footy league here in WA swung me two tickets so I could see my first AFL game the day before my first game here in Oz. I am taking Sunny, my boss, with me. He has been looking out for me since the day I showed up here employment wise, and I figured this would be a good way I could show him my appreciation back.

So now I am off to go help clean and get the field and change room ready for our game tomorrow here in GinGin, and then heading down with Sunny in my new ride to see the Eagles stomp the Hawks! I can feel my heart start to beat faster and faster just thinking about our game tomorrow, and will let you all know how it goes!

Thank you all for the support you are giving me over here. It really means a lot to hear from you all. If any of you Chicago boys have an iPhone and want to iMessage me at all, add jwilhel2@me.com as a contact and send me a message! Blows my mind I am able to stay in contact with so many people around the world through my iPhone.

Alright love you all and have to go. Here is my new ride 🙂

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Been almost 2 weeks since my last post, and while most things are the same (work, training, running, and lifting) there have been some new adventures I have gone on. First of all, the local newspaper did a story on me! I post a picture of the article below, so i will let you check it out! Over the Easter weekend, I made a trip out to the ocean to go camping with the Fewster’s. I drove out on Friday afternoon after some calls back home to my family and girlfriend, and met sticks on the side of the highway to park my car and drive in his 4X4 truck out to the ocean. Once there we had a quick bite to eat, then went down to the beach to play some beach cricket, kick a footy around, and fish for some dinner. While down there, I went surfing with stick’s sister’s husband. While out there Andrew turned to me and said, “did you ever think you would be here doing this?” and it really opened my eyes to all that I have accomplished in my life in 25 short years. And really opened my eyes to the fact that 2.5 months ago I decided to travel to the other side of the world to play some obscure sport no one in the states has really heard of, all on the faith of one man I met once that just said “get to Perth and I will take care of the rest” Some people thought I was stupid for doing this, others have shown envy for my courage to trust in the hope that “everything in life will just work out alright” I think this trip has solidified for me that when I make the best decision I can for my life time and time again, I can’t see how I won’t end up being happy with my life in the long run 🙂

After surfing we ate some dinner, had some drinks, and slept in swags on the sand. I had to leave early to get back to GinGin for work, and then worked both days, Saturday and Sunday. On Monday I was asked to come into work, but took advantage of the fact I was not scheduled to work and took the day off. A couple of people have told me about this place called “the pinnacles” which is an hour and a half drive north, and is suppose to be this land of exposed lime stone rocks in the desert. I was under the impression these rocks were like 20ft high, and while they were taller then me, they were not that big. But they were still impressive to see. I think the best part about going to the pinnacles though just the time away from everything and just having a good long drive and evening to myself. When I traveled around Europe I traveled most of the time by myself, and really started to love the time I spent with myself and my own thoughts. It is nice from time to time being around others and engaging in conversation, but at other times it is nice to just drive and see something new by yourself. Below are a few pictures I took while there, and I hope to put the rest up on Facebook soon.

On a footy update: training is going well. Had some good training last night with Buzz doing on the ground ruck work. I can feel myself getting stronger, and while I am still stuffing up a few kicks here and there in training, I now know that I can do better than than that and strive to kick, hand pass, and play as best I can. I am really, really ready for our match next Sunday against toodjay(?) and cannot wait to get the physical part of the game back. When I first came to GinGin I felt like I was way behind in my skills and fitness to fit in with this team, but I am really starting to feel like I am getting to the same level as these guys. I want to show these guys that what I may not have in experience, I can replace in effort and passion for the game.

Will let you all know how the first match goes, and hope to hear from you guys soon!

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