Canadian star praises gridiron Down Under
GOLD Coast Stingrays wide receiver Kevin Walsh came to Australia this year after playing a level below the Canadian Football League for the Toronto Titans.
But he rates Saturday's 23-8 win in the Gridiron Queensland Sun Bowl over the Bayside Ravens - the Stingrays' fourth-straight title - as one of his career highlights.
Walsh was one of the standouts alongside Gold Coast quarterback and Sun Bowl MVP, Damien Molloy, in front of a healthy crowd of over 1100 at the Easts Rugby League Club, Coorparoo.
The two linked up brilliantly all afternoon against the club that fostered the development of Jesse 'Tha Monstar' Williams - the hulking defensive tackle who is currently out injured on the Seattle Seahawks' roster.
Walsh has been blown away by the high skill level in the American game played Down Under.
"Oh man - it (winning the Sun Bowl) is up there. I've never been away from Canada to live, and to be out here and not lose a game and end it with a Sun Bowl, in front of all these great fans is so special," he said.
"I played the level under the CFL.
"It surprised me how good the players are and how knowledgeable the players are over here.
"The amount of knowledge every player had in every position was very eye-opening.
"Gridiron football is for real in Australia. Print that because it's true."
Walsh promised there would be more to come.
"I'm 30. I've had a couple of injuries, but now I'm healthy I feel like I'm 22," he said.
"My feet suggest that I'm 22.
"So as long as I feel like I can keep on going, I'll keep on trying to win this Sun Bowl here in Australia."
Molloy said winning in a Stingrays shirt never gets old, despite playing an integral role in the past four consecutive title wins.
"Some people might think it's the same old feeling winning again, but I'm more proud to throw on a blue jersey this year than I ever have," he said.
"People actually want to play for the Stingrays because of our culture, which is great because we get some great players like Kevin and Frankie (safety Frankie Rousselet) coming out and wanting to play for us.
"Me and Kevin developed a connection early on. He's my go-to guy, but props to the rest of them. They all work hard.
"Our whole receiving corps has worked so hard."
Molloy's willingness to run into much bigger opponents - for a diminutive quarterback - was on full show during the Sun Bowl.
"I love the contact, and I love the competitiveness it brings out in myself," he said.
"If I need two yards for a first down, I'll go looking for contact rather than run out of bounds.
"I sort of see myself as more of an unorthodox quarterback than anything."
Saturday's Sun Bowl was the first time in the code's history Down Under that it had instant replay on a big screen.
Fireworks also added to the colourful atmosphere.
"My first Sun Bowl was at Daisy Hill. A little rugby league ground, and no stadium like this," Molloy said.
"We didn't have instant replay, no internet stream. It makes me proud to play."
The women's Summerbowl was also a big hit, with the Logan City Jets taking the game 6-0, after it went into overtime.
And the Sunshine Coast Spartans triumphed 40-0 over the Stingrays at Colts level.
Molloy reflected on the rapid growth of the game in Queensland, since he first started playing the game in 2005.
"I'd love to see in the next five to 10 years we could have a professional league where you get paid to play and we can travel," he said.
"For Queensland, we used to have one-week long tournaments and play four games.
"In the girls' league we went from three teams to four, now it's six or seven this year.
"Every level of GQ is getting better and better each year."