Gridiron: Raiders set sights on top flight

The power may have gone out at the Super Bowl earlier this month but it's surging at the Northern Raiders.

The Reservoir-based team plays American football, better known in Australia as gridiron. It competes in the Gridiron Victoria American Football League and despite the lack of a following here compared to Australian Rules, it is making its mark in the north.

"We originally formed as a Facebook page in 2010," says Raiders president Mario Herodotus. "We were training in Greensborough at the time and a lot of kids started coming down. I can remember getting there one night and seeing about 60 people there, for gridiron training."

The Raiders played their first match in 2011 and ended up winning the division two Victorian Bowl championship game. The success continued well into last year before they fell at the penultimate hurdle, losing in the playoffs.

Herodotus is in his second year as president and says the goal for 2013 is to move into division one.

"It's quite involved," he says. "It's about the club being ready to move up a grade and it is very financially difficult to run a gridiron club. It can be hard finding players, coaches and sponsors but we've got all those things lined up well and feel like we can move forward."

The Raiders also have a women's team - "not a lingerie team, a real team" - as well as juniors, and hope to establish a reserves side

Herodotus says the main battle faced by gridiron clubs is buying equipment.

"It's impossible to find things," he says. "We can't buy pads or footballs here. Everything we need has to come from the United States. When you approach sponsors and tell them you're a gridiron club they say; 'I don't know that sport'."

Finding players, however, has not proved as hard. Herodotus says aside from a small handful of Americans, the majority of the club's members are from Oceania.

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