Road to Super Bowl LVI: The Australian stars playoff-bound in NFL

Jordan Mailata is one of three Australian's who could take to the field in the NFL playoffs this weekend (Photo: Philly_Nation/Twitter)

The NFL playoffs begin on Sunday morning for Australia, with three Aussies set to take the field in this year’s playoffs.

From thumping punters to giant offensive tackles, these three have also gone through a lot to make it to the big stage. Here’s The Inner Sanctum‘s profile on all three players flying the Australian flag this playoff season.

Arryn Siposs – Philadelphia Eagles

He’s played at the top level of Aussie Rules in Australia, but now ex-St Kilda player Siposs is set for one of American Football’s biggest stages.

Like all NFL players he spent three years at college. However, unlike some Australians, his name is recognised a little bit more.

It’s a familiar name to Saints fans, with Siposs playing 28 games in five seasons for them. Along the way he picked up a Rising Star nomination in 2012 as well as kicking 22 goals.

After being delisted in 2015 and after nearly two years out of the system, he received and committed to an offer from Auburn University in Alabama.

After three years with the Tigers, he was signed by the Detroit Lions. He spent most of his time there on the practice squad, eventually signing for the Eagles in January, 2021.

Making his debut on opening day of 2021 in the Eagles match away to Atalanta, he hasn’t looked back since. Punting in all but one game this season, he’s averaged 151 yards per game and 43.9 yards per punt.

Photo: St Kilda Saints

He played one of his best games against their next opponents the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, punting five times for 220 yards.

Siposs will be a vital component of what the Eagles need to do to win – if he can pin Tom Brady and the heavily favoured Buccaneers to poor field position when they start their drives, Philadelphia could cause one of the upsets of the season.

Jordan Mailata – Philadelphia Eagles

The youngest of the Australian trio, Mailata has made a name for himself in a strong Philadelphia offensive line.

From Bankstown in the south west of Sydney, he originally was a rugby league player in his youth. He even played a season with the South Sydney Rabbitohs Under 20s.

Despite being offered a reserves contract with the Rabbitohs, he declined. However, after NFL executives saw videos of him playing the league game, they offered him a try out with their International Player Pathway Program.

Eventually, the Eagles selected him at pick 233 in the 2018 NFL Draft. It was difficult for him to break through into the offensive line, which had guided Philly to win the 2018 Super Bowl, but he wasn’t expected to start with the word ‘project’ attached to him over his first few seasons having never played a snap in his life.

When 2020 hit though he got his chance after star guard Brandon Brooks tore his achilles in June. Making his debut in Week 1 against Washington he played in 13 games, conceding the most sacks among their linemen with seven but showed potential that he could be a starting-calibre offensive lineman.

After lineman Jason Peters left for Chicago, head coach Nick Sirianni named Mailata as their starting left tackle – arguably the second-most important position on the offence as they protect the quarterback’s blindside.

This year he’s improved drastically, going from strength to strength and has the second highest Pro Football Focus ranking among offensive tackles (90.6).

This weekend though against the Buccaneers he’ll be up against a strong defensive line. But nevertheless it’s been a season of improvement for him, which also includes signing a four-year deal to stay with the Eagles.

Mailata has enjoyed a breakout season protecting quarterback Jalen Hurts, and he will be a staple of this Philadelphia offence for years to come.

Mitch Wishnowsky – San Francisco 49ers

The most experienced of the Australians, the 29-year-old has come a long way in his two years in the Bay Area.

From the south-east Perth suburb of Gosnells, Wishnowsky was born to New Zealand parents and played Aussie Rules in his youth. When he turned 18 though he gave it up due to persistent shoulder injuries.

He continued playing the flag version there with friends, with one of them having connections with the program Prokick. This program turned Australian rules players into American football players, which it did for Wishnowsky after only a year there.

Spending two seasons with Santa Barbara City College in California, he made the move to Utah. He won the Ray Guy Award (most outstanding punter in the US) in his first season, punting for a total of 8,004 yards in his three seasons with the Utes.

In 2019 he was then selected at pick 110 with the 49ers, signing a four-year contract with them. He punted in every game in his debut season for a total of 2682 yards as San Francisco made it to the Super Bowl that season.

Photo: San Francisco 49ers

Wishnowsky hasn’t looked back since that debut season, punting for the sixth most yards in 2020 (3093 yards). He’s also punted for a total of 8340 yards at an average of 45.6 yards per punt in his career so far.

The Western Australian has had a good 2021/22 season with the 9ers, who scraped into the playoffs in their final game of the season.

However, he is under an injury cloud for their trip to the Dallas Cowboys with concussion protocols. San Francisco will need Wishnowsky at his best to improve their chances, with kicker Robbie Gould needing to step up to punting duties if the Aussie can’t suit up.

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