Gridiron. NFL. American Football. Whatever the term you wish to describe the game being played in Monday’s Super Bowl, it’s kind of a big deal.
Here in Australia, for a handful of the NRL’s finest the day brings an abundance of nerves as the New England Patriots take on the Philadelphia Eagles in Super Bowl LII (that’s 52, for those of you who didn’t pay attention to the Roman numeral lesson in primary school) to be played in Minnesota.
The Patriots, led by five-time Super Bowl champion Tom Brady, are the favourites going into one of the biggest sporting events in the world, tipped to be watched by an audience of more than 110 million in the US alone.
However, it’s the underdog Eagles who will have the full support of West Tigers five-eighth Josh Reynolds and Penrith Panther Nathan Cleary on Monday morning Australian time.
“I’m a bit sick actually, I read everything,” Reynolds told NRL.com.
“I’m always on the NFL app, I sit and look up stuff on YouTube. I like finding out how the quarterbacks remember their plays, I’m fully into it.
“I first went over about three years ago, I was even lucky enough to get on the field at MetLife Stadium game after the New York Giants played the Eagles.”
For Cleary, if you take a moment to scroll through his Twitter account you’ll see the same thing: constant tweets and retweets about his beloved Eagles.
“That’s funny you bring that up because I looked through my timeline the other day and I thought ‘oh man, I look crazy’,” laughs Cleary.
While some NRL fans find the National Football League a tad frustrating, you can’t tear these two away from it.
“I do get how people find it hard to watch though. It’s long and can go for hours, but I love it,” Cleary told NRL.com.
“Every Monday I watch it, we always have it on in the background while we’re training at the gym.
“I initially got into NFL through my dad (West Tigers coach Ivan Cleary) but my interest and understanding of the game grew more by playing it on NFL Madden.”
For Reynolds, his introduction to the NFL came through his grandmother and uncle.
“When I was little my grandma would always visit America, so whenever she’d come back she’d always bring NFL gear back for me and I’d sit and watch it as a kid with my uncle who went for the Washington Redskins,” Reynolds said.
“He could never shake me from the Eagles though. From day one they have been my team.
“Then when I was old enough to make my own decision, Michael Vick was the quarterback for them and I used to love watching the way he’d run the ball and take opponents on.”
Cleary also credits Vick’s style of attacking football for initially becoming an Eagles fan.
“There was something about him. I still watch his highlights now, I’m a bit weird,” Cleary laughs.
“He was like only one of the running quarterbacks back then that I can really remember, he was so good at it.”
Reynolds also credits his passion for Eagles for the way the team grinds out wins week in, week out.
“They seem to be a team that plays for each other, and that’s a big thing for me about why I support them,” Reynolds said.
So has he had a chance to chat to Cleary about their shared passion for Philly?
“Well I’ve had a word to Ivan about Nathan, and he pulled out the ‘bandwagon’ tag,” Reynolds claims.
“He’s talking rubbish!” Cleary retaliates, laughing.
“Dad came home and he’s like ‘I stitched you up today, Josh came and asked me if you’re a real Eagles fan and I told him only this year’.”
But the question remains, with NRL trials now around the corner, will these two fanatics be able to watch the big game?
“Obviously if Ivan read this, hopefully he can give us Monday off, but I’d bet 100 per cent that’s not going to happen,” Reynolds laughs.
“Either way I’ll be doing the best I can to watch it on my phone and when I get home.”
Cleary also has his fingers crossed Monday’s training schedule will be kind to him.
“I’m hoping we get to watch it, I’ll be spewing if we don’t. Most weeks with the time of our training we’ve been catching the back end of games, so fingers crossed that’s the same come Monday,” he said.