Four Roughnecks join NLL all-stars Down Under

WES GILBERTSON

, Last Updated: 11:41 AM ET

Andrew McBride has a message for diehard followers of Australia's most popular spectator sport.

You're going to love box lacrosse.

"If you look at Australian rules football, it's fast, it's hard-hitting, it's lots of energy and the fans love it," he said. "To have something similar, along the same pace, I think the fans in Australia are going to jump right on to this."

McBride is one of four Calgary Roughnecks en route to Australia for the National Lacrosse League All-Star Series, a two-game showcase starting Friday (Oct. 24) that features some of the best players on the globe.

Riggers sniper Dane Dobbie, transition specialist Jeff Shattler and defender Bruce Codd will also suit up for the West at Hisense Arena in Melbourne, joining the likes of Edmonton Rush teammates Brodie Merrill and Ian Hawksbee and Jeff Zywicki of the Washington Stealth.

Team East is headlined by Rochester Knighthawks stars Gary Gait and John Grant Jr., Buffalo Bandits sharpshooter Mark Steenhuis and Calgary's Geoff Snider of the Philadelphia Wings.

"I heard about it in the summertime and they asked if I wanted to go and I was like, 'You just let me know where I've gotta go and I will meet you there,' " Shattler said. "I think it's a big opportunity for the guys that are going. I think it's going to be a great experience and I hope we can put a good show on for the fans."

It's not like the all-star contingent is starting from scratch.

Australia's rich field lacrosse history dates back more than a century to 1907, when they hosted Team Canada in an international showdown in Melbourne.

The Aussies remain competitive on the grass pitch, having finished third behind Canada and the U.S. at three consecutive world field lacrosse championships.

In fact, a handful of home-grown talents have been picked to round out the rosters for this weekend's two-game all-star set.

Among them is Eltham Panthers defender Keith Nyberg, who attended training camp with the Riggers last season and is thrilled to welcome some of the world's best lacrosse players to his own back-yard.

"This event puts lacrosse on the main stage in Australia for the first time ever, rather than being pushed into the background by Australian rules football, rugby and soccer," Nyberg said. "It will show the public what a great sport lacrosse is, and hopefully give the exposure to encourage young kids to take up lacrosse. It is going to be a fantastic display of the world's best players.

"It will have lots of fast and furious action, with plenty of hits, hard checking, and spectacular goals. I'm sure all the spectators here in Australia will become fans of the sport when they see it live."

While Nyberg failed to crack Calgary's veteran-laden lineup last winter, several Aussies have suited up in the professional ranks in North America.

McBride figures there could be others on the way.

"It's going to be a step in the right direction for lacrosse in Australia."

WES.GILBERTSON@SUNMEDIA.CA


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