San Francisco 49ers’ Perth punter Mitch Wishnowsky has dismissed claims by New Orleans’ punter Tom Morstead that Australians shouldn’t have the right to receive US college scholarships at the expense of American teenagers.
Wishnowsky, who will play in the NFC Championship game tomorrow with victory sending the 49ers to the Super Bowl, joined San Francisco after playing for the University of Utah.
Trying to follow in Wishnowsky’s footsteps are more than 50 Australians, including former Fremantle forward Max Duffy, punting for US colleges this year.
Morstead said the situation was unfair.
“I just think they need to really look at that. A guy who has been an Aussie rules professional for eight years and comes over and steals a scholarship from a kid, I kind of have a problem with that,” Morstead told the Pat McAfee Show.
“It’s tough to look at a 30-year-old man and a 17-year-old kid where you’re looking at potential and say we know what we’re going to get physically with this guy, he’s already lived a life and had a few beers and we know he’s not going to go off the rails here and I just think it is a really unfair playing surface.”
Wishnowsky believes a clash of cultures led to confusion about Australian players attempting to break into the NFL.
The former WAFL reserves player is among a large group of Australians who didn’t have an elite sporting background before becoming a punter. But he believes the US system, which sees players drafted when they are older, is the reason for the comments.
“You go to college before you go professional whereas we are used to being 18 and competing with adults in AFL, rugby, soccer or anything like that,” he said.
“I think it’s just seen differently by Australians as it is set up in America. I can see 100 per cent where they are coming from.
“They’d even acknowledge that if it was roles reversed, they’re not going to turn down the opportunity. They’re more just saying there’s a loophole in the system, which I don’t think there is.”
San Francisco are attempting to win through to their first Super Bowl since 2012. They beat their opponents Green Bay 37-8 when they clashed in November.
Wishnowsky averaged 45.5 yards from his four punts that day and said he would stick to his standard routine tomorrow and avoid thinking about the high stakes.
“Hitting a good ball is the same in week one as it is now. Nothing really changes,” he said.
“I know what I have to do, what I know I can do, and it’s all sweet. I get nervous before any game. Not too nervous, although I don’t think the nerves are a bad thing. There’s no extra pressure.”
Wishnowsky’s clash will run on free-to-air TV on channel 7Mate from 7.30am.