American Football in Austria: One Season with the Styrian Reavers

Upper Austria, October 23, 2021: Defensive lineman Jeffrey Owie leaves the locker room without another word. He, too, cannot believe the events of the last few hours. Even if other players can joke again while having a beer, the emotion is at an unexpected low. Actually, nobody had expected the loss to the Gladiators and the end of the season at the first round of the playoffs. But American Football is American Football. And often it’s the little things that make the difference between victory and defeat. In this case it was probably 2 or 3 minor mistakes in concentration that crept in after a long and exhausting season.

But let’s start at the beginning. I accompanied the Reavers season from southern Styria as a team photographer, and together with Eva Ganster, I captured the highlights of each game day. A task that means a lot of time on the road and on the sideline of the football field. The Styran Reavers season was far from unsuccessful and I got to work with a team that was very difficult to beat. The season started with a 26-0 win in Aspernhofen against the Blue Hawks. In the pouring rain it was not only a fight on the field, but also a fight against the weather for me, because I had to improvise and wrap my camera in a plastic bag to defy the wetness halfway. But it was precisely because of the rain that the absolute highlight shots of the year were taken here. But I also noticed that i was a bit rusty and some of the shots were simply not that perfect. Part of my equipment was also new for me, because after much deliberation I treated myself to the Canon 300mm f2.8 L lens, which was on the camera for most of my shots this season.

Football is Family

One thing became immediately clear to me on the first day of the season. The Reavers are a family. But not only the Reavers, but also the entire football scene in Austria is one big family. As hard as you face each other on the field, things are as fair off the field. Regardless of whether it is the obligatory kneeling as long as an injured player is on the field, or the common flag run after the game, sportsmanship is very important and also makes up a large part of the fascination of the sport. This was reflected in so many situations during the season.
So it didn’t matter at all that in the fourth quarter of the close playoff game between the Gladiators and the Reavers a Reavers receiver was lying on the ground with cramps, because the two Gladiators defensive backs were immediately there to help.
Or the kid who had sparkling eyes when the Reavers team signed his football and told him that Defensive Liner Flo Sudi also plays on the national team. It didn’t matter that the little boy was actually a Blue Hawks fan, he just saw the strong guys as heroes, regardless of which team they came from.

That Gameday Feeling

First home game of the Reavers in Tillmitsch: Running back coach Marcel grins at me: “It’s gameday. And gameday is always awesome. Sun 25 degrees – awesome, because gameday. Rain, 5 degrees – also awesome, because gameday!”. Words that hit the feeling perfectly on days like this. American football isn’t just a sport, it’s all the trimmings. Starting with the warm-up where you can feel the hype of the players and meet friends again when the fans arrive and philosophize about the upcoming game, and end long after the final whistle, where either the victory is celebrated with beer and hot dogs or the defeat is processed and the motivation for the next game day is built up. Regardless of whether for the players or for me as a photographer: The game demands extreme performance in terms of concentration. Therefore, the subsequent drink with friends is always the perfect cool down.

By the way, there was also the cold shower on this Gameday # 2 when the Legionaries from Lower Austria brought the Reavers the first defeat since entering the league. But there are also those days when nothing works in football. Here it only helps to forget the defeat and go to the next game with a set of extra motivation. And the early wake-up call in the season helped too. Because until the end of the regular season it was the last defeat.

One of the personal highlights was the last home game against the Blue Hawks, where around 500 fans turned the Julius Meindl Stadium in Ragnitz into a true football festival. With 47-7 the highest victory in the club’s history would only be missed by a single point. Even the 25 degrees on this autumn day were perfect weather to spend a cozy Sunday afternoon with family or friends and see lots of big plays – both on the offensive and on the defensive. MVP (Most Valuable Player) and the most secure player that day was offensive lineman Stefan Sudi, who, despite his own wedding the day before, was in top shape, played the whole game and was like an impenetrable wall on the offensive line.

That Sudi is generally a tough dog was shown in the next game against the Carnuntum Legionaries. Because in a game that was mainly about the revenge for the home defeat, he broke his finger in the middle of the second quarter, but simply let it be taped to the adjacent finger and finished the rest of the game. And if it were the Reavers who made mistakes the last time, it were the Legionaries who made too many mistakes that day. DB Noah Navarro had three interceptions and became the game winner for the Reavers.

I also realized that a season can be very long with only 6 games. Because photo days with long car rides also demanded a lot from me. Especially because the photos should be finished and uploaded on the same day. And the two to three thousand photos that I took on such a day also have to be copied, viewed and edited.

But the Reavers should also have to contend with a lot of failures during the long season. As a rule of thumb, one can say that at least one player on the team is injured so badly that the season is over for him per game. The Reavers lost a few key players in some positions who could woulg have been useful in the playoffs.

So the season ended one gameday too early. But the playoff defeat in Ried is only one stop on the way up, because the Reavers will hunt Iron Bowl Title in Division II next year. One thing I could tell the day after the end of the season: The Reavers Family is hot for a rematch against the Gladiators next year.

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