Yarra Glen footy player representing Team USA

Max DePina having a chat with a broadcaster at the 2017 International Cup. (Supplied)

By Dongyun Kwon

A Yarra Glen footy player is flying off to Toronto, Canada to represent his country in three weeks.

Max ‘Thunder’ DePina is representing Team USA in the 2024 Transatlantic Cup in August.

DePina said he is excited to get the opportunity to represent his country.

“I first represented the US in the 2017 International Cup that was put on by the AFL in Melbourne,” he said.

“That tournament would run every three years and the next tournament was going to be in 2020 and, unfortunately, Covid postponed that and then ended up getting it fully cancelled.

“I’ve been waiting for the opportunity since moving to Australia in 2018 to prepare for the 2020 International Cup and then I decided to stay here since then.”

Protiviti, the company that DePina is working for, transferred him to the Melbourne office to continue to work in Australia while having Australian rules football experience.

DePina specialised in water polo in high school but he fell out of love with the water and swimming when he was in university.

He said he was looking for other sports to get in and started playing basketball a little bit and finally got into Aussie rules footy.

“It was while I was on a trip that I was turning the channels and the AFL came on TV,” he said.

“My first time ever seeing the sport, I had no idea the rules, but I was fascinated.

“I found the United States Australian Football League and there was a footy club in Seattle, my hometown.”

DePina ended up playing for the Seattle Grizzlies for a number of years who encouraged him to try out for Team USA for the 2017 International Cup.

Since he moved to Australia in 2018, he has played for different footy clubs including Melbourne University Blacks Football Club and Fitzroy Football Club.

“I’ve always wondered what it was like to play more regional, country footy,” DePina said.

“I’ve taken the opportunity to play with Darwin Buffaloes in the Northern Territory.”

DePina finally joined the Yarra Glen Football Netball Club this year after persistent persuasion from the club’s senior coach.

“The footy community is such a cool community that is so welcoming someone that didn’t grow up with the sport,” he said.

“I’ve always been welcomed everywhere that I go and embraced with open arms that either people are willing to teach me or give me the opportunity to play. I can’t appreciate that any further.

“I also want to shout out the AFL for bringing back the international competition because it is something that allows players like me to strive towards a greater goal and continues to grow the game around the world.”