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Broncos Heading to Australia

August 1, 1999

DENVER (AP) _ The Denver Broncos don’t profess to know much Australian history. They’re familiar mostly with the basics.

``They have kangaroos,″ quarterback Bubby Brister said on the eve of his team’s Sunday night flight to Sydney, Australia, where the Broncos will play the San Diego Chargers in an exhibition game.

``Kangaroos, koalas and the Crocodile Hunter,″ tight end Shannon Sharpe said. ``That’s about my extent on Australia.″

The country that is home to celebrities such as Nicole Kidman, Greg Norman, Paul ``Crocodile Dundee″ Hogan and Elle MacPherson will play host to its first NFL game, the American Bowl, on Sunday at Stadium Australia.

Getting there doesn’t promise to be half the fun.

The Broncos were scheduled to leave Denver at 10 p.m. EDT and fly 2 1/2 hours to Los Angeles before embarking upon a 14 1/2-hour flight to Sydney.

Because of the 16-hour time change, Monday will not exist for the players, coaches and the accompanying entourage. They were scheduled to arrive in Australia on Tuesday morning.

It’s an itinerary only Rip Van Winkle could love.

``They’ve told us when to fall asleep,″ defensive end Harald Hasselbach said. ``They’ll come around and hand out sleeping pills if you want them, so by the time you get there, you’re acclimated.″

Hasselbach, who has traveled to six continents, will be making his third trip to Australia. He was part of the Broncos’ advanced scouting group that visited Sydney in April.

He also went Down Under in 1997 after winning a nationwide photography contest.

``I wanted to go because that was the only continent that I hadn’t visited that’s visitable,″ Hasselbach said. ``We loved it. Now that we’re going again, I look at this as a tremendous opportunity.″

Still, how does a group of more than 100 people stay sane during 17 hours in the air?

``Play cards, watch movies. That’s about all you can do,″ Sharpe said. ``I’ll try to sleep, but I’m going to stay up for about 12 hours and aggravate everybody.″

``He can probably do that,″ running back Terrell Davis said. ``That’s his trademark, being loud on the plane and waking everybody up. I hope they put my seat far from his.″

Davis, the NFL’s reigning MVP, figures to be one of the more talented players in Australia this week, but he won’t be the most popular.

San Diego punter Darren Bennett is from Australia and the Broncos have agreed to sign punter Jon Ballantyne, an Australian who played in the NFL Europe League.

The pair, as well as curiosity, should help fill Stadium Australia, a 110,000-seat venue built for the 2000 Summer Olympics.

``I think they’ll like it,″ linebacker Bill Romanowski said. ``They’re big on rugby over there. That’s a tough game. You don’t wear pads. I think they’ll like the excitement and the hitting that football has to offer.″

Romanowski will be playing in his sixth American Bowl overall and his second with the Broncos, who have played exhibition games in London; Tokyo; Berlin; Barcelona, Spain; and Mexico City.

``I’m kind of looking forward to it,″ coach Mike Shanahan said. ``I’m not sure about the 16-hour flight of actually getting there. I think it will break up camp.

``I’m sure there’s a couple of vets that’ll go out and get a chance to see the culture a little bit. I’d like them to do that. I think we can get a lot of work done and have them enjoy themselves.″

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