Wing wills the competition to drive him further


GRIDIRON: Pittsburgh Steelers punter and Melbourne-born Brad Wing believes competition for his spot - in the form of another Aussie - will help him boot the ball even further this year.

Wing had an up and down rookie season at the famous NFL club in 2014, finishing 29th in gross yardage per punt (43.7 yards, or 39.96m), and 28th in the league at landing punts inside the opposition's 20-yard line.

Thus, the Steelers brought in fellow Aussie Jordan Berry to compete for his spot, with one to make the position his own by the NFL's season opener - the Steelers away to Super Bowl champions New England - on September 11 (AEST).

Wing produced two impressive punts for Pittsburgh in its 14-3 loss to Minnesota - its first game of the pre-season - on Monday (AEST).

The 24-year-old kicked for a total of just under 110m (averaging 55m) from two punts.

Berry was preferred for five punts for a total of 214m, with a lesser average of 42.8m.

But despite the competition, Wing is not viewing Berry's presence as a threat.

"He's a good punter. I think we're both just pushing each other, and that's the good thing about competition," Wing told APN.

"We're just trying to help each other as much as we can, while still understanding we're still competing for a job."

Last year, Wing shanked a 26.5m punt against Tampa Bay in the dying stages before the Buccaneers scored to win with seven seconds left.

But he also became the first Australian to throw for points in the NFL, after fumbling a place-kick hold for kicker Shaun Suisham, in his team's 43-23 win over Baltimore.

The former Aussie rules star, for the Sandringham Dragons in Victoria's TAC Cup, says he will be more consistent this year.

After displaying a strong arm which any quarterback would be proud of in that history-making play last year, Wing added being an NFL punter isn't just about being able to kick a long ball.

He hopes a stronger mentality and body will give him the edge he needs over countryman Berry, who is fast nipping at his heels for the punter's spot.

"I made it a priority to get in better shape and try and get more consistent, put on some weight and get stronger," Wing said.

"I did that this off-season and I'm feeling pretty good this year.

"It's just being more comfortable, just the experience of having that one year of 16 or 17 games under my belt.

"It's more of the mental side - being a bit more comfortable and more relaxed."

Topics:  nfl sport

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