Ziggy Gordon: Scottish defender on bushfires, Aussie Rules & beach life Down Under

Ziggy Gordon is relishing his new adventure in the A-League after leaving Hamilton
Ziggy Gordon is relishing his new adventure in the A-League after leaving Hamilton

"There have been days we've not been able to train because the air is so toxic. It's harmful to even be outside, never mind training at high intensity."

Ziggy Gordon has gone from a relegation battle with Hamilton Academical to an environmental crisis on the other side of the world.

Having swapped the Scottish Premiership for A-League side Central Coast Mariners last summer, the 26-year-old Scottish defender has watched in shock as a nationwide catastrophe unfolds.

Record temperatures and severe droughts have contributed to the worst bushfires Australia has seen in decades, killing at least 30 people, destroying more than 3,000 homes, scorching more than 15m acres and having a devastating effect on wildlife.

Gordon, who lives with girlfriend Joanna an hour's drive away from the nearest blaze, has been following the situation closely and is heartened by the way the community and country have rallied round in time of crisis.

"The air pollution, the smoke, is really affecting everyone," he tells BBC Scotland. "Sometimes it's ongoing for a couple of days and then it will clear up. It depends on what direction the wind is.

"There was about a week where every time you saw the sun it was orange - the smoke would just cover everything up. We've been very fortunate recently because it's rained a handful of times. But, before that, I don't remember it raining for almost two months.

"It's new to everyone, because when I speak to the locals, they've never seen anything like it. And they've had a lot more adverse weather conditions than any of us living in Scotland.

"All the community are doing what they can to raise money and help in any way. And that goes from the club to the players to things like cafes - the whole community coming together."

Why Aussie Rules rules

Having previously played in Poland with Jagiellonia Bialystok and then Pogon Siedlce, Gordon is that rare breed of Scottish footballer not afraid to follow a career path outside the British isles.

Seven months into his latest adventure, the former Accies and Partick Thistle man is adapting to life Down Under and expanding his horizons with the same enthusiasm that sees him snap into tackles as a rugged defender.

"I've been to the Aussie Rules football, it's brilliant," he says. "They're daft about sport here. I went to see the Magpies [Collingwood] when they came to Sydney.

"The entertainment value was second to none - you almost don't really care about what's happening on the pitch because they are doing so many things to increase the value of the ticket. There was half-time stuff, people going on the park to play Aussie Rules after the game. It was different class.

"I've been to Sydney, the Opera House, the Harbour Bridge. I'm hoping to do a bit of travelling and see what the rest of the country has to offer.

"We live a stone's throw away from one of the most beautiful beaches I've ever seen. I'd love to try surfing, but the fear of sharks…"

'It was 7.30pm and still 35 degrees'

Gordon, centre, has had to deal with record-breaking temperatures in Australia
Gordon, centre, has had to deal with record-breaking temperatures in Australia

The compact nature of the A-League means the Mariners are one place above the bottom but still in the mix for the play-offs, where the top-six sides fight it out to reach the grand final.

With the country in the midst of summer, and temperatures of 40C not uncommon, acclimatising to the oppressive heat is an ongoing challenge.

And, while away games in Scotland were at most a three-hour bus journey up the A9, the 8,000km round trip from Central Coast to Perth Glory is the equivalent of flying from Glasgow to Kazakhstan and back.

"We have to fly a lot, due to how vast the country is, and every away game is a three day lead-in," Gordon says. "There are even time differences in the country to get your head around.

"Most of the games are in the evening, but we played a couple of weeks ago at 7.30pm, there was no sun and it was still 35 degrees. We had a water break at 8.15 when it was almost pitch black. I've always been blessed with good fitness and that has been so pivotal to me playing out here."

With a further year left on his Mariners contract, he is settled for now and happy to to go with the flow in a career full of unexpected turns.

"I have enjoyed every game," Gordon says. "Because there is no relegation, a lot of the teams try to play a similar style. Very technical, passing it out from the goalkeeper. Every point is a prisoner in the Scottish league, the mentality is different here.

"I wouldn't say I want to experience as many different countries as possible, I just go where the best opportunity is.

"There are worse places to be living, but there are pros and cons to everywhere. We are very far away from friends and family. The beach and good weather can't replicate that."

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