How do Aussie NFL players watch the AFL and NRL Grand Finals?

Adam Gotsis fondly remembers the tribalism and tradition of AFL Grand Final day.

As a boy in Melbourne, the Denver Broncos defensive end played Australian rules football before gravitating to American football in a journey that took him to the other side of the world when Denver selected him 63rd in the 2016 NFL draft.

The 25-year-old "grew up in a Collingwood-Richmond household" yet somehow became a fierce North Melbourne fan and still does all he can to follow the sport he played as a kid, despite the tyranny of distance and challenging time zones.

Saturday and Sunday mark the AFL and NRL Grand Finals in Melbourne and Sydney respectively, a weekend where almost a combined 200,000 fans cram into the Melbourne Cricket Ground and Sydney's ANZ Stadium, while millions watch the television broadcast. And while the annual Melbourne Cup horse race is billed as "the race that stops the nation," Grand Final weekend brings the sports-loving country to a standstill.

Inside the 100,000-seat MCG cauldron on Saturday, fanatical Collingwood and West Coast supporters will be riding waves of emotions and screaming their lungs out as their teams fight for the ultimate prize in Aussie rules. Bars and loungerooms across Australia will be similarly crammed with fans of the competing teams, plus neutrals, who hang on every second until a premier is crowned some three hours after the first bounce.

Balancing NFL prep with AFL passion

About 14,000km away from the bubbling hub of Aussie rules, Gotsis -- like many of his fellow expats living in the U.S. -- will try to find a way to follow Australia's biggest annual sporting weekend. He will have to balance his preparations for the Broncos' clash against Kansas City during Week 4 of the NFL on Monday. The AFL Grand Final will start at 10:30 pm on Friday night, Denver time.

"I played Aussie rules football my whole life basically -- I was a big North Melbourne supporter but grew up in a Collingwood-Richmond household," he told ESPN. "My memory [of that time] would be just going to the footy all the time with my brother or friends; that was the thing growing up, what you do all the time. Just a group of your boys in high school, go down to the footy, hang out, be together.

"[I will] definitely, definitely [be watching the Grand Final]. There are few Aussie mates I know (in the U.S.) and they've all got [the AFL's streaming service] so when my brother came over, he hooked it up for me. I stream a couple a games, but [sometimes] they're on at bloody 3 a.m! You can watch the replays [but] to watch it live, dude, you've got to be ready to be up at 3 a.m. so it's a bit tough. I always try to watch a bit of footy during their season when I can.

"I miss it, I miss playing it. it was fun. All my friends played it growing up and that's probably my childhood memory, being out there playing it. There is a local team here, the Denver Bulldogs, and I met up with a few of them, I'll try to get out to a game of theirs this year. They've sent me a jersey and a T-shirt, some really good guys playing a great game.''

An Aussie walks into a bar in New York ...

New York Jets punter Lachlan Edwards also played Australian rules football growing up. The St Kilda supporter said there was no way he'd miss out on the biggest match of the year although he was unsure whether he'd be able to watch it live on his streaming service or at his favourite Aussie bar in New York.

"It's basically as big as sport gets in Australia," he told ESPN. "The (MCG) holds 100,000 and that'll be jam-packed ... it's basically a nationwide event. It's a smaller scale than the Super Bowl, but it's very similar in how people treat it.

"[I watch the games on something] kind of like the NFL Game Pass -- it's similar with the AFL. There's actually a pub in the city called The Australian. If I'm in Manhattan, I'll stop by and have a beer and watch a game [or] they'll put a game on replay. I'm pretty cool with the owner there now, so if I go there, he'll put on a game. When I'm in Manhattan, I'll stop by, see what's up and have some Australian food."

Seahawk a Magpie for a day

Fellow punter Michael Dickson, who is creating a buzz at the Seahawks with his creative bag of kicking tricks, is another who'll be trying to find a way to watch the AFL decider, especially as the team he supports, Collingwood, made it through to the big game after a stunning upset win over reigning premiers Richmond last Friday night.

As a young man growing up in Sydney, Dickson showed enough promise in junior footy to spend time with the Sydney Swans talent academy as a teenager. He nominated for the 2014 AFL draft but was overlooked, provoking a decision to pursue a punting career.

A keen Collingwood supporter, Dickson says while "it's so hard to keep up with [the major storylines of the season] just because of the time difference and everything," he'd be finding a stream to watch his Magpies play off.

"The Grand Final was always pretty big for my family and my close friends playing that sport," the 2017 Ray Guy Award winner told ESPN. "My favourite team [is] Collingwood. They won it in 2010 and that was massive. That was the first one I ever saw my team win, and then they got back there in 2011 and ended up losing it. So yeah [it's] always massive."

A day after the AFL decider is won and lost at the MCG, the NRL hosts its Grand Final at ANZ Stadium.

A Storm you can love

Jordan Mailata, offensive tackle with reigning NFL champion Philadelphia, played with the South Sydney Rabbitohs in the NRL's under-20 competition before a dramatic code-switch let to him being selected in the 2018 NFL draft. His rugby league career is now firmly in the rear-view mirror but the 21-year-old will be hoping to catch the decider between the Sydney Roosters and Melbourne Storm, who he compares to the perennially successful New England Patriots in the NFL -- except for one key difference.

"There's always one team that seems to make it [to the Grand Final] -- the Melbourne Storm," he told ESPN. "They're probably like the Patriots -- that's who we refer to them as. They're always in the Grand Final for some reason, [they are] just really good.

"[But] they're not hated, you just can't hate them. You can hate the Patriots, but you can't hate the Storm."

While still an avid NRL fan, the difference in time zones, plus the demands of training, means he's unsure whether he'll be able to watch the decider live.

"It just depends on the schedules," he said. "If I have time to watch it [I will]. If I don't, I'll have to watch the highlights. If I have the day off, I'll stay up and watch it on the livestream. It just depends, really. It's out of my control."

ESPN reporters Rich Cimini, Brady Henderson, Jeff Legwold and Tim McManus contributed to this report.