SYDNEY >> With the usual touristy things — Opera House, Harbour Bridge and meeting mascot-sized koalas — out of the way, the California Golden Bears and Hawaii were set to continue their practice sessions in Australia on Wednesday ahead of the opening college football game of the season.
The midday Saturday game — prime time Friday night in the United States — will be held at Sydney’s Olympic stadium, where organizers expecting a crowd of more than 65,000.
On Tuesday, both teams were welcomed to the city at an Opera House reception. Cal coach Sonny Dykes and Hawaii coach Nick Rolovich were presented with Malibu-sized surfboards and some of the players posed for selfies with the iconic Opera House and bridge in the background.
After the festivities, both teams held workouts and Dykes said Cal got the kinks out during the fully-padded practice.
“The guys are getting acclimatized to Sydney time, so we had a good, intense practice and the guys worked hard,” Dykes said.
“Defensively it was one of the better ones we’ve had. Offensively I thought we were a little out of sync, but the guys were moving around well and I though mentally we were pretty sharp.”
Dykes said it was good to mingle with the Hawaii players at the Opera House welcome.
“It was a great activity, fun to see the guys from Hawaii,” he said. “It gets you thinking about the ball game when you see your opponent.”
Cal had a seven-win turnaround from the past two seasons, going from 1-11 in 2013 to 8-5 last year.
Hawaii, with former quarterback Rolovich in his first season as coach, is the most travelled team in U.S. college football. The Rainbow Warriors will play again on Sept. 3 when they make their first appearance at the Big House, taking on Michigan in Ann Arbor.
In the meantime, he’s happy to make his coaching debut Down Under and give his players a unique lifetime experience.
“If they kick me out of my country, I’m coming here, save me a room,” Rolovich told local media. “How many people get to play their first game in Australia in Sydney? Your grandkids aren’t going to believe you that you got to do this in September when you’re 20 years old.”