Two scholarship players from the Solomon Islands have provided an energy injection for Palm Beach Currumbin this year.
With their flamboyant running and handball style game, ferocious tackling and huge vertical leaps, it is no wonder that the Palm Beach Currumbin Lions looked to the Solomon Islands when recruiting for 2012.
Thanks to a new scholarship program between PBC and the Solomon Islands AFL Federation, two talented SI players have been given the opportunity to learn the professionalism of AFL in Australia.
Freddie Una and David Tema, were awarded scholarships following a rigorous selection process including a written application and physical testing as well as an assessment of their leadership attributes and commitment to training.
Freddie and David appear to have had a real impact on the playing group at PBC as well, bringing a new enthusiasm to the game and providing players with new friendships and experiences.
Freddie has formed an integral part of the PBC Reserves side and has had a huge impact in their finals series.
PBC senior coach Darren Cresswell, said he feels the two boys have brought a new energy to the club.
“It’s been great to see Freddie and David come out of their shells and both seem to be playing with a lot more confidence,” Cresswell said.
Billeting David in his home has also had a personal effect on Creswell.
“I guess we take things for granted here in Australia,” he said.
“Hearing David’s stories on how hard things can be for him back home has been a great reminder for me of how lucky I am and I want to do whatever I can to give him (David) the best opportunity to succeed.”
AFL was introduced in the Solomon Islands in 2003 by Australian soldiers deployed to help restore order after years of ethnic struggles and political turmoil in the country.
While the sport remained idle for some time after that, in 2010 funds were raised to send a Solomon Islands AFL team to Tonga to compete in the South Pacific Cup.
The team performed well at the competition, knocking off a much more experience New Zealand team and catching the eye of AFL Asia Pacific Coordinator, Andrew Cadzow, who sent the country its first AFL Development Officer.
While in its infancy in the Solomon Islands, it is hoped that scholarship programs like the one with PBC will help to develop AFL in the country.