Contributed by: Ben Leahy
Like Michito Sakaki and Tsuyoshi Kase last year, two young Japanese Samurais from the JAFL's Tokyo league have spent two months joining the AFL’s Essendon Football Club in pre-season training. Hiroyuki Toyama, aged 20, and Hiroaki Seino, aged 21, both joined Bombers training following the Aboriginal All-Stars game at the start of February and will finish up at the end of this week when they have to fly back to Japan for Uni. Among their experiences with Essendon, Hiroyuki and Hiroaki took part in an intra-club practise match and lined up for the Bendigo Bombers Reserves.
The duo’s stint with Essendon is the highlight of an exciting exchange network Japanese Footy has been able to establish with other Australian Rules Footballing nations. Currently joining Hiroyuki and Hiroaki in Australia is Genki Tanaka who received a scholarship to play with the Box Hill Football Club in Melbourne; Tsuyoshi Kase who will play his second year with St Bernards Football Club also in Melbourne; and Michito Sakaki who is reportedly looking for a second club to play professionally for after spending last season with the Wodonga Raiders in the strong Ovens and Murray Football League. In addition to these players, the NAFL has also announced that Junji Shibata of the Kyoto Kockatwos will join the USAFL’s Seattle Grizzlies for the coming season.
The invaluable experience gained by all these players can only be a huge plus for Australian Rules Footy in Japan and the Samurais in 2008, particularly if the Samurais are represented by both NAFL and JAFL players.
In a further build up to the 2008 International Cup, Hiroyuki and Hiroaki will return to Australia in May with the rest of the Samurais Squad to compete in the Arafura Games in Darwin.
Below is attached the player profiles for both Hiroyuki and Hiroaki, and the transcript of an interview with Hiroyuki that he very kindly took the time do.
Team : Tokyo Leopards (Captain)
Position: Ruck Rover/Rover
Played soccer in his High School days in Michigan, US. Now currently the Captain of the (Combined Uni Team) Tokyo Leopards. Member of the International Cup 2005 Samurais Squad.
Team: Senshu Power (Captain)
Position: Back Pocket/Full Back
Used to play baseball in High School and now a brilliant defender in Aussie Rules. Also a Captain of the Senshu University Team, the Senshu Power, and was also a member of the Samurais 2005 International Cup Squad.
Interview with Hiroyuki Toyama
Are you and Hiroaki enjoying your time training with the Bombers?
Yes, we are. The Bombers are treating us nicely so we are enjoying it.
Did you and Hiroaki get any tips about what to expect from Michito or Tsuyoshi?
Yes, but just general tips. They didn’t say to look out for so-and-so or anything like that.
Have you found training with the Bombers hard work? Has it been a big challenge?
The running hasn't been very hard work because the hardest part was before Christmas break which was like a pre pre-season. Now that it is closer to the season it is not that hard. It’s more skill work now.
And how have you found the skill drills? Has this aspect of training been challenging?
The most difficult has been kicking long distances because we're not used to the big grounds. The smaller drills are much easier. When we use the whole ground it is more difficult.
I guess this question covers some of the same territory, but what has been the most difficult part of training with Essendon, and what has been the most fun thing?
Yes, the most difficult is, like I said, practise drills that use the whole ground. And the most fun would be when we played the Bendigo Bombers Reserves game. Games are always fun.
Are there any players at Essendon that you guys particularly admire?
Hiroaki admires Adam McPhee for the way he trains.
Which players at Essendon have been the most helpful to you guys personally?
If I were to mention names, Adam Ramanauskas and Jason Winderlich are probably the two that are most nice to us.
Has anyone at Essendon, either these two players or any others, targeted any specific part of your game and given you some advice or feedback?
Yep. Jason Winderlich has given us plenty of tips on kicking, and Jason Laycock has given us tips on handballing.
Have either you or Hiroaki made a big mistake in front of Kevin Sheedy?
(Laughs). No. Well, not that we are aware of.
Did you have any goals or aims in coming to train with Essendon, and did the Bombers help you set any goals?
We didn't have a particular goal, I guess, except to just improve our skills. There was no particular goal but to improve.
So do you think that from your experiences and what you have learned here, you will be able to take a lot back home to help other Japanese players?
Oh yes. In particular, our kicking is much improved, and we are stronger from doing weights. We can help them with this. We’ve written every drill that we’ve done down on paper so that we can take them back home.
I think Genki Tanaka at Box Hill has done some coaching and umpiring courses during his stay. Have you guys done anything like that?
No. We haven’t done any courses. I’m not sure if Genki has.
How did you enjoy the 2005 International Cup? What kind of experience did you have there?
Oh yes, that was a huge experience for us. That year was actually my first year playing footy and that had a great impact on my footy life. It was my first time in Melbourne, and it was a great experience.
When you say 2005 was your first year playing Aussie Rules, what was it about the game that attracted you to it?
I like how you have seventeen other team mates playing it at the same time. How you have so many chasing the one ball, I think that’s amazing. I also like how the game is played hard, the physical side.
And you’re keen to be back for the 2008 International Cup?
Yeah, hopefully Hiroaki and I will get to play in 2008. That is a big goal for me, and for all of us.
Do you think Michito Sakaki, Tsuyoshi Kase and Genki will be playing?
Oh yeah, I think so. The 2008 International Cup is probably our biggest goal – for each and every player.
And how do you think the Samurais will go?
We’ll definitely be aiming for a better result than last time which was second last. I guess, there will be many more teams getting involved in 2008, even more Asian teams such as China and India. But, hopefully, we can do better than last time. We’ll have more experienced players playing in 2008 than we did in 2005.
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