Sri Lankan Aussie signs with Geelong
Friday, July 13 2007 @ 07:30 am ACST
Contributed by: Ash Nugent
The Geelong football club recently signed their second player under the AFL’s New South Wales Scholarship Program. Ranga Ediriwickrama, born in Griffith (NSW), but of Sri Lankan heritage, is a graduate of Sydney’s Westbrook junior football club. Impressively, he is Westbrook’s third player to catch the eye of an AFL club, with Michael Johnson and Josh Fenaroli signed under the same scheme, by Hawthorn and Carlton respectively. He is currently playing for Pennant Hills.
The Scholarship Program requires AFL clubs to select at least one and no more than two NSW sportsmen between the ages of 15 and 17 yearly. Each scholarship, which can last up to three years, sees the player given coaching and monetary assistance by their AFL club, in return for the club getting priority to draft the youngster once they are eligible. The program is designed to give greater strength to the AFL’s push into NSW.
Ediriwickrama was introduced to football by friends, and was impressed by the game’s team environment, the skills involved and the social aspect. Since his introduction to footy, he has been selected in several representative squads.
He represented New South Wales in the Under 15s Schoolboys Championship in 2005 (Ediriwickrama attends Cherrybrook Technical High School), was awarded the side’s Best and Fairest and went on to be named in the Australian squad. Ranga has also managed two games with the Sydney Swans reserves against a Canberra side at the SCG and Telstra Stadium.
On top of this he has represented NSW/ACT at the National Championships. Last year, as part of the Under 16 squad, Ediriwickrama won his team’s MVP. He is currently competing in this year’s Championships, as the third-youngest member of the Under 18 side. They have played two matches so far, both of which were convincing victories - the first against Northern Territory and the second aginst last year's division two champions, Queensland. He was even deemed best afield in the second match. Worth noting is that several of the players in the NSW/ACT side are involved in the AFL’s Scholarship Program and it will prove interesting as to whether or not this gives them an edge against their opposition in the future.
Like everyone at the National Championships, ultimately Ediriwickrama wants to be drafted by an AFL side. Should he prove successful, his name could pose the toughest gig for commentators to date.