Contributed by: Aaron Richard
The West Coast Eagles have had plenty of media coverage this year - although its mostly for all the wrong reasons. The Australian media picked up over the weekend on a few more positive Eagles stories, with the club now on a pre-season training and development trip to South Africa.
The Eagles are based in the township of Umlazi in the Durban area, where footy only started being played this year. Former Eagles star and current coach John Worsfold was impressed by the progress of the local talent, stating he believes they'll be at WAFL (the West Australian state league) standard within 6-10 years, and infiltrating AFL club lists soon after.
The first article appeared on the PerthNow (Sunday Times) news site on Saturday.
West Coast Eagles get back to basics in South Africa
Jay Clark, December 15, 2007 06:00pm on news.com.au
THE spoils of a lucrative AFL career count for little when you're sleeping on bare ground in an African shack. That's what West Coast players found this week when they went searching for a fresh perspective and appreciation of life in the heart of South Africa.
Sleeping in outback huts, the Eagles peeled back the luxuries of life to discover the human spirit in its most uplifting form.
While the past year may have been the most testing in the club's history, such issues pale when compared with the daily fight for survival of the locals in Umlazi, South Africa.
In between two training sessions a day as part of their pre-season preparations, the players have visited townships, eaten with Africans in their own shacks and inspired a new passion for Aussie rules among the local children.
But if anything, entering this brave new world - to remind players what they have is more important than anything they've lost - has been ideal.
The adventure has completed an unforgettable first chapter in a new era of a club desperate to put a tumultuous time behind it.
And for the club's new leadership group, led by captain Darren Glass and deputies Dean Cox and Tyson Stenglein, it could not have been more effective.
"It's been an amazing experience, something I didn't expect before I left,'' Cox said.
"With our young list, this trip to South Africa marks the beginning of something special for the West Coast Eagles.''
The club's reputation has copped a battering in recent times, but in the eyes of these African children, many of them orphans, they are legends.
Many players were so touched by the locals' plight that they donated generously to their cause.
Midfielder Daniel Kerr was inspired by the freedom and joy shown by some of the African youths who have taken to the Australian game.
It was a timely refresher for Kerr, who will be the key figure in the club's on-ball brigade after the loss of Chris Judd and Ben Cousins.
"The best part for me has definitely been playing footy with the kids,'' Kerr said. "I could spend all my time with those kids.''
The Eagles are due back in Perth today, marking the start of another crucial phase for the club, which hopes to put these life lessons into practice.
With two separate investigations continuing to reveal some of the club's darkest secrets, the Eagles are by no means out of the woods.
But if this week was any measure, they have made a constructive start.
The second article featured on sportal.com.au today.
Eagles learn more lessons
By Justin Chadwick, 17 Dec 2007, Sportal.com.au
West Coast coach John Worsfold has described the club's pre-season trip to South Africa as an eye-opening experience after the club's troubled 2007 campaign.
With a royal commission enquiry still underway at the club following numerous controversies over the past few seasons, Worsfold said the trip to poverty-stricken areas in South Africa was a good reality check and another step towards cultural change at the Eagles.
"That (to help facilitate a cultural change) is part of it, yes, there's no doubt about that," Worsfold said.
"But in saying that I believe our cultural change is just about complete. It's been happening over the last two or three years and the players we have on our list now are outstanding young men who saw a different culture in a different society that people live in."
"I think it was eye-opening for them (the players), there's no doubt about that. Some of them were probably shocked by what they saw and smelt and heard, but they all coped with it extremely well." Worsfold said Brent Staker was a favourite amongst the locals, along with Daniel Kerr, David Wirrpanda and Andrew Embley.
"A lot of the kids that were involved in the Footy Wild programs had watched a couple of DVDs of us playing, so they were very excited when the players got off the bus," Worsfold said.
"One of the games they watched was the game at Subi against Sydney this year when Brent took that diving, spectacular mark in the goalsquare and they thought that was pretty special, so they were after Brent Staker." It may have been Eagles players conducting the football clinics but Worsfold said the players could learn a lot of life lessons from the local kids.
"They don't strive for material things. They just live and are happy living day to day with what they've got," he said.
"Not many kids who came to our clinics had shoes. That's not something they worry about … they just get out there and are happy to kick the football around."
Worsfold predicted that South African players would be up to WAFL standard in six to 10 years, with players infiltrating the AFL some time after that.
West Coast's squad took part in a light training session at Claremont Oval on Monday, but veteran Michael Braun, Adam Hunter and Eric Mackenzie were restricted to light duties.
The Eagles will commence an 11-day break on Friday before resuming pre-season training on January 2.
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