PNG champ coaching in country Victoria

Friday, July 10 2009 @ 08:04 am ACST

Contributed by: Rod Shaw

Winis Imbi was born in PNG and spent his first eleven years there. At that stage his mother moved the family to Portland in the western district of Victoria to be near relatives. Winis began playing footy in the local junior competition and shone thanks to his pace and ability to read the game. For those that have had the privilege of watching the Mosquitoes you have to almost wonder whether these assets are genetic!

By his mid-teens he had caught the eye of scouts from the North Ballarat Rebels. Awarded a scholarship to attend St Patrick's College, he moved to Ballarat hoping to make it all the way to the AFL. Imbi was a member of the Rebels' 1997 premiership team,. This was a line-up that also included Adam Goodes, Shannon Watt and James Walker. He and Walker, who was recruited by Fremantle, were subsequently named in the TAC Cup team of the year. But on draft day Imbi missed out.

During the next four seasons he worked hard to crack the big time. Rookie-listed by Essendon he made a number of appearances in the Ansett Cup and even won the club's reserves best and fairest in 1999. A short stint at North Melbourne followed, but injuries ended his AFL hopes.

Imbi took over as coach of Portland in early 2008 after his team had gone back- to-back and there had been a raft of retirements. He stepped in and rather unexpectedly , despite fielding a side with an average age in the low 20s, they lost only one more game in 2008. On grand final day the Tigers held out the Imperials to complete a hat-trick of premierships for the first time in the club's 123-year history.

For those wondering, Imbi has not been a part of the PNG squads at the International Cups. Given eligibility criteria it would be this writer's belief that he would be ineligible unless special consideration was given.

For more on this story, read Portland's Plan - Play Hard.

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