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Monday, April 24 2017 @ 05:16 AM ACST

IC14 Vignettes – Yuki Edward Akita (Japan Samurai)

International Cup 2014
The Japanese national team ventured to Melbourne hoping for success, and to leave with three wins from five starts would have bought heart to the players who made the journey. One of these players is Yuki Akita and he took some time to share his Australian Rules football journey with us.

“The first time I saw football was when I first arrived in Australia in 2002. I put TV on and there was a strange sport on a weird shaped field and a ball. I didn't pay too much attention but supported the Adelaide Crows, just because I lived in South Australia.” Though, Yuki does have a favourite quote for this – “Which AFL team do you support?” “I will tell you at the end of September!”

I started playing in 2005 when I enrolled in a University in South Australia. I was 19 years old. I used to hate playing footy, because I didn't understand the rules very well, couldn't bounce the ball or kick the footy properly. I am also short, so often lost the marking contest. However, a life changing opportunity came in the summer of 2005, when my friend invited me to go to training at Modbury Hawks Football Club (SA). It was difficult to start off not being able to kick and bounce properly.”
“I played in D grade for the first two years, and won the most improved award in the first year and the B&F awards in the following year. I Then played in C grade for a few years. I was relocated to Mount Gambier in 2011 and played for West Gambier for 3 years (won the most consistent award) and I am currently playing for the North Gambier Football Club. I love wing and half forward!”

“This is my 3rd International Cup, the first one being in 2008. I Still remember the feeling of my first international win against Samoa!”

I asked Yuki what is the game like in Japan? “Very different. Nine per side and no rough plays (including hard contest / tackles) which you would see in local games in Australia. Small ground means disadvantages to Japanese players. We want space to run.”

When asked how far Yuki wanted to go with the game he replied, “I would like to go as hard as I can. Honestly, as much as I want to win the cup, realistically we should be aiming to get in the top eight. Personally, my aim was to get selected in the AFL WORLD SQUAD. Unfortunately I pulled my hamstring after the first round and was only lucky to play again in the final round. I was very frustrated at myself that three years of hard working just drained out. But at the same time I was able to support my team by being a Samurai football player, stats recorder, being an assistant manager, runner and even water boy! Who has ever enrolled in 5 different positions in a single AFL International Cup? Me!!! Also kicking a goal in the last seconds of IC14 will be in my heart forever.”

As this interview was done after the IC14 event was over, Yuki did not have predictions for winners – just observations. “By the end of the group league stage, I thought New Zealand was looking great. For women, I always supported Canada, just because I like its country, so I am glad they won!”

“I would like to thank AFL International Cup organisers for giving us the opportunity to play footy with similar background athletes and participate in a once in a life time experience. This included special entries to official’s only sites and functions, being on the national TV and being treated like a VIP. I also would like to thank all the supporters, trainers who looked after me very well and most importantly my team mates and coaches who taught me the skills to play footy! Oh, and thanks for letting me take 2 weeks off of work! I am very motivated and inspired again! I look forward to playing footy again in 2017! Until then all the best to you all.”

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