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Thursday, July 18 2019 @ 07:56 am ACST

A Rookie Draft With Just A Hint Of Africa

In a remarkable AFL Rookie Draft held today, four players from Sudan made it on to the AFL lists of clubs for 2016. The AFL may never be in a better position to market the game in African countries after Gach Nyuon (Essendon), Rueben William (Brisbane) and Mabior Chol (Richmond) were added to club lists. Additionally, Majak Daw, arguably the highest profile Sudanese player so far, was re-rookied by North Melbourne as expected.

Essendon had been tracking the journey of Gach Nyuon (pictured left) for some time and it was little surprise that they called him as their first selection (fourth overall) this morning. Essendon has only recruit Matthew Leuenberger and young gun Joe Daniher that stand over 200 centimetres, so Nyuon will address the height issue, especially if a key ruckman is injured during the season. Nyuon is a raw talent but is super-exciting and highly athletic. His form with the Dandenong Stingrays in the TAC Cup saw him the premier ruckman of the competition and this continued for Vic Country and eventual All-Australian U18 selection.

His journey from Sudan as a refugee saw his family flee to Egypt and then to Australia as a seven year old. His selection at Essendon begins another remarkable chapter to his young life.

Rueben William’s family also fled Sudan, via Kenya, and he arrived at a young age in Brisbane where he took to our national game like a duck to water, playing for Brisbane club Windsor-Zillmere. He was rookie drafted at selection 20 by the Brisbane Lions, largely for his lightening pace and terrific ball use. As a member of the Brisbane Lions Academy, William was always likely to end up with the Lions and now has a chance to dazzle with his electrifying skills.

Mabior Chol was selection by Richmond with their pick 30 and was the third Sudanese descent player chosen on the night. Remarkably that made it 3 players in the top 30 of the Rookie Draft. His story is similar to that of Rueben William with his family fleeing war-torn Sudan when he was eight and coming to Brisbane. At 197 centimetres he is a still-growing ruckman with great speed and having great ball skills by hand and foot. He is also very agile and a decent left foot kick.

Majak Daw was taken as a rookie by North Melbourne with pick 33. The club had always signalled their intent to take him and kept their word. Daw has had some incredible highlight reel action since he first played AFL football, and his height is also of great value to the Kangaroos.

If the AFL has a few spare minutes, a highlight reel of the four Sudanese stars should be put together and sent to many African nations where the game is played, or not played, to encourage even more growth. There is a very real possibility that a couple of years from now all four players might be lining up in their respective senior teams at the highest level. In one draft Sudan has gone past many other countries from which AFL players have come to the game.

Congratulations must go to all four players on their achievements – not just in football, but in facing obstacles in their lives that most AFL football followers will never experience or understand to climb from adversity to AFL football club lists. Extraordinary.
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