Contributed by: Wesley Hull
Travis King from the www.afl.com.au website reports in the wake of the AFL’s Rookie Draft yesterday that Port Adelaide has, as expected, selected the first Ugandan player in the AFL. The league already had a number of players of Sudanese and Kenyan heritage, but Emmanuel Irra proudly becomes the first Ugandan.
EMMANUEL Irra has become the first Ugandan player to earn a spot on an AFL list after joining Port Adelaide as a Category B rookie.
The powerful and versatile midfielder was one of seven players given a chance as Category B rookies as clubs finalised their lists on Monday.
Irra, 22, has been training with the Power since the players returned for pre-season and, as a member of their next generation academy, was able to join the club when no rival outfit selected him in the national or rookie drafts.
Under the new AFL rules, clubs can list players as Category B rookies from the AFL's indigenous and multicultural academies if they were overlooked in the drafts.
Irra, whose family fled war-torn Uganda in 2005, was ecstatic to have the chance to officially join the Power.
"I'm absolutely stoked. I'm pumped for the opportunity and I'm just here looking to work hard – so I'm pretty excited," Irra told the club's website.
"Officially last Monday was my first week (of training) and that was just a good eye-opener leading into ahead what's to come.
"(I've noticed) the intensity (of training), how hard guys are on each other and how specific everything is."
West Coast also made club history by selecting its first next generation academy member, Tarir Bayok, as a category B rookie.
Bayok, a speedy midfielder/forward with a Sudanese background, turned heads at the WA state draft combine by recording the third-fastest time in history (2.79 seconds) for the 20m sprint.
"The selection of Tarir Bayok is historic in that he is our first Next Generation Academy player and we're really excited about that," football manager Craig Vozzo said.
"I know Adam Selwood, our head coach at the academy, was keen for that to happen.
"Tarir is super quick. We think he’s got a lot of upside, having played for East Perth and the WA under-18s team this year."
Meanwhile, the Brisbane Lions have added Redland star Blake Grewar as a Queensland-zone selection, while Sydney has recruited Canberra product Sam Fisher as a NSW/ACT-zone pick.
Gold Coast brought in its third academy player – after Jack Bowes and Brad Scheer – by picking up defender Max Spencer, with Greater Western Sydney gaining access to versatile tall Zach Sproule from its academy as a Category B rookie.
Carlton was also allowed to bring back Irishman Ciaran Sheehan as a category B rookie after delisting the 26-year-old last month.
In other news from the draft, Essendon shocked the footy world by naming Sam Draper, a 202cm ruckman, as their number one pick. Whilst born in Australia, Draper lived for the next six years in the village of Brede in East Sussex, near Hastings. He played soccer there a a junior, mainly as a goalkeeper and remained so until this year when he joined the Reynella Wineflies in South Australia. Since then he has experienced a meteoric rise to an AFL club, just nine months after taking up the game.
His journey, whilst having spent only a few years in England, still stands as a great example that players, from England or elsewhere, can still pursue a career in Australian football.
The Essendon club has not proceeded, at this stage at least, with the pursuit of US college quarterback, Travis Wilson.
The original story can be found at: http://www.afl.com.au/news/2016-11-28/ugandan-emmanuel-irra-joins-power-as-clubs-confirm-category-b-rookies
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