In February this year the Western Cape's Bayanda Sobetwa became the first South African to receive a scholarship to play in Australia for an extended period, with Kevin Sheedy's Team Greater Western Sydney offering him the opportunity of a lifetime. See Team GWS signs its first international player.
Team GWS has assembled their initial squad for the new (future) Western Sydney AFL club, and played its first official game on Saturday in Victoria's TAC Cup Under 18 competition. So it begged the question - where is Bayanda? worldfootynews.com spoke with AFL South Africa's Joel Kelly.
"Unfortunately there have been delays with Bayanda’s visa so he hasn’t left SA yet BUT that does allow him a final opportunity to represent South Africa on April 11 v AIS so he’s very excited about that..."
"He will be playing with Greater Western Sydney under Alan McConnell at TAC Cup U18 level this year with hope that he progresses well enough to stay on in 2011 and beyond".
Team GWS look set for a tough year. Few of the squad are likely to make the final AFL list for 2012, with the new club guaranteed premium draft picks and pre-selections in the next two years. That may be just as well, as the club's first official hit out was a savage 94 point loss to TAC Cup side the Northern Knights, at Blacktown Olympic Park in Western Sydney. Hopefully that will mean Sobetwa gets plenty of opportunity to show his talents.
Once again the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) - AFL Academy Squad, effectively Australia's Under 17 national side, will tour South Africa, conducting clinics and playing the South African Lions in Cape Town. Many of last year's squad have already made it on to AFL lists, indicating the tremendous talent in the team. The Lions will do well to be competitive, but it should be good preparation for the next International Cup.
Players from both sides will also be keen to perform well in front of new Western Sydney coach Kevin Sheedy and his staff, with the Aussies hoping to be drafted or pre-selected by the new AFL club, and the South Africans hoping to follow in the footsteps of Bayanda Sobetwa, already signed to a scholarship with Western Sydney.
The Flying Boomerangs, an Indigenous Australian team, have proven too strong for South Africa's Coastal squad, in the second and final game of their tour, in Cape Town. An even second half followed a dominant first, in which the large Nyanga township ground allowed the Australians to use their skills to damaging effect.
Amongst the best for the locals was Bayanda Sobetwa. It was following this game that Boomerangs coach Michael O’Loughlin and AFL Commissioner Justice Linda Dessau announced an AFL SportsReady traineeship for Sobetwa which will see him join Greater Western Sydney (GWS) this year in the TAC Cup under AFL legend Kevin Sheedy.
Team GWS this afternoon officially announced the signing of Bayanda Sobetwa (pictured) with the following release.
Team GWS has secured its first international player, with South African Bayanda Sobetwa today accepting a scholarship with the new AFL team for Greater Western Sydney. He will fly to Australia this month to begin training and will play with the Team GWS TAC Cup side for the 2010 season.
Sobetwa, a 19 year old from Khayelitsha Township - south east of Cape Town, was presented with his scholarship by Justice Linda Dessau and AFL Community Engagement & Talent Coordinator Michael O'Loughlin, during the Flying Boomerangs tour of South Africa.
In a good result for South African footy, the Inland Lions squad has pushed the youthful Australian Indigenous Boomerangs team all the way before narrowly losing their match by 10 points at Mohadin Cricket Ground, Potchefstroom, South Africa.
After several days of rain a wet ground awaited the players despite sunny conditions on the day. In a see-sawing affair the lead changed hands several times before the Boomerangs saw off the challenge from the Inland component of AFL South Africa's elite training program, which represents the best of the senior and youth talent in North West and Gauteng Provinces. The Flying Boomerangs are a selection of Indigenous Australian talent, this year lead by recently retired Sydney Swans star Michael O'Loughlin. It usually features youth from a range of backgrounds and footballing ability, including some potential future AFL stars.
Details and photos follow, and updated with comments from Micky O and Chris Johnson. Pictured at left is South African Mazizi Sifanelo as he evades a Boomerangs opponent in the wet.
The Flying Boomerangs depart Australia today for the third such tour of South Africa and their fifth international series overall. Twenty five Indigenous teenagers will spend two weeks in the country, conducting clinics, experiencing the culture and playing a match against each of the two South African primary development squads - the Inland and Coastal teams as discussed in Lions name elite training squads.
The youth Indigenous Australian squad is the same concept that travelled to South Africa in 2006 and 2008 and hosted a return visit from the South Africans in 2007. Each tour has seen three matches played and so far the Indigenous Aussies are undefeated against that country. However in 2009 when they toured Papua New Guinea the two matches were split. They'll again have their work cut out for them as the South Africans rapidly improve and contain both youth and experienced senior players, although the Inland/Coastal split will obviously reduce their strength. It should be a good test for all the teams involved and great practice for the new development structure being used by AFL South Africa. The Australian players’ selection follows their attendance at the Qantas AFL KickStart Camp in Melbourne last August.
The 2010 Flying Boomerangs squad will be joined by recently retired AFL players Michael O’Loughlin (Boomerangs coach), Chris Johnson (assistant coach) and Malcolm Lynch.
The Western Cape Province of South Africa has quickly risen from having no Aussie Rules players to recently winning the 2009 National Provincial Championships (see Western Cape - new chiefs of African footy?). With all four of the country's active football provinces now benefiting from AFL and AFL club support, how is it that Western Cape has leap-frogged the more established regions of North West and Gauteng, along with fellow newcomers KwaZulu-Natal? worldfootynews.com poses a simple theory.
In good news for the future encouragement of African immigrants to take up Aussie Rules, Sudanese born Majak Daw has been rookie listed by North Melbourne. After much hype during the year it looked like Daw was a good chance to be drafted in the full AFL Draft (see Majak day for Africa gets closer) however come the end of the day his name had not been read out.
Offering renewed encouragement was that both the Kangaroos and the Western Bulldogs invited him to train with their clubs leading up to the rookie draft, and North Melbourne duly selected him with their first selection (pick 9 overall). He fits in with North's recent efforts to integrate better with migrant communities, and they made it clear he was a project player.
Speaking of his local community, Daw said "They're very proud of me to be the first Sudanese," and "A lot of them are migrants, refugees, come from a war-torn country and don't expect this to happen. When something like this happens it really means a lot to them. It gives them a lot more confidence to sort of go out and be more involved in the community."
Four talented young South Africans have been in Canberra at Australia's Institute of Sport as part of their Mtutuzeli Hlomela Scholarships. The scheme is named after the current AFL South Africa Talent Manager, who is also the most successful Aussie Rules footballer to so far emerge from their domestic program.
Three of the four young men come from the FootyWILD ROAR Talent squads recently named - Bayanda Sobetwa, Thembisile Oupaster and Prince Nematswerani. The fourth recipient is Chesney Botha, with very little Australian football background but regarded as an exciting athlete.
The players have made the trip to Australia to participate in the annual AIS/AFL Academy Camp, giving AFL talent scouts the chance to assess their ability against the cream of Australia’s youth.