By PARKER TAMBUA
GOLD Coast Sun Hewago Oea made history as he became the first player from the Australia Football League Papua New Guinea (AFLPNG) pathway to debut in the Australian Football League (AFL).
The 20-year-old kicked his first goal with his first kick on debut in the Suns’ 62-67 round-16 loss to the Collingwood Magpies at Metricon Stadium on the Gold Coast on Saturday night.
The Suns made a late change with Chris Burgess’ withdrawal opening an opportunity for Oea to make his long-waited AFL debut.
Oea first joined the Suns’ junior system on an international scholarship programme after he was scouted as a PNG Binatang (Under-16) during the 2017 International Cup.
The forward has been playing for the Suns’ reserve-graders who compete in the Victorian Football League which is Australia’s second-tier AFL competition.
AFLPNG community football manager Rex Leka told The National yesterday that Oea’s debut was a huge boost for the sport in the country.
“Hewago’s debut is a historical event for AFL in PNG,” he said.
“It’s the first of its kind and we are proud of him.
“The only PNG player to play in AFL was Brisbane Lions legend Mal Michael, but he came through the Australian system, unlike Hewago who is a product of AFLPNG.
“His story will inspire more youngsters to pursue the sport.
“We have a lot youngsters who have a great potential and Hewago’s story will definitely help market them.
“Since 2010, we’ve had a couple of local juniors who went through Queensland’s junior AFL programme and Hewago’s was one of them who finally made it to the top.
“Going forward, AFLPNG will try to create a direct pathway to the Victorian Football League.
“Hopefully, we send more juniors to Australia.”
By PARKER TAMBUA