DONALD Barry is not a household name in Australian Football League (AFL) circles but he is the face that could expand the code significantly in his native Papua New Guinea.
This month Barry, aged 21, began training with the Brisbane Lions as an international rookie.
It remains unlikely he will break into the Lions side this year but he is preparing as though he can.
“The first two weeks were physically very hard for me,” he said this week.
“And it has been difficult to fit into the structure of how the Lions want to play.
“I have been an instinctive type of player but I am learning a lot each day.”
Barry grew up on the outskirts of Port Moresby.
His football of choice was rugby league and his hero was Cronulla’s Andrew Ettingshausen. That was until he was 17 years old.
Then he tasted Australian rules football and began following the deeds of the Adelaide Crows’ Andrew McLeod, along with midfielder Simon Black and the Brisbane Lions.
Barry’s is a story of mental toughness as much as raw talent, which has carried him on a dream journey over the past four years.
He left his family in Port Moresby to play for Manunda Hawks in Cairns in 2007, Coolangatta and the Lions reserves in 2008 and Mt Gravatt seniors in the strong AFL Queensland competition last year.
After forcing his way into the Mt Gravatt side in Round 2, he played every game until he had to miss the grand final with a hamstring strain.
Andrew Cadzow, the AFL’s Asia/Pacific region development manager, can see huge potential in the Pacific region and PNG especially.
“There are already 20,000 children in PNG playing AFL.
We have 23 full-time officers there,” Cadzow said.
“Donald is the most talented and professional young man to come from that region to date.
“He already is an inspiration to many boys.”
Barry went along to an AFL camp in Port Moresby “because my mate was going” and once the development officers observed his speed and skills they zeroed in. – Courier Mail