Youngster joins Gold Coast’s rookie list for 2021 AFL season
THE Gold Coast Suns have promoted international scholarship holder and Papua New Guinean Hewago Paul Oea to the Australian Football League club’s rookie list for next season.
Affectionately known as “Ace”, the 19-year-old is from Gulf and Central.
“Ace has displayed significant improvement since coming to the club as a 16-year-old and we’re proud to see him progress onto the club’s list,” Suns general manager, football operations, Jon Haines said.
“He is a terrific young man, with an outstanding appetite to learn and work hard.
“Ace’s development is a credit to his family, AFLPNG and most importantly himself.
“Ace made a difficult decision to leave his family in PNG to follow his dream and his progression onto the list is an acknowledgement that his dedication and commitment is beginning to show real dividends.”
Growing up in Gordon, Ace started playing football when he was 12 in the EmNau Niukick community competition and played senior football with the Kokofas.
Shortly after, he joined the AFLPNG Talent Academy which saw him represent his country between the ages of 13 and 16 years old at the annual Queensland Under-14 and U16 Championships.
In 2017, when he was 15, Ace played in the AFL International Cup for the national side and was named the best on the ground in the grand final against New Zealand.
He was coached in that team by now Suns AFL Women head coach David Lake.
At 16, he joined the Suns Academy and was involved in the AFL Queensland talent programme before earning selection in the national NAB AFL Academy programme (the first PNG player to do so).
In 2018, Ace was granted an international scholarship with the Suns which saw him train and play with the reserves team while continuing to develop in an elite environment, earning a North East Australian Football League rising star nomination last year.
“I love playing football for the Suns and I am very excited to continue my career here,” Ace said.
“I want to thank all my family back in PNG for believing in me, AFLPNG for everything they’ve done and my Gold Coast family Kris and Tim Searl who have supported me with my dream.
“I love all the boys at the Suns, they are very welcoming and I can’t wait to get back into training at the club.”
AFL development manager, South Pacific, Ben Drew said: “Everyone at AFLPNG is extremely proud of Ace and the dedication he has shown from a young age to constantly improve himself.
“Ace has overcome many challenges to earn the opportunity he has now and we are excited for him and his family.
“AFLPNG is immensely thankful for the wonderful support the Suns and AFL Queensland have provided Ace in his journey so far.
“AFLPNG is also grateful to Ace’s family in PNG for their trust in Ace’s welfare, and the Searl family for their belief and support.”
Ace will join his Suns teammates when pre-season training resumes next Monday.