Jamestown, a new home for the South African Lions Footy Team?

During the 1980’s the great Ron Barassi embarked on the Irish experiment, exploring the idea of converting Irish Gaelic Footballers in to future AFL Stars. This foresight unearthed the great Jim Stynes and created a legacy for the likes of Tadgh Keneally, Pearce Hanley, Tommy Walsh and Marty Clarke. One rural football club in South Australia, the Jamestown Peterborough Magpies, are looking to undertake a different kind of experiment, hosting players from the South African National Team, the Lions, within the local club and community for the 2013 season.

Boasting participation numbers of over 20,000, AFL South Africa is fast becoming an important piece of the puzzle, which is Australia’s very own game. What better way to help foster this growing football community than teaming up with the heartbeat of Australia’s game, country footy. Rural South Australia has produced some of the game’s greatest, with players like Barrie Robran, Russell Ebert and Mark Ricciuto to name a few. The rural community of just over 1700 of Jamestown, approximately two and a half hours North of Adelaide, is looking to add the names of two South African National Team representatives Thabiso Phakedi (currently of Johannesburg, born in Morokweng) and Thembinkosi “Dhino” Zwane (of Durban) to the list.

Former AFL South Africa Football Operations Chief Tony “Joel” Kelly was looking for opportunities for the up and coming stars of the game and helped put together the exchange program, with his former home club in the Lower Flinders Ranges in South Australia. Tony’s nephew Chris Stacey and club captain Bernie Kelly worked incredibly hard with Tony to make the program a reality, with the visiting lads spending plenty of time boarding with local families, whilst learning employment skills and the Australian way of life. This is the type of community that isn’t scared to dig in, famously hosting a match of cricket on Adelaide Oval in 2006 to help raise funds for the new community stadium, which now features a world class cricket training facility, combined with National Standard Netball Courts. Such is the standard that visitors include the Adelaide Thunderbirds, South Australian Redbacks and the English County Cricketers of the Darren Lehmann Cricket Academy.

On the field, the lads have performed well, helping to break the Magpies’ losing streak in their first game for the club. Observations from the boys have been interesting, notably the highly accountable and physical style of football which is commonplace in the Northern Areas Football Association. Perhaps this has helped former lads from the area, Justin Clarke of Melrose and Luke Tapscott of Orroroo to fit in to the tough demands of AFL footy. Whilst both “Dhino” and Thabiso have featured in the best players list since their arrival, the lads have managed to fit perfectly in to the community, with a growing list of mates. It’s not uncommon to hear the lads chatting, “Dhino” loves to end his conversations in true Aussie style with “no worries mate”.

Down time for the boys has been anything but. Whether it’s paying a visit to the Jamestown Sheep Market, helping out at training with the Junior sides or learning the ways of cereal cropping with Chris and Andrew Stacey, they’ve barely managed to sit still. Shearing shed visits have been common and the lads even spent a few days up at Pekina, with local farmer and former North Adelaide and SA State of Origin Ruckman Michael Redden. No doubt conversations have quickly moved from farming to footy, with plenty of questions asked about the classic State of Origin games of the 80’s through to Mick’s time as an assistant coach with both the Power and the Crows.

Such is the excitement of the visit, that Almanacker Michael Sexton, wearing his ABC TV hat, put together a fantastic story of the journey, which has landed the lads in Jamestown.

About James Lang

A committed volunteer who loves Australia's game. Based in Jamestown in South Australia's Mid North, the birthplace of RM Williams, I work closely with the local Football, Netball and Cricket clubs. A rewarding involvement has been in establishing the social interaction group Backyard Football League Australia.

Leave a Comment