Years of planning and fundraising has finally paid off for two Aussie Rules clubs thousands of kilometers and oceans apart. Through the efforts of Wanneroo Amateur FC legend and current Laos Elephants President Steve Chapman, two Laos Elephants have been given the trip of a lifetime and in doing so, creating a strong bond between the two clubs.
After playing in Wanneroo’s 2010 Premiership, “Chappy” ventured off into a remote mine site in Laos and has not looked back, being a key driver of the Laos Elephants successful local development program.
Chappy and a few close friends from the Wanneroo footy club came up with a plan way back in 2013 to one day bring a local player from Laos over to Australia to experience the Aussie way of life and also test themselves against seasoned campaigners at amateur football league level.
This plan recently came to fruition with them not only able to take one, but two local Laotians over to Perth and it turned out to be one of the more memorable and meaningful experiences in both Clubs history.
The years of hard work teaching Ekaphon Choumphavanh and Handa Yattivong our great game through coach Craig Quigg, captain Steve Chapman and all expatriates in the Lao Elephants team over the years definitely paid off as the two boys did not look out of place and helped their side get to a commanding lead in the game. Unfortunately, the side they were playing against had more run and eventually ground out the win, but that did not matter. The real winner on this day was AFL football and especially AFL football in Asia.
With hopes of sending a combined Indochina Team to the AFL International Cup in 2017, with representatives from Laos, Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia and Myanmar, this was proof that it should not be a hope, but should become a reality. These two boys showed that with a bit of hard work and determination, anything is possible.
A special thanks has to go to the Wanneroo AFC for all their hard work in getting the boys registered, and especially President Russell Burnett for putting the two boys up at his house for most of their stay and also 2010 WAFC Premiership captain Jonathan Small for all his hard work behind the scenes to make this possible. It also would not have been possible without sponsorship from IIMS and Caltex and also all the personal donations made by the Lao Elephants playing squad. thank you very much to everyone involved, you know who you are.
There are already plans in place to send two more Lao players next year, and the hope is that the relationship between these two clubs will grow even stronger in the years to come.
More pictures at the Lao Elephants facebook group.
The guys arrived in Perth at 5 30 am today. There was a lot of turbulence on the flight which had EK and Handa scared hanging on for their life and Chappy in stitches laughing. It was 8 degrees when they landed and Ek and Handa wished they had packed more clothes. After all the hassle getting Visas sorted, customs didn’t even check them and the guys didn’t even get pulled for bag search so great trip in the end . The guys are now all settled in at the Comfort Hotel, thanks to Jonathan Small for booking for them. Currently the guys are looking around Perth City….. Still wishing they had packed more clothes! All going out for Thai food tonight, and maybe buy more clothes.
Today the boys went for a morning run along the swan river, then after checking out of their hotel went to Whitfords City shopping centre for some shopping and lunch. Despite the freezing conditions, the guys were still keen to go and have a look at the Beach. We had a lot of fun and laughs on the beach, especially Ek posing for a photo and a wave sneaking up on him and soaking his butt. The real reason for their trip started today, with the guys attending Wanneroo Football Clubs Thursday night training and I’m pleased to say they did not look out of place, they have both been named to start in Saturdays game and I can report that we are making the guys a banner to run through for their game. They are now in the safe hands of WAFC president Russell Burnett and will be heading to Fremantle tomorrow.
After Thursday night’s training the boys went home with the Wanneroo AFC president Russell Burnett and will now stay with him and his lovely wife Judy (thanks for the awesome curry tonight!) until they leave on Wednesday. Today the boys saw some kangaroos and koalas as well as visited Hillary’s Boat Harbour and AQWA (Aquarium of Western Australia). Today is the big day, Ek and Handa will be playing at the Wanneroo Showgrounds starting at 5pm. A banner is being made for the boys and a very big thanks to all at the WAFC for their support.
GOOD LUCK BOYS!
Day 5 (Game Day)
A banner was made for the guys and after an impressive win, the league team formed two lines to welcome Ek and Handa onto the ground. The only problem being the boys didn’t know about running through the banner, and stopped just as they reached it, nearly causing a domino effect on the entire team. After eventually figuring out to run through it (or duck underneath it) and having a warm up, the game started…
Ek and Handa both had early touches but it was Handa who really stood out. Handa played a fantastic game and stopped many attacks and swept up brilliantly across the half back line. Ek also had a great game but came under some hard attention after getting some early touches, so was tagged out of the game in parts.
After playing good footy for three quarters and being in front by 20 points at three quarter time, the Wanneroo boys ended up losing by 6 points. Handa and Ek both received awards for being among the teams better players and Ek conducted a great speech in front of well over 100 people. Overall a great day and very proud of the boys for the effort they showed.”
Top work boys!!!
Day 6 (West Coast Eagles vs Sydney Swans):
After having a relaxing morning everyone headed into Subiaco around lunch time. We had attained through last years Indochina All Stars coach, and 2006 Norm Smith Medalist Andrew Embley, pre-game warm up passes and tickets to the game. The boys had a great time, and the Eagles had an easy win in the end so it was a great day.
It was always going to be hard to beat seeing the Mighty Eagles flog the Sydney Swans. Not sure if everyone has heard of the Adam Goodes controversy, but Adam need not worry now as the two culprits responsible for all the booing have now left the country.
On the Monday, the Perth Zoo got a couple more elephants on board. The boys got to have a look at the Perth casino and we had a good couple of hours checking out Hay Street and the Perth City centre. While the boys were walking back to their car with Boots they ran into Nic Natanui, but no photo could be taken, as Ek was on the phone to one Alex Smith. Ek did not realise the importance of this meeting so just stayed on the phone…… Chappy not happy!!! We then headed up to the tree walk at Kings Park which has some fantastic views. After Kings Park we took the boys to Joondalup City shopping centre for some more shopping and also a quick sneaky visit to the TAB.
Last day of the boys trip was very poor weather, planes would have been cancelled in Laos for sure!! They had a quick game of ten pin bowling in the morning before heading out to the Swan Valley and visiting the Margaret River Chocolate Factory and then getting a lesson in Supa Golf. We then finished the boys trip off with a great meal at the Ashby Tavern with Smally, his better half Shea and Boots.
Once again, thanks to everyone involved in this and hopefully see you all in a couple of weeks in Luang Prabang.