Story & photos Eve Jeffery
The Byron Shire was well represented recently when five local sportsmen travelled south to compete in the NSWPSSA AFL Championship.
The event was held over the space of a week in the town of Barooga on the Victorian border. Manager for the PSSA team Barry Spry and players Luca Bisogni, Milo Bisogni and Fergus Biggin-Johnston represented the North Coast Public Schools, Riley Buckland playing for the North Coast Polding team.
Barry said the team didn’t get as high a result as it had in recent years; not because the lads didn’t play well – he feels the competition has really improved.
‘We finished seventh last year and this year we finished tenth’, said Barry. ‘The result is not really indicative of how well we played; we just played harder teams this year.’
Barry said a new position was added to the state team heading to the national championships later this year in Darwin to play at TIO Stadium at the Marrara Sports Complex. ‘At the end of the championships a team was selected to represent the state and this year for the first time they chose an umpire to go to the National Championships with the state team and Luca Bisogni was selected.
‘Down at Barooga, all the coaches and all the managers gave glowing comments on how well he umpired, his clear instructions and his clear decisions. He was an amazing ambassador.’
Barry said the inclusion of Milo Bisogni, who is only in year four, in the carnival is a testament to his dedication and love of Aussie Rules. ‘There is a good chance he might make the north coast team in years to come. He was playing against 12-year-olds and he did really well,’ said Barry/
The entire event was a positive experience, according to Barry. ‘It was just a great week’, he said. ‘The weather was fantastic, the kids really enjoyed themselves and we are growing AFL in this area.’
Milo scored three goals during the carnival, an excellent result. He said, ‘I enjoyed the trip because I got to make new friends and got the opportunity to play at the state carnival.’
He really enjoyed the experience and took away a new attitude: ‘Go hard at the ball’, he said. ‘It makes the experience more fun and it shows the selectors that you are not scared.’
Luca Bisogni also really enjoyed the carnival. Luca usually plays centre for Byron Bay Magpies under 14s but attended the carnival as an umpire.
‘The trip away was fun and very tiring’, he said.
‘Afterwards I felt a lot healthier and very inspired because I had participated in one of my passions for a full week.’
Luca says the attitude toward competition in Barooga covered a spectrum.
‘It varied from person to person as some were younger and could still make it [the team] in following years, so were not so serious. Others who were there for the last time were more serious.’
Luca said the best part of the trip was probably being chosen to represent NSW as an umpire. ‘It feels really good and I feel extremely honoured to be chosen’, he said.
Luca and his dad Damian will travel to Darwin for the carnival that will be held from August 9–16.
Luca says he doesn’t really feel torn between playing and umpiring. ‘
I’m pretty attached to playing so that would have to come first – if I was rating them, but umpiring is great as well.’ In saying that, he definitely sees himself with a future in the game.
‘I see myself umpiring rather than playing’, he says.
‘But if I really practised I could see myself playing professionally.’
What did he take away from the carnival? ‘To really take the opportunities that you are given’.