Students have a ball playing the Aussie way

AUSSIE RULES: Evans High School Intensive English Centre students Yuqing Liu, Ghadeer Aljanabi, Patran Salt and Ghassan Alsabbagh practice their AFL skills. Picture: Harrison Vesey

AUSSIE RULES: Evans High School Intensive English Centre students Yuqing Liu, Ghadeer Aljanabi, Patran Salt and Ghassan Alsabbagh practice their AFL skills. Picture: Harrison Vesey

Blacktown’s newest arrivals are getting an Aussie education through the country’s native football code.

Students at Evans High School Intensive English Centre have been learning Aussies Rules this term. For most it was the first time they had heard of AFL – and for some, it’s the first time they’ve played sport at all.

Ghadeer Aljanabi, 17, said it was not safe for her to play sport in Iraq. She arrived in Australian nine months ago.

“It looks like a dream, it’s a beautiful dream,” she said.

Ghadeer and fellow student Yuqing Liu, 16, both said it was not too hard to learn new skills like kicking, catching and handballing.

“I had heard it was a famous Australian sport but I never tried it,” Yuqing said. “I think it’s really fun. It’s good because it’s a local sport that’s really popular.”

AFL NSW/ACT development coordinator Michael Collins said despite the language barrier, most students picked up the basics quickly.

“It’s been fantastic. Their energy and enthusiasm to learn a sport that’s very new to them is brilliant,” he said.

“It’s great to be able to share he native game of Australia with those who are new to the country.”

Blacktown International Sportspark recently hosted the sixth annual AFL Intensive English Cup, featuring teams from 14 centres across Sydney and Wollongong.

Evans High School did not take part this year but they’re planning to enter a team in 2018.

Billy Tamayo, sports coordinator for the school’s English centre, said sport is “a common denominator” for many of the students.

While soccer is the most popular option, the recent arrival of more Chinese students has seen growing interest in badminton and table tennis.

“It settles them to have something they’re familiar with when everything else is unfamiliar,” Mr Tamayo said. “Sport is a way for them to really settle in and communicate with other nationalities. It doesn’t have to be verbal.”

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