Coaches call on Toowoomba to support South Sudanese players
THE TOOWOOMBA-dominated South Sudanese basketball team, the Queensland Red Devils, last week came up short in their quest to win a fourth national championship in a row.
Coaches Aweng Biar and Piok Piok say the sport's positive reach into the South Sudanese community should prompt support from Toowoomba, despite the team's loss at the South Sudanese Australian National Basketball Association's Summer Slam in Victoria.
"To the players it hurts a lot," Mr Biar said. "But for us we see the growth. You know how hard you had to work."
The men's under-20 team lost to the Longhorns of Sunshine, a team and suburb made famous by the eponymous SBS series.
"I'm trying to get our community behind us in Toowoomba," Mr Piok, who grew up in the city, said. "You have to organise flights, accommodation…it's hard to bring as many teams out here."
While the coaches, who also work full time, fundraise for the club, they say other Australian teams of South Sudanese basketballers have been able to partner with sponsors.
"At the moment we're all chipping in, helping each other out," Mr Piok added. "We have nobody behind us and most of these teams are much bigger official clubs.
"If we can get Basketball Queensland behind us... If we can get the whole community, including the police, behind us it will be easy to organise."
The two men point out the sport's positive effect on the South Sudanese community.
"We've had a lot of youth trouble around the country, but we haven't had that on our team," Mr Piok said. "I want people in Toowoomba and Brisbane to see: these kids are special."
"People ask, 'How do you get such young kids to follow structure that's almost professional?'
"That's a compliment to their discipline.
"That's the culture we're trying to instil. We have a lot of good character kids here, and I'm very proud of that."