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Anthony • 15 mins
By Joshua Papanikolaou (PSG Staff)
Football players Courtese Charlie and Shai-Cody Friday are representing their state at the 2017 Pacific School Games, but also their community of Robinson River, a ten-hour drive south-west of Katherine in the Northern Territory.
Making it to the 10th edition of the Games in Adelaide has been a massive achievement in itself for the young girls who, aside from kicking the ball around at school, train just once a week at the John Moriarty Football Academy.
That clinic is in Borroloola, a three-hour drive from their home which has a population of about 350 with no mobile phone reception and access to the internet only at the school that runs three classes.
“They drive all the way over there once a week to train with the academy,” School Sport Coordinator for the Katherine region Glenn Hayles said.
“We had the NT soccer championships in May this year and their principal drove them in.
“So, she put the two girls in the car and drove them 10 hours into Katherine, stayed the whole time running her school via email and then drove them back home, just a huge commitment from her.”
It was taking part in those championships that led the girls to being selected for the Pacific School Games, another step in their sports journey that will hopefully lead to more opportunities in the game.
“They kick the ball around the school yard but it’s mostly only training at the academy,” Hayles added.
“I think one of them is wanting to get to boarding school for soccer next year down in Sydney through a scholarship, a girl last year from Katherine went through that same pathway.
“I’d be pretty confident they’d be the first ones out of Robinson River to go that far with sport.”
In the team’s final game against Victoria, a 4-0 loss, both girls showed their ability on the pitch, Shai-Cody making impressive saves as a back-up goalkeeper and Courtese dribbling past defenders at speed as a striker.
“It’s a huge learning experience on and off the field, a good experience to play with the other girls, and vice versa,” NT coach Jane Slater said.
“On the field they have stood up really well, given that they never get any competitive football at home.
“Cody had to go in goal today and she did extremely well, and they go back home with amazing memories.
“The team has had a great time, the first time we’ve all lived together so there’s been an amazing team spirit and we had that wonderful win yesterday (1-0 against South Australia) which was special.”