Sport

Sudanese flyer links with Ipswich Jets

Ipswich Jets new recruit and speedster Chol Chol. Photo: David Nielsen / The Queensland Times
Ipswich Jets new recruit and speedster Chol Chol. Photo: David Nielsen / The Queensland Times David Nielsen

RUGBY league isn't big in Sudan.

But that is all set to change if new Ipswich Jets recruit Chol Chol gets his way.

The 18-year-old winger is turning heads at Jets training with his speed and athleticism after his skills were fine tuned at Ipswich State High, where he played for the top side in 2015.

It has been some journey for Chol from war torn Sudan, to Auckland and then Ipswich.

Chol spoke to the QT at Jets training and said he still had to pinch himself that he had the opportunity.

"I just never knew I would be playing footy," Chol said.

"It still buzzes me up every time I get to train and play, just realising that in my country Sudan no-one plays this...no-one.

"In Kenya they play sevens rugby, but not league."

Chol left his African homeland with his mum as a youth when the country was in the midst of a 22-year-long civil war.

The family settled in New Zealand where he was a boarder at rugby union school Wesley College, the alma mater of the late and great All Blacks legend Jonah Lomu.

It was there that he forged a love of rugby union and, drawn by the dazzling skills of Shaun Johnson and Ben Barba, ultimately rugby league.

"It was tough in Sudan, so my mum went to New Zealand for a better life," Chol said.

"I started playing footy with the Islander boys when I was eight and loved it.

"I'd play backyard footy with them and picked it up from there.

"I played union at Wesley and started playing league with an Auckland team when I left in Year 11.

"Then I went to Ippy High on a scholarship and played league in the Super Six. Now...here I am.

"Rugby league is fun to me. It is a passion. I just love the people I meet and I love to play."

Lee Addison, head rugby league coach at Ipswich High, discovered the Sudanese speed demon at the New Zealand under 17 national championships at Rotorua in 2014 when Chol was with the Auckland Vulcans.

To say Chol made an impression on Addison is the understatement of the year. The teenager gave him flashbacks of one of England's fastest ever players, only with a Nigerian heritage.

"When I first saw him play he scored five tries and he reminded me of Martin Offiah," Addison said.

"There were a lot of people who had reservations about Chol but I looked at what he could do rather than what he couldn't.

"We got him over to Ipswich High and his game breaking ability was second to none.

"He just needs more experience, but he is someone to watch and I think he will fit into the Jets system perfectly."

Jets co-coach Shane Walker has been impressed with Chol's athleticism at training. He may be raw, but he has the razzamatazz that is a trademark of the Jets.

"I don't think the game is very big in Sudan, but he is learning the whole time and he is quick to pick the game up," Walker said.

"Chol has aerobic ability and speed.

"Often guys with great aerobic capability don't possess the fast twitch fibres that the speed men do, but he seems to have both in abundance.

"He is running guys down at training who make a break and think they are home and hosed.

"He is picking them up like he is standing still.

"I'd love to have a horse like him.

"Chol has a lot to learn and a long way to go, but the early signs are exciting.

"He has footwork and agility that we certainly haven't had at the club yet.

"When he makes a sidestep they are real definite. In a line straight across the park, he seems to end up two metres away from where the step was made."

That sidestep is a skill Chol is proud of.

"I just want to dance around players...like Ben Barba," he said.

"Ben Barba is my idol. Watching him play back in 2012 made me love the game even more."

They may well start calling the flamboyant Chol the 'African Antelope' down at the Jets, due to his blistering speed and agility.

"They are quite agile aren't they," coach Walker grinned.

"But we are hoping he is more of a lion. We want him at the top of the food chain."

Topics:  ipswich jets, ipswich rugby league




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