In sporting terms, the African country of Ghana is best known for its exploits in soccer, but an Oakleigh Chargers bottom-ager of Ghanaian descent is making a name for himself in Australia’s national game.
As the football world celebrated Multicultural Round, Isaac Quaynor talked to taccup.com.au about how Australian Rules captured him from an early age.
The 17-year-old’s father was born in Ghana, where the national soccer team the Black Stars – nicknamed after the black star on the Ghanaian flag – is revered. The Black Stars memorably made it to the second round of the 2006 FIFA World Cup in their first appearance in the tournament and then the quarter finals in 2010.
But while Quaynor said he had “always enjoyed and stayed true to” his African heritage, his form for Oakleigh would indicate he made the right decision in picking up the oval ball. The Bulleen-Templestowe and Beverley Hills (Yarra Junior FL) product has played 10 matches for the ladder-leading Chargers since breaking into the team in Round 4 as a 180cm defender.
“My Dad was born in Ghana and Mum has Australian heritage, so I guess I’ve had a bit of a mixed upbringing,” Quaynor said. “Soccer was the sport Dad knew and that was the sport he grew up with. He always pushed for me to have a go at it, which I did do when I was younger, but I jumped over and started playing footy with a couple of mates from school.
“I’ve always loved footy since I started. My uncles and my cousins are footy nuts, and they always put me in a guernsey.
“Dad wasn’t too fussed with what I did as long as I was happy. He’s probably not the biggest fan of footy, but I’ve tried to rope him in much as I can. He can hardly kick the ball so I’m trying to teach him as we go along, but it seems to be a lot tougher than I thought it was going to be!”
Quaynor is averaging 11 disposals per game this season while taking on the task of locking down on one of the opposition’s most dangerous mobile forwards each week.
Having played in the back line throughout his junior career, his ability to fulfill a one-on-one role has clearly endeared him to Oakleigh head coach Leigh Clarke – who has named him in the team’s best players six times – and seen Quaynor far exceed his pre-season expectations.
“I like to think of myself as a physical player who can take something away from my direct opponent and help out around the ground when I can, whether that’s coming in for a spoil or picking a teammate up off the deck,” Quaynor said. “It’s just about doing the little things.
“I’ve had a couple of match-ups where I’ve had the opportunity to play against someone who’s pretty strong and might be a prospect for this year’s AFL Draft. I played on (the Gippsland Power’s) Changkuoth Jiath and he wasn’t an easy match-up at all, but I eventually adjusted to his athletic abilities and went from there.
“I think I’ve come a long way, to be honest. At the start of pre-season, I probably wasn’t expecting to get as many games as I am as a bottom-ager. I’ve been putting in a lot of work in the gym and getting to training early, and I guess the coaches have noticed me.”
Indeed, it’s not difficult to notice Quaynor on the field: People have told him he looks like former Collingwood premiership player Heritier Lumumba, also a defender with African heritage and someone he looked up to during his football development.
Quaynor might further follow in Lumumba’s footsteps given he’s part of the Magpies’ Next Generation Academy. The NGA rules allow AFL clubs priority access to indigenous or multicultural prospects playing in their allocated zones.
Along with the likes of current Chargers teammates Atu Bosenavulagi and Bailey Wraith, Quaynor had the chance to experience Collingwood’s facilities last year.
“That was a really good opportunity to see what it’s like at the next level,” Quaynor said. “We had a game on the Sunday and then we did a bit of recovery at Collingwood – swimming and ice baths – on the Monday. It was a pretty cool experience.
“It’s kind of surreal when you walk in and see the top-class facilities – there are gyms upon gyms and pools everywhere. It’s definitely put fuel on the fire (to hopefully play in the AFL one day).”
Perhaps Quaynor’s soccer-loving father will take comfort in the fact the Magpies wear black and white – just as Ghana’s Black Stars do.