Bol Kolang is a centrepiece of the Paul Chapman revolution at Werribee Districts.
The 23-year-old has relished his chance to take command in the ruck, and his athleticism around the ground is a great asset for the Tigers premiership aspirations.
Kolang knew early in the piece there would be opportunities to stamp his authority over the competition.
“It feels pretty good to have cemented my spot and just be doing my part for the team,” Kolang said.
“When I signed at the start of the year, that was something Paul Chapman really pushed.
“He wanted me to have a big impact and said I had the potential to do that for the team.
“For us to be successful, it was important for me to play well and make sure that I come to play every week, so I’m just trying to do that.”
Kolang’s journey to the WRFL has been unique. Born in Sudan, his family moved to Egypt when he was just two.
He has little recollection of his life until the age of five.
“I remember we lived in a pretty tall tower in town,” Kolang said.“The only memory I really have is when I ran through the shower glass door.
“I’ve got a big scar on my left wrist from that.”
Kolang then moved to Australia with his family, who settled first in Sydney for five years.
It was not until 2003 that he arrived in Melbourne.
“It’s been a bit of a journey, but it’s been good,” Kolang said. “I think it’s really helped me to meet new people and just to be able to relate to everyone.
“You appreciate certain things more coming from where I’m from.”
Basketball was Kolang’s first sport of choice, but Tigers’ vice-president Rod Harrington kept telling him to give Australian Rules a go, and finally he went down to Soldiers Reserve, in time for his bottom-age, under-17 year.
Kolang impressed, and quickly came on the radar of TAC Cup side Western Jets.
He has come a long way in six years. He had a pre-season with Werribee’s VFL side in 2014, but could not commit because of university studies. The former MacKillop College student is studying business at Victoria University in Footscray.
Last year, he spent a season on the Werribee list, but returned to Werribee Districts this season because of the squeeze put on to the bottom-end of Werribee’s squad after its AFL alignment with North Melbourne was beefed up.
Kolang returns much richer in football knowledge for his year in the VFL system.
“Yeah, I’ve come back a hundred per cent better,” he said. “You just look at the game differently, more the mental side of the game.”
The WRFL these days is no walk in the park. There are stars all over the competition, particularly in the ruck.
Kolang is no shrinking violet either.
“It is a tough competition,” he said.
“You’re coming up against some pretty good players, especially in my position, players like [Wayde] Skipper, [Angus] Milham and [Chris] Stewart.
“So you’ve got to come to play every week.
“I want to go up against the best and hopefully have some success against them,” he said.
“That’s just my competitive nature.”
Kolang is one of a number of Wyndham’s Sudanese community to have taken up football.
Majak Daw, a close family friend, is another pioneer, making an impact at Werribee first, and then North Melbourne.
Kolang believes Sudanese footballers will have a big impact on AFL in the future, if they can be diverted from basketball.
“They’re such good athletes, they’ve got so much choice for what sport they want to play.
“As we get to the second and third generation of Sudanese in Australia, we’ll see more and more adapt to the Australian game.
“Even in the Wyndham area, we’ve got so much talent coming through.”
Kolang has not ruled out a return to the VFL, but is more than happy to be playing a key role for Werribee Districts, hopefully in the finals.
“We definitely feel like we’re up there this season.”