A chance meeting at a bowls club.
That’s what started it all.
When Oakleigh Junior Football Club President Pat Heverin noticed three brothers ‘running amok’ as three young boys would, he took the opportunity to see if some of their boundless, youthful energy could be harnessed in the yellow and green.
“I just thought ‘I’ll ask the question and see what happens’,” Heverin said when describing his initial interaction with the three boys.
“And when I asked him to promise me he’d come to training, he promised and sure enough the next week he was there.”
An extended invitation to ‘come and play some footy’ has become a story not even Pat would have imagined after their first chance encounter.
It’s become Mony’s story.
Mony Nyok, a young South Sudanese refugee has become somewhat of a cult figure in the Oakleigh Dragons Under 11’s.
Having only experienced Australian football at a bare minimum, Mony’s growth, both on and off the field has been truly remarkable.
“The first thing which stands out is he’s wonderfully polite,” said Oakleigh Under 11’s Team Manager Jude Foster when asked about first meeting Mony.
“He wasn’t shy per se, but he was reserved. You could tell he wanted to meet all the other kids.”
Mony lives 20km from where he plays in Oakleigh, which has allowed him to make new friends beyond his community. He has fitted in with the other players in his team, some who have played together for six years as if he had been apart of the team since the start.
On first impressions, Mony’s athleticism is noticeable. He’s a natural ruckman with a terrific leap, but more impressive is Mony’s ability to swoop down with one hand and pick the ball up cleanly.
While Mony’s athleticism helped him ingratiate himself within the Dragons community, it was his willingness to learn and improve which really impressed.
“Lots of Aussie kids have a dad who will teach them, (kicking a football) from the time they can walk,” noted Foster.
“Mony was already 10 when he was being taught, having only held a football a number of times.”
“One of our coaches showed him how to hold the Sherrin properly, and almost instantly his ball drop just looked so natural,” said Foster.
“He just absorbs everything he’s taught, he’s so locked in. If he’s given an instruction like, ‘Don’t take your eye off that ball’, he really doesn’t.”
Already showing promising signs of becoming more than a handy footballer (he finished runner up in the Under 11’s best and fairest award), Mony has also been acknowledged for the spirit in which he plays the game.
One game in 2021, an opposition coach awarded Mony their clubs award for the day, for the way in which he looked out for not only his own teammates, but the opposition players.
“Mony finishing second in the best and fairest was really a credit to how he far he has come in such a short time,” said Foster.
“He definitely is both one of the best and one of the fairest players in our team.”
If you or someone you know are interested in playing football in 2022 and live in or around the Oakleigh area, you can register with Oakleigh JFC here or alternatively, get in contact with your local SMJFL club via our Play Footy page here.