PRIDE ON THE LINE IN JA­PAN

New part­ner­ship to help pro­gres­sive Ip­swich club

The Queensland Times - - FRONT PAGE - DAVID LEMS david.lems@qt.com.au

WHEN Western Pride’s tour­ing party touches down in Ja­pan to­mor­row, it will be the next pro­gres­sive step in the Ip­swich foot­ball club’s im­pres­sive de­vel­op­ment.

Nineteen Pride play­ers and eight sup­port staff are spend­ing a week in the proud foot­balling coun­try on a self-funded end of sea­son trip to Ner­ima.

Apart from play­ing three matches in Ja­pan, the NPL Queens­land cham­pi­ons will gain valu­able ex­pe­ri­ence in other life as­pects as young men.

Western Pride foot­ball op­er­a­tions man­ager and as­sis­tant coach Dan Bur­nell has played a lead­ing role in or­gan­is­ing the sched­ule fea­tur­ing games against Tokyo 23, Ryutsu Keizai Univer­sity and Tochigi.

With 11 years in the travel agency in­dus­try, Bur­nell used his ex­ten­sive knowl­edge to work closely with Pride head coach Gra­ham Har­vey and the club’s man­age­ment to make the trip a re­al­ity.

“I love Ja­pan,’’ Bur­nell said, pre­par­ing for his fourth trip to Tokyo.

“The coun­try offers so much and that was an im­por­tant rea­son choos­ing some­where like Ja­pan as a des­ti­na­tion for our young group.’’

After Pride re­cently beat More­ton Bay United 2-1 to win their first state league grand fi­nal, Bur­nell said head­ing to Ja­pan for three qual­ity in­ter­na­tional games was a pos­i­tive ini­tia­tive.

“We are un­der no il­lu­sions. We un­der­stand that they are go­ing to be in­cred­i­bly tough fix­tures,’’ he said.

“But that is part and par­cel of the ex­pe­ri­ence.

“There’s no point spend­ing all of your foot­ball time in South East Queens­land.

“We’ve proven con­sis­tently through­out the course of this sea­son that we are the best in Queens­land, with the win­ning of the grand fi­nal.

“Now it’s time to take those ex­pe­ri­ences and push them fur­ther and re­ally chal­lenge our play­ers to ex­pe­ri­ence dif­fer­ent cul­tures, to play in en­vi­ron­ments on ar­ti­fi­cial pitches where there is cul­tural bar­ri­ers and lan­guage bar­ri­ers. And re­ally push them out­side of their com­fort zone.’’

Bur­nell said Ip­swich City Coun­cil had pro­vided valu­able as­sis­tance through the city’s links to Ja­pan.

“We are try­ing to cre­ate that type of ar­range­ment be­tween us and our sis­ter city Ner­ima,’’ Bur­nell said, keen to see matches be­tween Pride and Ja­panese teams ev­ery two years.

“We’re hop­ing to de­velop a re­la­tion­ship and es­tab­lish the links with a view that not just for this year but in the years down the track, we can cre­ate op­por­tu­ni­ties for Ner­ima, or Ja­panese sides, to visit Ip­swich and we be­come the host.

“And in al­ter­nate years, Western Pride go and visit Ner­ima.

“On the back of the won­der­ful suc­cess that we’ve en­joyed this year as a club, this has been 12-14 months in the mak­ing.

“We are re­ally con­scious of do­ing a won­der­ful job.’’

The Ip­swich-based NPL club ig­nited its in­ter­na­tional goals in May last year by host­ing the New Zealand All Whites team at the Briggs Road Sporting Com­plex.

New Zealand’s 2-0 win over the Pride com­bi­na­tion was a vi­tal part of the All Whites prepa­ra­tion for the OFC Na­tions Cup they later won in Pa­pua New Guinea.

“Host­ing New Zealand was the cat­a­lyst for us to open the doors to pro­vide the op­por­tu­ni­ties for young catch­ment area foot­ballers,’’ Bur­nell said.

“Host­ing New Zealand was a won­der­ful ex­pe­ri­ence and a great op­por­tu­nity and it en­abled us to give our guys an ex­pe­ri­ence that they wouldn’t have had oth­er­wise . . . to do that in their own back­yard.’’

Bur­nell said Pride’s trip to Ja­pan would take that a step

❝ Now it’s time to take those ex­pe­ri­ences and push them fur­ther and re­ally chal­lenge our play­ers . . . and re­ally push them out­side of their com­fort zone. — Dan Bur­nell

fur­ther and build more club op­por­tu­ni­ties in the fu­ture.

“Once this cur­rent co­hort of play­ers have de­vel­oped and have prop­erly moved through the sys­tem, hope­fully we can open the door,’’ he said.

“We’re cre­at­ing a path­way so that our cur­rent un­der 14s, un­der 16s, un­der 18s – boys and girls – can be pre­sented with op­por­tu­ni­ties to go on a cul­tural ex­change in the years down the track.’’

On next week’s in­au­gu­ral trip to Ja­pan, the Pride play­ers will re­ceive sight­see­ing and cul­tural tours to broaden their foot­ball ex­pe­ri­ence.

In his third year at Western Pride, Bur­nell was thrilled to see all but one of the grand fi­nal-win­ning team re-sign for next year’s NPL sea­son.

“We’ve worked re­ally hard in cre­at­ing a cul­ture and an en­vi­ron­ment at Western Pride,’’ he said.

“With suc­cess comes an at­trac­tion for other good young play­ers, or play­ers in the south east Queens­land cor­ri­dor are now drawn to a club like Western Pride.’’

PHOTO: CHRIS SIMP­SON

GRIP­PING SUC­CESS: Western Pride cap­tain Jesse Rigby with foot­ball op­er­a­tions man­ager Dan Bur­nell after the club's NPL Queens­land grand fi­nal suc­cess.

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