Kwabe Boakye grew up in the Australian rules heartland of Victoria but it was his move to the sport’s Queensland outpost that put him on track to becoming the first player with Ghanaian heritage to reach the AFL.
Boakye’s transformation into one of the most promising young multicultural players in Australia is as exciting as his game style and distinctive haircut.
With the speed to rival Suns defender Adam Saad and quickly developing skills, the Gold Coast and AFL academy member has turned heads since taking up the sport three years ago in Rockhampton.
Boakye, 18, is hopeful of representing his parents’ homeland of Ghana on the biggest stage by being taken in this year’s draft.
‘I really want that to happen,’ the 188cm halfback said.
‘I want to prove that you don’t just have to play AFL from a young age to be able to make it.
‘It just depends how bad you want it and how much you want to work for it.’
Boakye, who has played for the Suns’ NEAFL side this month, was born in Melbourne but has a strong affiliation to his family’s background.
‘At home Mum and Dad speak Ghanaian,’ he said.
‘Growing up I learnt to speak it as well. At functions we have a traditional dress and everyone who attends wears it. It’s very symbolic and just to be part of all that is amazing.’
Every two years his father Nana, an engineer, and mother Ceceila, a doctor and university lecturer, take Kwabe and his older
siblings Baffour, Eddie and Amma, back to Ghana where they continue to help out the local communities.
Boakye said he remained humbled by the visits that ensure he never takes his opportunity to play football for granted. ‘It’s a real big eye-opener because Ghana is a Third World country,’ he said. ‘To see the people who are in my bloodline going through their struggles and then to look back on my life and see how easy I have it is important.
‘Mum does a lot of charity work there. Last year when we went she took a lot of clothes and hospital beds to help out the hospitals and just to see everyone’s face when they received them was huge.’
Boakye also took a football over to give to his cousins in one of the first introductions of the sport in the country.
Nana and Ceceila moved to Melbourne before Kwabe was born to give their children more opportunities in life but it wasn’t until he traded in the AFL’s primary hotspot for the sport’s outpost in North Queensland that he got involved with the sport.
Boakye never played Australian rules in 14 years in Melbourne, preferring soccer. Footy tipping and lunchtime kicks of the Sherrin were as close as he got to the sport.
On his first day at new school The Cathedral College in Rockhampton a teacher invited him to train with their Aussie rules team.
‘I picked it up really easily,’ said Boakye, who made the state under-16 team in his first year. ‘I dropped soccer from that point and began my AFL career.
‘Even being new to the sport I could see myself doing well. I was faster than the boys in the age group above.
‘I knew I had the physical aspect — I could run fast and jump higher than most.’
Boakye’s athleticism brought the Suns attention. He can run 20m in 2.85 seconds, only 0.04 seconds slower than the time Saad recorded at the 2012 draft combine.
Boakye idolises Saad and hopes bring the same brand of football to the AFL if he reaches it.
‘I’m still working towards being quicker than him and I model my game off him as much as I can,’ Boakye said.
‘His run and carry and the input he has in the game is exciting.’
Boakye spent two-and-a-half years in Rockhampton, making the state under-16s team in his first year, before relocating to the Gold Coast last year to fast-track his development the same way Cairns product Jack Bowes did before being taken at No. 10 of last year’s draft by the Suns.
Boakye was a centre midfielder in soccer and has taken the same dare and positional awareness from the 11-man game into his new sport.
‘I play my footy with that attacking approach off halfback.
‘I guess I got that from soccer. I find myself to be a lot more aware than some of the other boys.
‘In soccer your head always had to be on a swivel to see all your options and it’s the same for Australian rules. It’s not like I’m learning anything new it’s more going over what I have learnt and incorporating it into my football.’
Credit: GoldCoast Bulletin
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