It was the “money and the work” that lured Kevin Walsh from New Zealand to Australia in the 1990s.
- Kevin Walsh will play his 300th game for Townsite Eagles in WA’s Pilbara region this weekend
- Mr Walsh took up the sport after arriving in the town of Tom Price from New Zealand
- The WA Football Commission says the milestone is a “rarity” in a region known for its transient population
However, it was the community connections in Western Australia’s Pilbara region, where he is about to set a rare milestone for the local footy team, that have made him stay.
Now a long-term resident in the mining town of Tom Price, Mr Walsh will play his 300th match for the Townsite Eagles on Saturday, becoming the club’s first 300-gamer this century.
He arrived in Australia on January 26, 1994, after encouragement from two of his brothers who were living in the Pilbara.
A sense of belonging in a ‘foreign’ sport
Growing up with six brothers and a sister, Rugby Union was the dominant sport in his household, with Aussie Rules “quite foreign”.
However, it was not long before he realised Australian Football suited him.
“[I’m] fairly fast-paced, so being of a smaller build, you just run away from trouble.”
Mr Walsh debuted aged 24 in 1997.
He says the Australian game has overtaken rugby as his preferred sport.
Mr Walsh says the football club also gives the town’s transient population “a sense of belonging”.
“It ends up being a big family,” he said.
“[You’re] isolated by distance from most of your friends and family, [so] it ends up being these associations — whether it be sport or not-for-profit organisations, everyone gets involved.
A milestone worth celebrating
Given the region’s transient nature and short football seasons, 300 games is a “huge milestone”, according to the WA Football Commission’s regional development specialist in the Pilbara, Vicki Agnew.
“Mining town shifts are not always conducive to a sporting lifestyle, [so] week-to-week you may have a totally different team,” Ms Agnew said.
Mr Walsh has also celebrated plenty of on-field success, winning 12 premierships with Towns, including the club’s three-peat from 2001 to 2003.
Current and former teammates and coaches will gather on Saturday night for the milestone match against the Tom Price Tigers, with presentations and speeches after the game.
Now aged 50, Mr Walsh is not considering retirement.
“I wouldn’t let my team down,” he said.
Posted 22m ago22 minutes agoSat 28 May 2022 at 1:09am, updated 18m ago18 minutes agoSat 28 May 2022 at 1:13am