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The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 25 June 2016
DIGITAL.NEOSKOSMOS.COM THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 25 JUNE 2016 31 SPORT Gold Coast’s Apollo launches onto FFA Cup national stage GEORGE STOGIANNOU Few Australian soccer clubs can boast of a home address as alluring as Via Roma, on the Isle of Capri in Surfers Paradise, an address which conjures up images of sun and surf. But now, in addition to its prime location, Surfers Paradise Apollo Soccer Club can also boast of being the first Gold Coast Premier League club to ever qualify for the Round of 32 of the Westfield FFA Cup. Club president Telly Karadimos says, "It's a huge effort. No one has done it before from the Gold Coast Premier League. To get to the last 32 is the highest achievement of any local Premier League club. I think we're one of just two third-tier clubs left in the last 32." Gold Coast-based NPL club TYLER DORSEY HOLDING THE GREEK FLAG WITH NICK PAPAIOANNOU. Tyler Dorsey goes blue NICK METALLINOS Greek American Oregon star tests the NBA draft waters and plays for the Greek national team Tyler Dorsey never dreamed he'd be wearing the Greek colours in international competition, but the realisation that he will be representing the men's national basketball team in Olympic qualification has hit home. "I never thought I would represent Greece," Dorsey told Neos Kosmos from Oregon. "It was something that just happened. I'm happy and honoured to play for the Greek national team. “To wear the blue and white colours, and represent Greece is going to be a great experience if we qualify." Born in California to an American father and a Greek mother, Dorsey quickly made a name for himself in US college basketball during his first NCAA season in 2015-16, averaging 13.4 points, 4.3 rebounds and 2.3 assists, all the while helping lead the Oregon Ducks to March Madness action. Prior to that, in 2014, Dors- ey was cut from a USA Basketball tryout camp for its U18 national team — a serendipitous turn of events that set the wheels in motion to get the teenager to Greece. "My mum and family said why not figure out [a way] to get on the Greek team," Dorsey said. To do so required a bit of guile, and luck. As it happened, the Ducks' assistant coach, Tony Stubblefield, was good friends with Nick Papaioannou, Editor-in-Chief of MSN, and a well-respected blogger for NBA Greece. Papaioannou has been covering the NBA since 1996, and has developed close relationships with many players in the NBA. Over dinner, Stubblefield told Papaioannou about Dorsey. "He told me that his mother is Greek and that he wanted to play for the national team," Papaioannou remembers. "I contacted the president of the Greek Basketball Federation, Georgios Vassilakopoulos, and the federation's executive, Panagiotis Fassoulas. "They asked me to have his parents send the papers that proved his Greek origin. Within three weeks, Ty- ler had a Greek passport and was playing with the U19 National team at the World Championship." Dorsey received his Greek passport on the Tuesday before the U19s began and was added to the Greek roster at the last minute before the tournament kicked off in Crete. Despite his lack of familiarity with his new teammates, he led the team in points and minutes as the young Greeks finished fourth in the tournament. More impressive was the fact that he came off the bench in every game he played. "The great thing about him was how easy he adjusted in an unknown environment," added Papaioannou. "Playing with players that he saw for the first time in his life, on a semi-pro level, even though he was coming from high school basketball." Perhaps buoyed by his impressive showings at both the international and college level, Dorsey entered his name as one of 162 early-entry candidates that initially declared for the 2016 NBA Draft, only to with- draw just before the deadline, but not before working out for teams like the Denver Nuggets and the Utah Jazz. Dorsey said he realised he needed more time to develop as a player before making the leap into the NBA. "It's a lifestyle you gotta be prepared for," Dorsey said about his NBA workouts. "I just thought going back to Oregon would be the best decision for me. “I know what I have to work on. I just thought I'd prepare myself this year and come back next year [and try for the NBA]." Before focusing on the college season ahead, Dorsey was formally invited to the men's national team training camp on Monday 6 June, and he will have an opportunity to fight for a spot on the roster as the Greeks look to secure Olympic qualification in Italy next month. "We definitely have a good chance to qualify," he stated assertively. "We play some tough teams in our pool - Italy at home - but we have a good chance, we have a good team." Palm Beach Sharks, which ended South Melbourne's FFA Cup run last year, has previously progressed to the Round of 32, but Apollo is the first club from the third tier Gold Coast Premier League competition to progress to the national stage of the FFA Cup. Few can deny that Apollo has earned its place in the Round of 32, having knocked out three Queensland NPL clubs in successive rounds including Gold Coast City, South West Queensland and Sunshine Coast. Founded by Greeks, the club has a mixture of players from different ethnic backgrounds including Greeks, Serbians, Croatians, Italians and South Americans as well as others, prompting one member to describe it as being like " a mini United Nations." President Karadimos attributes the successful cup run largely to the strong bond and unity amongst the playing group, and singles out coach David Benigno as the architect of that team spirit. " The boys are very united. We've got a couple of boys who've played for NPL club Gold Coast City and they've never been involved with a club that's so tight between each other. They support each other. Our coach David Benigno, it's only his second year in Premier League. The guy's done an incredible job with the camaraderie within the team. He's been fantastic." With Greek-owned Brisbane based business The Coffee Club as a major sponsor, the president says " The support we get is phenomenal, especially now where we've achieved with how far we've gone." Melbourne-born Karadimos says he's hoping to score a home match hosting an ALeague opponent in the draw for the upcoming round. "If it's an A-League team we're hoping to play at Cbus Stadium in Robina." When asked about the club's ambitions for future development, the President says that for now the club is happy to remain a community-based club. "Look, we're a community club. We're all volunteers, we don't have poker machines. It's a small little community club. I'm happy where we are. I don't think we can substantiate going into the NPL. Because the qualifiers, you need to pay a manager, have full facilities for everything. The Gold Coast just doesn't have that available," he said. "At the moment we're the only Gold Coast Premier League side still in all the three comps. We have a BLK Cup here as well - we're in the semi-finals in two weeks. We're in the FFA Cup and the League." The draw for the FFA Cup Round of 32 takes place later this month with the 16 matches to be played in late July and early August. You can wager that more than a few clubs from down south would fancy a trip up north to Surfers Paradise for a midwinter cup tie.
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