6 November 2023

Love of balling spreading across Cooktown

| Sarah Martin
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The PCYC After Dark basketball program is gaining popularity with about 30 kids training every week. Photo: Sarah Martin.

One youngster’s love of basketball is spreading, with what began as training at home now a regular group of 30 at the Cooktown PCYC under the tutelage of Boomers team manager and Cooktown local Junior Viranatuleo.

Cooktown primary school student Eli Gibson-Chung caught the basketball bug from his dad Dave Chung, and leapt at the opportunity to compete at Peninsula school trials earlier this year.

The father and son duo trained at home for the trials, and their hard work paid off, with Eli selected for the Mareeba team, but the youngster’s lack of game time and group training resulted in a solid loss.

“I knew it would happen, Eli just lacked the experience of game time,” Mr Chung said.

“That’s when I started pressing hard to see if we could start training kids and get something happening here.”

Mr Chung reached out to Basketball Queensland, which put him in touch with Mr Viranatuleo, who was overseas with the Boomers, and Endeavour Christian College teacher Leroy Corea.

“We were playing Sunday night games, which was great, the kids and adults loved it,” Mr Chung said.

“Then Dave (at the PCYC) told us about the After Dark program and we started bringing kids, just seeing how it went and nutting out drills, and now it’s getting bigger and bigger, which is great.”

Joining the coaching team at the PCYC is Junior’s wife Ashton, who has played basketball across Australia, Mr Corea and Mr Chung, with support from PCYC program manager Sergeant Dave Goode.

Sgt Goode said the PCYC’s Activities After Dark program was focused on 12 to 18-year-olds, and the success of Cooktown’s basketball program is all thanks to the enthusiasm of the volunteers.

“We have a good band of volunteers and their enthusiasm and keenness is what makes the program successful,” he said.

“At the start, we had less than 10, now it’s grown to about 30 and we have split it into a beginner’s group and the more experienced kids.”

Sgt Goode also provides a freshly cooked dinner for players after the last hour-long training and playing session.

Mr Chung hopes his and Eli’s love of the sport will continue to spread, with plans for games between neighbouring Hope Vale and Wujal Wujal and a whole team to compete at next year’s Peninsula trials.

“It’s amazing to see the kids over the past month, how much their skills have improved,” Mr Chung said.

“The big plan is to grow it, maybe start a basketball club and we have talked about games between Hope Vale and Wujal Wujal and getting funding to get a basketball and volleyball court on the waterfront.”

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