September 27, 2023

Trial over for Solomons boys: “We are happy with our performances”

Raphael Lea’i and Leon Kofana have finished their trials at A-League club Melbourne Victory.

Raphael Lea’i and Leon Kofana have finished their trials at A-League club Melbourne Victory. No contract can be offered at this time, but they hope to return.

Leai Kofana
Raphael Lea’i (left) and Leon Kofana have finished their trial with Melbourn Victory. (Photo credit: Richard Ewart)

The two Solomon Islands youngsters got a two-week trial with the A-League club’s academy. During their time there, they went from training with the U-18 team to the U-23s.

Lea’i was happy with his own performances.

“We are happy with our performance, we also note that our performance here is very different. They have moved us from the Under-18s to the Under-21s so we are happy,” he told ABC Radio Australia.

While Kofana was confident they would be back in the future.

“My hope is that we can come back. I believe we will come back and play for Melbourne Victory,” he told the radio station.

Acquitted themselves well

Speaking to Football in Oceania, Victory’s Technical and Academy Director, Drew Sherman, was pleased with the two youngsters’ performances.

However, he couldn’t say whether or no they’d be offered a contract in the future.

“The boys acquitted themselves well. Of course, at the moment there are a lot of factors to consider given the Coronavirus issue and ramifications for travel. I believe that both boys intend to pursue educational options here in Australia, and if that is the case then we can, of course, have a further look at them once they’re in the country,” Sherman said.

Because both players are under the age of 18, any move that sees them go abroad has to be based on a scholarship. As was the case when Lea’i and Kofana went to Wellington for school and trained with the Wellington Phoenix.

Things to learn

Sherman thinks the boys did well and see the potential they have.

“The two boys were very nervous, without a doubt, and culturally there is an enormous difference, which is apparent. But they’ve settled in well and they’ve got unique attributes. But they’re raw and there are certain things they will need to learn. In the right environment they can be thought that and pick up on it quickly enough,” Sherman told Radio Australia.

The structure of transfers and foreign spots may be changing in the A-League, and Sherman, who is the former Head Coach of the Cook Islands, is a big advocate for opening up spots for Pacific players.

“We need to support a pathway for the entire region. We have to look at how we support them the best.

“If we have the academy infrastructure in place there is no reason to think why that needs to be limited to Australia. But they have to be at a certain level, we need to see that they have A-League potential and not sell them a pipe dream,” he told the radio station.

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