Written by Gareth Jones
The Robert Walters scholarship for young Japanese players provides Japanese lads with a well rounded football education. In addition to playing a season with Box Hill North, the scholarship winner spends his time improving his English and studying for AFL qualifications in coaching and umpiring. This year’s scholarship winner is Hiroyuki Shiba, known to most Goannas only as Shiba–his last name. Shiba is a popular fellow who works at the the Clubhouse alongside Crazy Horse (Jun Oikawa, also of Senshu Uni). Shiba has played four years with Senshu University and played for Japan in his first international at the Arafura Cup (Darwin) in 2001. Since then he has been a regular representative of the Japan Samurais and his career includes the International Cup (Melbourne) 2002, two international friendly matches at the Optus Oval against NZ and two Narita Cup campaigns. Shiba was recruited to footy when he arrived at Senshu University. Apparently, Yasu Tanaka (now a regular for the Goannas) was up to something quite unusual (details withheld) and this attracted Shiba’s interest and it wasn’t long before he was captivated by his new sport. Shiba is a deserving winner of the scholarship. He has devoted a great deal of time and effort to footy. On graduation from Senshu University (2004) he entered the workforce and soon discovered that Japanese work traditions would prevent him playing footy. This is a familiar story, but unlike so many other Japanese players, Shiba made a huge committment to footy, quit his job and went back to work part time at the Clubhouse. Now, as scholarship winner, Shiba will head over to Melbourne to join Box Hill North at the beginning of the VAFA season. With four months footy in the VAFA under his belt, Shiba will be hardened and ready to represent his country again in the 2005 International Cup in August. On a personal note, I believe Shiba will gain a great deal from his current path in life. He will learn English, develop important friendships at Box Hill North and generally broaden his outlook on life. Compared to merely slaving himself to a Japanese company, the skills and outlook on life he will gain through footy will be vastly superior to the narrow track his his Japanese company had in mind for him. Shiba is to be admired for daring to take a different approach. I hope his success will encourage other to follow him. All Goannas wish Shiba the best of luck in 2005. Shiba is a very likable person and I am sure he will be as popular at Box Hill North as he is in Japan.