At his press conference this week Senior Coach Chris Fagan broke into his trademark wide grin when a journalist asked him about a young man who has been helping out at training over the past six weeks.

“He’s always got a good smile on his face, helps out at training and he’s got a few good skills as well,” Fagan told the large media scrum.

“He’s been a welcome addition and is very popular amongst our players.”

The 19-year-old young man is Deng Arok, who has been working with Ruck and Midfield Coach Ben Hudson as part of AFL Coaches Association and AFL’s Jesaulenko Internship program.

The internship is all about exposing multicultural Australians to elite coaching and high performance in the football industry.

Arok was not born here and his journey to Australia is astounding.

“I’m South Sundanese but I was not born in Sudan,” Arok told

“My family fled from South Sudan due to war.

“They ended up in a refugee camp in Kenya and that’s where I was born. Then moved to Australia when I was five.

“I’m South Sudanese, born in Kenya but full Australian. I love this place.”

He started playing the nation’s game four years ago when friends in Toowoomba encouraged him to give it a “crack” one Saturday afternoon.

Since then, he’s been hooked and now plays for the Western Magpies in the QAFL.

In between interning at the Lions, studying Sport Science at the University of Queensland, he also coaches the Under 16 boys at the Western Magpies.

“I applied for the internship to further develop my coaching,” he said.

His responsibilities at the Lions include kicking footys to players and putting on defensive pressure as well as helping out at training where needed. But he has learnt so much from observing the coaches in their element.

“One of the biggest things I’ve learnt is having that really good relationship with the players. It helps the whole team dynamic,” he said.

“Just from observing, I can tell the coaches have a really good relationship with their players which has obviously shown with their on-field success.

“That’s something I want to take on board.”

This weekend the pressure is on for Arok, when he will sit on the coaches’ bench for the first time, when the Lions take on the Bulldogs at the Gabba. He is likely to help out with the rotation cards.

“A little nerve-wracking because I don’t want to get anything wrong,” he said.

 “It will be interesting to see all the emotion from the players and the coaches.”

The Lions will also be celebrating Multicultural Round at The Gabba this weekend when they host a citizenship ceremony pre-match in Jurgens St Park. The 49 new Australians will then form a guard of honour as the Lions run out.

More about the Jesaulenko Internship here:

The Jesaulenko Internship is a program run by the AFL Coaches Association in partnership with the AFL. It was created in order to expose multicultural Australians to elite coaching and high performance.

The Jesaulenko Internship, named after former VFL Premiership Player and Coach Alex Jesaulenko, seeks to enable people who have also migrated to Australia to follow Alex’s lead by becoming engaged in the country’s favourite sport: Australian Rules Football.

Community coaches from diverse backgrounds have the opportunity to be part of the special program which involves a ten-week internship at an AFL Club.

The program will specifically educate the interns in the areas of:

  • player development
  • game analysis
  • planning for training and competition
  • injury prevention and rehabilitation
  • coach-to-coach and coach-to-player relationships, and 
  • enhancing leadership skills

The aim of The Jesaulenko Internship is to increase the amount of skilled multicultural coaches in the community, give the coaches the ability to pass on their knowledge and inspire other multicultural and/or non-traditional football background people to become involved in the game. The achievement of these goals will mean more multicultural Australians will have a chance to follow in Jesaulenko’s footsteps.