Diamond Valley Eagles visit Cameron

Players from the Cameron Yoemena and Diamond Valley Eagles (Australia) swap out team shirts last week at the Christmas Classic.  Photo by Peter Steven.  

Every two years, the Diamond Valley Eagles basketball organization of Australia plans a tour to the United States. Their first stop of 2016 was to Cameron to compete in the annual Christmas Classic basketball tournament.


It not only proved to be a great experience for the kids from Australia, but also for many in Cameron - including myself - who don’t often get to meet people from different cultures and walks of life.


In their few days in Cameron, I found out who the Diamond Valley Eagles are, met some of the players and coaches, got an understanding on what they hope to accomplish in their time in America, and a cause that is carried with the teams.


Who are the Diamond Valley Eagles?


The Diamond Valley Basketball Association (DVBA) was established in 1976, and manages basketball for all ages within their region of the state of Victoria. Diamond Valley is located near Melbourne, the second largest populated city in Australia.


The association not only has high school level competition, but also youth and senior league play to help develop skills at all ages.


Schools in the area do not have enough interest for basketball so it is played on a city-wide level.


“All the kids at Diamond Valley play for our city,” said coach David Jamieson. “We have a selection process and the kids get picked into teams.


Much like high schools in Texas, the two teams that traveled to Cameron were made up of teenage kids aged 15 to 18.


The official season for the association will begin in March. Just like in Texas, DVBA will compete against others in their state


“Our proper season starts in March and finishes in August,” said Jamieson. “They will play 18 games plus finals depending on where they get ranked within the state.”


Jamieson added that the top 20 graded teams will end up playing in the Victorian Championship.


For his day job, Jamieson is the sergeant at the Hurstbridge Police Station. The head of coaching for DVBA - Alan McAughtry - also made the trip to the United States. McAughtry has over 20 years experience with basketball and has coached the international 17 and 19 and under Australian men.


The Goal of the Trip


DVBA is a basketball organization, and they are coming here to compete against others in the game that they play. However, there is more to the trip than just the competition.


“Back home, there are approximately four million people in Melbourne where these kids are from,” said McAughtry. “Having to deal with travel, being prepared to play, and learning the culture and locals and eating different foods is a big, big part. The basketball is secondary, but it is very cool to get here.”


The 2016-2017 tour began in Cameron and will last three weeks with stops planned in North Carolina and California.


“It is all part of letting these kids see how basketball is over here compared to basketball back home,” said Jamieson, who added that it cost approximately $5,400 dollars for each kid to make the trip.


In addition to their scheduled games across the country, the group will attend a few college games, an NBA contest, tour AT&T stadium, plus spend a day at Six Flags.


Coming to Cameron was not in the initial plans, but the coaches and players were excited to make it happen.


“I was somewhat surprised at some point that we would come here, but I think there is no better of place,” said McAughtry. “We can go to Dallas and we might as well be in Melbourne. Friday Night Lights was on in Melbourne. We hear that and we see it.”


One of the highlights of the trip in Cameron came on Tuesday night when the athletic booster club sponsored a meet and greet potluck meal. The event was a time for members of the community to interact with the coaches, players and parents from Diamond Valley.


“Cameron has been fantastic,” said Jamieson. “All of the people here have been great. I think all the kids and all the coaches have had a fantastic time and I’m sure if we get the opportunity, we’d love to come back.”


The Players


In addition to interviewing the coaches, I spent a little time with some of the kids from Diamond Valley. The experience for the four players (Nick Coffield, Willem Cornelisson, Emma Parks, Chelsie Ford) I spoke with was unique, as it was a first-time trip to the United States for each of them.


“It’s really good to experience new stuff and it’s eye opening,” said Cornelisson.


The United States and Australia are similar in a lot of ways, but there will always be differences in cultures when you are dealing with two different continents.


Food was mentioned several times. “We had barbeque for the first time,” said Coffield, who was complimentary of the ribs provided at the meal.


Another major difference is the currency and tax system.


“This is my first time overseas and the currency is different,” said Parks. “Taxes aren’t included in the price.” Parks added that was a difficult concept to grasp since the price you see is the final price you pay in Australia.


Whether it was playing basketball, staying in the hotel, eating new foods, or meeting new people, all four players staid they had enjoyed their time in Cameron and hope to continue and gain knowledge throughout the three weeks.


“I want to meet new people and also see a new perspective to how they live, how they eat, and how they see the world in America to what Australia does,” said Ford.


Fighting for a Cause


At one of the pool games, I was fortunate to meet Peter Steven, the team photographer. He had let me know about a wristband that he was wearing and introduced me to Sharon Coffield. Sharon is the mother of Nick and has another son named Daniel.


One of Daniel’s best friends - Patrick Cronin - was tragically killed in 2014 after suffering what is known as a coward punch.


The punch is one that is usually unexpected and to the head area. Patrick was struck in the head one evening and later died from the injuries he sustained.


“He was an ordinary kid staying out of trouble, and someone who had too much to drink hit him in the back of the head,” said Coffield.


Now, the Coffield’s and other team members are doing their part to honor Patrick while raising awareness on senseless violence.


“As a community and a group we are trying to spread the word to stop violence,” said Coffield.


The Pat Cronin Facebook page now has just under 10,000 followers. Coffield mentioned that the movement has taken roots locally in their community and has other pockets of support across Australia.


Now in the United States, that message is being spread to a whole new crop of people. Sharon presented me with a wristband that reads “be wise, end the coward punch - PC12”. The band was also given out to other teams in the tournament and will be handed to many others over the coming weeks.


“Nick will go to houses and approach people with the message,” said Coffield. “They are trying to educate kids when not to get involved and how to help a mate.”