From AFL Sydney to Geelong and Back – Inside the footballing journey of Ranga Ediriwickrama
Born in Griffith, Ranga Ediriwickrama moved to the Sydney suburb of Pennant Hills when he was three with his parents, who were born in Sri Lanka. He played his junior football for Pennant Hills before representing the NSW/ACT Rams in 2007 and 2008, captaining the team to fourth place in 2008.
Ediriwickrama fulfilled his childhood dream in 2008 when he was drafted by the Geelong Cats with the 60th overall pick in the AFL’s Rookie Draft. But, after two years of training alongside the likes of Gary Ablett, Tom Harley and Matthew Scarlett, the 20-year-old was given the heartbreaking news that he wouldn’t be offered a new contract for the 2011 season.
Following his two injury riddled years in Geelong, Ediriwickrama contemplated walking away from the sport in 2011.
“After my stint at Geelong I thought about walking away, but it more had to do with my injury history and whether I could compete without injuring myself,” Ediriwickrama said.
Relocating back to Sydney in 2011 Ediriwickrama returned to football with Pennant Hills in Sydney’s Premier Division, a decision he says rekindled his passion for AFL.
“The friendships and the social part of the game are what motivated me to stick with football and this was fostered by the Pennant Hills Demons Club who created a really inclusive environment that I felt comfortable being myself.”
“For me all of my close friends were playing still, and it was just such a great way to reconnect with my friends after having been away, whether that be the pre-season trainings, in season games or the thriving social calendar.”
Now a decade since his return to Sydney, Ediriwickrama continues to lace up his boots for Pennant Hills every weekend, but with a successful career away from football, what keeps him playing the game?
“Outside of the physical benefits one of the best things I’ve had from playing footy is being able to see my mates as often as I do, particularly as I get older,” he said.
“In addition Pennant Hills has a really inclusive and vibrant social calendar and you make so many new friends along the way. So in short it is healthy, social and fun – a simple equation for me.”
Nearing the end of his illustrious footballing career, Ediriwickrama recalls two notable highlights of his time in Sydney’s Premier Division.
“My best on field highlight would be the three Pennant Hills grand finals I have been fortunate enough to win, in 2008, 2015 and 2017.
“But my favourite off the field footy moment has been watching the development of my younger team mates into not only good footballers but really good people that I love spending time with.”
Ranga’s story demonstrates that there’s more to senior football than playing a game each weekend, It’s the community and bonds you build with your teammates that is most important.
Pre-season training for the 2020 season has commenced and local AFL Sydney clubs are looking for players to join.
If you’re a recent graduate of junior football or a new to the sport we encourage you to get in touch with your local club (CLICK HERE) and find out how you can continue your own footballing journey.