PNG international Essacu back in Canberra premier league at Wanderers
The Woden-Weston boss coached Essacu at Canberra City in 2014 and welcomed back the winger, who was looking for game time while home from college in America.
Essacu will play four more games for the Wanderers before he returns Stateside to play for division one college Western Illinois University.
Papua New Guinea-born Essacu grew up in Canberra while his father studied at ANU, and played his junior soccer with Belconnen.
The 21-year-old made his premier league debut with Canberra City four years ago and believes the competition is now a lot stronger.
Essacu said he wanted to come back and play wherever Castro was coaching and is now determined to send the seventh-placed Wanderers to the finals.
“I just want to help Woden make the finals to give back to Rey, he’s been a really good coach and mentor to me,” Essacu said.
“There’s not a huge gap in class between teams anymore, maybe Canberra FC is the only standout, but the competition is wide open now.
“Being in the States helped me a lot physically, the game there is a lot more physical. But it’s more technical here in Canberra and the football is quality.”
Castro first linked with Essacu in under-18 and under-20, before putting him forward to play in the City first team, where he flourished.
“There was an injury in the first team and the coach told me he needed a a quality player and I said ‘You’ve asked for my best and here he is’,” Castro said.
“I’m very happy he contacted me, he said ‘Where are you, I’m back in Canberra’. He didn’t think twice about coming to us.
“I brought him down and everyone said ‘Who is that’. Everyone loves his skills. I like to give him more freedom when he plays, I tell him to inspire me.
Castro praised Essacu for coming from the different playing style in America and seamlessly slotting into the Wanderers first team.
“It’s not easy coming from the US, to come to us and quickly make it into first grade is impressive,” Castro said.
“He’s very technically sound and adapts very quickly to whatever playing style you put him in. I don’t have to repeat myself or scream, I have full confidence in the kid.
“He asks a lot of questions and it’s always good to have kids like that, kids you know you can trust to put in the work during the week and on Saturday.
“I’m very proud of him and he proves there is talent around Canberra that just needs to be discovered, it’s always there.”
Essacu is part of the PNG squad gunning for qualification to compete at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
“It would just be incredible to be an Olympian, I was 16 last time and we just missed out on qualification after losing in the semi finals,” Essacu said.
“I’ll come back for the qualifiers next year and hopefully we can go all the way this time.”
CANBERRA PREMIER LEAGUE ROUND 14
Saturday: Riverina Rhinos v Canberra FC at Griffith Stadium, 5pm.
Sunday: Monaro Panthers v Cooma Tigers at Duncan Sporting Fields, 3pm.
Sunday: Gungahlin United v Woden-Weston FC at Gungahlin Enclosed, 3pm.
Sunday: Canberra Olympic v Tuggeranong United at O’Connor Enclosed, 3pm.
Eamonn Tiernan is a sports reporter with The Canberra Times
Morning & Afternoon Newsletter