Bull Sharks players Getasew Ferguson (left) and Abe Forward (right).
Getasew Ferguson was going through his paces at a regular Bond University Bull Sharks AFL training session when one word stopped him in his tracks.
Teammate Abe Forward had approached him after learning they were both from the same East African country. They soon discovered their similarities ran much deeper.
“Abe said ‘hello’ to me in Ethiopian,” Ferguson said.
“I was like, what! I was surprised because I never knew he was from my country. We spoke for a while and figured out we were both from the same orphanage, which was pretty cool.”
The pair, both 23, were born only a few hours away from one another. Now they are close friends.
“We have a little inside joke: I call him Abe and he calls me Getty. It’s pretty funny.” Forward said with a laugh.
“Having him here does help a lot. We’re pretty similar in the way we play – he plays in the backline obviously. It is really good having him here.”
It is incredible the pair met at all considering they grew up on opposite sides of Australia.
When Ferguson was a toddler, his two sisters were adopted by a couple from Tasmania who were unaware they were leaving a third sibling behind.
“On the plane to Australia my two sisters urgently spoke to my adoptive parents but they didn’t understand what they were saying,” Ferguson said.
“An air hostess quickly translated that there was a younger brother back in Ethiopia and so my adoptive parents started the process of trying to find me. It took seven years but in 2007 when I was eight, I was reunited with my two sisters in Tassie.”
Forward was six when he arrived in Perth. He has returned to Ethiopia once, to visit a woman he used to live with. His mother had passed away from illness shortly after he was adopted.
“I still remember a lot of things from Ethiopia. When you are over there you don’t really know there is a place like this, and it’s really nice here as well. Good weather,” said Forward.
He moved to Bond University where he lives on campus and is studying a Bachelor of Commerce from which he will graduate at the end of this year.
He joined the Bull Sharks club to continue the game he picked up as a nine-year-old, thanks to his West Coast Eagles-supporting parents.
"It’s been an amazing experience at Bond,” Forward said.
“The values that the club has: brave, formidable, committed, and united, those four things have really picked me up. There is a great crowd of people here. The way that I was at the start to what I am like now is very different.”
Ferguson has returned to Ethiopia once and the trip was life-changing.
“I was lucky enough to find my family in Ethiopia,” he said.
“I had been in Australia for about 12 years by then. I ended up travelling back and finding my mum. And after that experience I just felt as though Tassie wasn’t really the place for me. I ended up packing up all my stuff two weeks after returning from Ethiopia and I haven’t looked back.”
Ferguson, a diehard Essendon Bombers fan has now turned his attention to earning senior selection. He underwent a shoulder reconstruction a year ago and is still working up the courage for full, bruising contact.
Ferguson said the pair often remark how appreciative they are to be living on the Gold Coast.
“Obviously I’ve been given a second chance at life. If I was still living in Ethiopia, I wouldn’t have the opportunities I’ve been given now and I don’t know who to thank but I am definitely lucky,” he said.
“Even for Abe to have the opportunity to go to an awesome university like Bond and for me to have the life that I’ve been given – we’re forever going to be grateful.”
Away from football Ferguson runs his own disability care company helping people at risk of homelessness. Forward works for as an accountant for ABI Interiors in Burleigh Heads.