Bright’s Grove’s Kwin Kensley has ventured about as far away from home as you can get to play professional soccer.
The St. Christopher’s secondary grad is a member of the Northern Rangers, based in Launceston, Tasmania.
It didn’t take him long to make an impact.
In his first game, the 24-year-old scored a goal in the 65th minute of a key match against rival Launceston City.
“It really rallied our team and helped some of the fringe players that would not be getting as much game time accept me into the team,” Kensley told The Journal.
“It’s always a great feeling to score, but scoring on your debut is just another level.”
Kensley celebrated with a series of acrobatic flips on the field, which has become his personal trademark.
He arrived in Australian soccer circles after playing for a small club in New South Wales while visiting his brother Kevin earlier this year. He was encouraged to try out for the Rangers in Tasmania, packed his things and headed south.
After two practices he was offered a contract and played out the rest of the season, scoring three goals in nine games.
“He showed signs of being a very good player,” Rangers coach Lino Sciulli said an interview with Tasmanian newspaper the Examiner. “He reads the game very well.”
The Northern Rangers are one of eight teams in the National Championship League, one division below the Australian A-League.
Kensley is the son of Gary and Linda Kensley and three brothers. He was an all-star with Sarnia FC and played college soccer with Harford Community College in Maryland, where he earned team MVP honours as a junior.
Tasmanians, he said, are wild about soccer, something he noticed his very first game.
“The fans get pretty loud and crazy. A few chairs thrown, chanting, yelling and singing,” he said.
“It brings the game to a different intensity when you can see and hear everyone so passionate about supporting your team.”
Kensley said he has settled into life in Australia’s southernmost province and has received a warm reception from his teammates.
But he does miss his family and friends, he said, as well as certain Canadian delicacies.
“I would have to say the (maple) syrup. It is so different here, and not the greatest.”