Roland Bala is living his dream pulling on the blue and gold of Southern United.
The 27-year-old Papua New Guinea international moved south a month ago and has already shown himself to be a player to watch.
He impressed in the club’s 2-2 draw against Auckland City in its national football league opener and put in another big performance against Eastern Suburbs at the Caledonian Ground at the weekend.
Bala had been playing with Mirimar Rangers in Wellington and looked set to turn out in the Premiership with Team Wellington, but things didn’t work out and he found himself heading further south after a recommendation to trial for Southern United led to his subsequent signing.
“I always wanted to play here because it was always my dream to play in the [New Zealand] national league,” he said.
“So when I got told I was going to come down here it was a really big blessing for me and a dream come true.
“Australia, New Zealand, every player in the Pacific, that’s where they’re looking at.”
The defender has been enjoying his time in Dunedin so far, moving in with his uncle who has lived in the city for 25 years.
The lifestyle, food and weather was taking some adapting to, although he was beginning to get used to it.
Bala’s partner, Jacklyn Lahari, remains at home and plays for the Papua New Guinea national netball team, although she hopes to join him at some point.
Having grown up in Port Moresby, he played in the country’s national football league and is enjoying the change of pace.
Bala is also an active member of the national team which last year performed brilliantly at the OFC Nations Cup, going down in a penalty shootout to New Zealand in the final.
While this year’s loss to the Solomon Islands in World Cup qualifying had been disappointing, Bala said football in the nation was making big strides.
He had moved to New Zealand to pursue football opportunities and after initially being hampered by a partially torn ACL, he was making the most of his chance.
The set-up at Southern had impressed him and he is enjoying the opportunity to continuing building on his performances week by week.
Southern defended well to hold a potent Auckland City team to two goals two weeks ago, a performance Bala said was a foundation for future performances.
“[Auckland City are] the benchmark, so it was a confidence booster for the boys.
“We’re just looking to be consistent every week, so hopefully we can take that into each coming game.”