Sport | April 02, 2016

Braves star recruit gets OK to play at last moment

Friday, April 1, 2016

The Bendigo Braves basketball camp was breathing a sigh of relief today as its star US import, Damian Johnson, was cleared by Immigration just hours before he was due to take to the court.

The club went into a spin when it found that Johnson, who had spent two years playing with Mt Gambier, had only a visitor’s visa, which made him ineligible to play.

He had had what is known as a 401 visa while playing with Mt Gambier, which allows elite sportsmen and women to compete in Australia. However, he had since returned to his Louisiana home in the US and returned on the visitor’s visa.

The club contacted Northern Region Nationals MP Damian Drum for help.

Mr Drum, who has a long association with the Braves, contacted fellow Nationals MP, Federal Transport and Infrastructure Minister, Darren Chester. They both made strong pleas to Immigration authorities to clear a way for Damian Johnson to play.

Just hours before the tip off for tonight’s game against arch rivals, Ballarat, the Department of Immigration re-issued the star with a 401 visa.

Bendigo Bank Braves head coach, Ben Harvey, said the club hit the panic button when it realised there had been a visa mix-up and it could have been up to two months before Johnson could play.

Mr Drum said it was clear there had been a simple error and he was delighted that he and Darren Chester had been able to sort it out.

Tonight’s game tips off at 8pm.



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