AFL NSW/ACT’s male youth leadership programs 2021

The Easter school holidays are always a great time to relax and recharge with friends and family. But for many talented footballers from NSW and the ACT, it was a chance to hone their skills in a game they love while also building their leadership capabilities.

AFL NSW/ACT ran two three-day programs, each hosting around 30 boys aged 12-16 in April 2021. The talent, skills and work ethic on display was first class, and the participants’ attitudes were elite.

Indigenous Youth Leadership Program (male)

The Indigenous Youth Leadership Camp kicked off on Wednesday, 7 April 2021. Supported by Transport for NSW, AFL NSW/ACT brought players from across NSW to Sydney so they could partake in three days of fun and footy, where friendships were found and life skills honed.

The players selected for this camp are some of the best emerging Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Male leaders in the region. They displayed exemplary footy skills which were matched by their attitudes off the field.

The boys’ commitment to leadership and footy was on display as they met their AFL heroes, NSW/ACT Indigenous Ambassadors, Jeremy Finlayson and James Bell, on the program’s opening day, before being coached by one of the AFL’s biggest names, Lance Franklin, during the final matches.

It was a long wait for the 2021 cohort of leaders, as COVID-19 cruelled their 2020 experience. Last year’s camp cancelled mere weeks before it was due to start. This made the excitement even more palpable for the players, who had waited so long to show off their talents.

The cream of the 2021 crop will be selected in the Indigenous All Stars team, comprised of the best junior Indigenous talent across Australia. This team will compete at the U17s Champs on the Gold Coast in July as well as the U19s Champs in Melbourne in September.

Regardless of their selection in this representative side, everyone involved grew during the three-day camp and had valuable experiences to share with their local team mates, school friends and broader community.

Multicultural Youth Leadership Program (male)

One week after the Indigenous Program, the Multicultural Youth Leadership Program began. It followed a similar format to the activities in the week preceding, except that all participants were sons of first-generation migrants to Australia.

More than 20 nations were represented among the talented group of 28 boys. All the athletes shone during skills sessions and practice matches, and were extremely diligent during non-football activities.

One of the key learnings from this program is for the participants to return to their local clubs with renewed pride in their culture and find ways of expressing that to their teammates. It was clear this resonated with the boys, who were eager to talk about their backgrounds when visited by AFL stars Dane Rampe and Joel Amartey during the program.

The best players from the group will be selected in the All Nations squad, which will compete at the U17s Champs on the Gold Coast in July as well as the U19s Champs in Melbourne in September.