Players take training online as COVID curtails representative pathway

Talented boys with Indigenous and multicultural backgrounds are continuing their football development despite having the opportunity to play or train as a team.

AFL NSW/ACT has organised a series of online workshops for Youth Leadership Program participants aged 13-16 whose pathway to Indigenous and multicultural representative teams has been postponed due to COVID-19.

The workshops’ themes include mental health and wellbeing, cultural awareness, goal setting, AFL skill development, umpiring development, and education and employment opportunities.

On Monday night, more than 40 participants from around NSW and the ACT were glued to their screens as they heard from rugby league and boxing champion, Joe Williams, who spoke about mental health awareness, and Phil Jerrard from Transport for NSW who spread valuable road safety messages.

The boys were grateful to hear from AFL NSW/ACT Indigenous ambassador Jeremy Finlayson from the GIANTS who met some players at Indigenous Youth Leadership Camp earlier this year.

“These are just a great group of boys,” said Mark Leavy, AFL NSW/ACT’s Diversity Partner. “They have come such a long way as young leaders in their communities. Last night’s seminar and the three others we’re hosting are about ensuring their journey continues and they develop further as people.

“Indigenous and multicultural players are selected for AFL NSW/ACT’s Youth Leadership Programs based on their athletic talent, but we aim to foster so much more than just football ability. I want every player to see their path to becoming the best they can be, and I want us to equip them with the tools to get the most out of themselves.”

Players who attended the online workshops came from across eastern NSW, with boys from Port Macquarie, Albury, Wagga Wagga and Sydney all dialling in.

Tiffany Robertson, Head of AFL NSW/ACT, said sessions such as this digital leadership program are second nature to the organisation. “I am really proud of the way our team has reached out to participants from the Youth Leadership Programs in the Indigenous and multicultural space,” she said.

“This is a challenging time for many people in our community and these young men would have been disappointed to learn they wouldn’t get the opportunity play representative football this year. I know the online sessions have been great to ensure the players can keep building their skills in leadership in resilience, which will stand them in good stead on the field and off it.”

AFL NSW/ACT also runs Youth Leadership Programs for girls with Indigenous and multicultural backgrounds. Unfortunately, 2021 talent identification testing days across the state and territory were postponed due to COVID and the program, scheduled to begin in September, will run its first online workshop in November.

The Digital Road Trip has made it back to metropolitan Sydney, we have a few stops left. Keep an eye out!