Echuca’s Earl Handy, Moama’s Jamarrah Firebrace and Tongala’s Connor Cowley all took part in the inaugural Laguntas program recently.By Geordie Cowan
Three district junior footballers have gained a better idea of what it takes to become involved in the TAC Cup after taking part in an AFL Victoria program.
Echuca’s Earl Handy, Moama’s Jamarrah Firebrace and Tongala’s Connor Cowley all took part in the inaugural Laguntas program recently.
During the three-stage program, the trio, among a larger group of about 50 indigenous footballers aged 16 to 18 from around Victoria, played various TAC Cup teams and got a feel for what would be expected of them.
‘‘The program is really to provide the boys with the tools to understand what is expected of them at an elite level and in particular TAC Cup level,’’ AFL Victoria indigenous programs manager Aaron Clark said.
‘‘Laguntas is an entry point for these boys to grow their football knowledge and expectations of being an elite athlete.
‘‘Indigenous numbers of boys in the TAC Cup and AFL system has been quite low, so we are trying to develop a system to nurture a number of indigenous boys and provide them with self-confidence and a stronger sense of resilience.’’
The team was coached by former Richmond and Western Bulldogs coach Terry Wallace against the Western Jets, the Victorian under 16 side and a combined TAC Cup team.
‘‘It’s bloody fast,’’ Cowley said of the match against the Jets.
‘‘Everyone is so quick and if you just stop for two seconds, you’ve got no chance.’’
The team stayed at Punt Rd for the three days of the stage, during which time the program members talked to many people.
‘‘We spoke to all the Richmond players, went through their routines and what they do,’’ Cowley said.
The group was also informed about the professional aspects of training, such as GPS data, nutrition, sleep patterns, sprint tests and vertical leaps, Clark said.
The players were also mentored in issues specific to indigenous players.
‘‘A big part of it as well is their cultural strengthening and identity,’’ Clark said.
‘‘We had different elders speak to the boys about their own stories.
‘‘Stories about the stolen generation, the history of Australia and also some positive stories, to have a sense of pride of who they are.
‘‘Obviously racism does still exist in society and no doubt these boys at certain stages will contend with that in their daily lives, so we are providing that support structure for them as well.’’
The program was also designed so the players could benefit their club with what they learn, Clark said.
‘‘We feel it is important for their journey to make it to the top level, but it is also important to contribute back to their local clubs,’’ he said.
‘‘We want them to become very good players, to captain and coach their local football clubs, building their capacity as indigenous players in local football.’’
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