Covering the Goulburn and Murray valleys

Tong's gaining hands-on experience

Shepparton footballer Tong Tong is in Melbourne this week participating in multicultural programs to develop his skills as a development officer.

DAMEN FRANCIS July 17, 2014 3:15am

Budding Shepparton footballer Tong Tong is spending the week in Melbourne to develop his football and skills as a development officer.

Shepparton footballer and AFL Goulburn Murray multicultural development officer Tong Tong is on a fast-track to a bigger role in the sport he is growing to love.

Tong, 20, is in Melbourne this week working with multicultural-focused programs run by North Melbourne Football Club and under the wing of AFL Victoria multicultural projects officer and former Port Adelaide and Melbourne midfielder David Rodan.

AFL GM general manager Martin Gleeson contacted The Huddle — a joint initiative of North Melbourne, Scanlon Foundation and Australian Multicultural Foundation — to investigate the possibility of Tong gaining some invaluable hands-on experience and said it worked out well.

‘‘It’s a great opportunity for Tong to be able to do stuff that he would never have been exposed to before,’’ Gleeson said.

‘‘From our end, it’s part of his development and another step in him learning how to work in the development field, within schools, with kids and how to coach.

‘‘Our ultimate aim is for him to be able to do development activities in schools with a multicultural focus and we think he’s potentially a really good role model for kids in and around Shepparton in particular.’’

The Huddle was established in 2010 to improve social cohesion by systematically addressing the causes of disengagement among young people with programs that target youths from migrant and refugee backgrounds.

Technology, sport, positive education, team building, mentoring and role models are used to challenge and engage, create active community participants and develop young people into leaders.

Tong’s other activities included administrative duties at AFL Victoria headquarters at Princes Park and attending the AFL diversity breakfast on Tuesday morning, which was the official launch of this weekend’s AFL Multicultural Round.

AFL Victoria engagement manager Xavier Moloney said the aim was for Tong to take what he learned in Melbourne back to Shepparton’s diverse multicultural community.

‘‘Part of it is Tong coming down here and just spending time with Dave Rodan and myself and discussing the programs that he can run locally in the future to grow multicultural participation,’’ Moloney said.

Tong grew up in Sudan and moved to Shepparton about seven years ago.

He decided to take up football last year and joined Picola District Football League club Katunga, where he played 16 reserves games.

The budding ruckman joined Goulburn Valley Football League club Shepparton this season.

As part of his week in Melbourne, Tong met and trained with VFL outfit Williamstown on Tuesday night and will do the same with University Blacks tonight.

Tong said he was a Collingwood fan, but admitted he had a soft spot for the Kangaroos and they could become his number-one team after his experiences this week.

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