Friday, November 21, 2008

Better pathways needed for Indigenous footballers

For decades, Aboriginal players have been making a huge impact in Aussie Rules and Rugby League. According to the commonly held view, they possess skill, creativity and reflex far surpassing the levels of their non-Indigenous counterparts. This is often patronizingly referred to as 'black magic', an innate, instinctive ability characteristic of their race. To my mind, though, it is more likely that these skills flourish in some Indigenous kids, particularly those growing up in regional and remote communities, due to an upbringing which focuses strongly on sport, outdoors activity and the development of high levels of physical coordination from a very early age.

Whatever the reason, Aboriginal players are strongly represented within the stocks of Australia's major football codes, with the notable exception of the round ball game. Why is this? Surely the speed, agility and exceptional technical skill levels demonstrated by Aboriginal athletes, as well as their relatively slight frames, would suit round ball football perfectly? Certainly there are a few currently plying their trade in the A-League - Jade North, Tahj Minniecon and our own fearless leader Travis Dodd - as well as the European-based David Williams and Kasey Wehrmann - but the traditionally urban focus of football in Australia has made it difficult for promising kids in remote areas to get noticed.

Recognizing this, Mark Wakeling, the Director of Football for Alice Springs, has flagged the idea of National Youth League teams playing exhibition matches against teams made up of Indigenous youth players (see FourFourTwo's article A-League Needs A Red Centre for more information). I think this is an excellent idea, and one which ties in well with the new North Queensland team's stated aim to promote and develop football among the large Indigenous population of the region.

A logical extension of Wakeling's proposal would be the inception of a Territory-based Indigenous side actually playing within the National Youth League competition. I have no idea as to whether the talent exists for this side to be competitive, but given the NYL's specific mandate as a development tool for young players, it's something that would be brilliant for the game. Australia is a big country, and football needs to continue to bring its message to as many people as possible.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

My experience growing up in the Northern Territory, is that not many aboriginal kids play round ball football, or have shown an interest into getting into it. As a result a team made up of aboriginal players is likely to be sub-par. I think much more work needs to making the round ball game more appealing to aboriginal people before we will see a large number of quality aboriginal players.