With the 2006 AFL Draft producing a record number of Indigenous draftees, Deadly Vibe takes a look at the most successful and unique breeding ground for top Indigenous footballing talent in the country – the Clontarf Football Academy.
The Motto of the Clontarf Football Academy is “From little things big things grow” and, for the past six years, this hugely successful foundation has been nurturing and moulding young Aboriginal men into future champions.
The academy was the concept of inaugural Fremantle Dockers coach Gerard Neesham, who, through his career, had witnessed first hand not only the disadvantages and negative stereotypes which many of his young Indigenous players faced but also the positive impact that football had on the self-esteem of the individual player, their family an d t he wider community.
After leaving the Dockers, Gerard arrived at Clontarf Aboriginal College in the Perth suburb of Waterford. Initially hired as a relief teacher, Gerard soon also began coaching.
During the football sessions Gerard noticed how the young men were much more positive and focuse d t hen during other times of the day an d t hat, through involvement in football, students behaviours changed dramatically.
Gerard met with the school board to discuss the possibility of a football academy that could operate at the college. The Clontarf Football Academy officially opened in January of 2000.
High quality coaches, mentors and role models were then recruite d t o spearhea d t he academy. By the end of the its first year, the academy’s numbers had grown to 25 an d t he team won the top division of the Smarter than Smoking Cup.
The seeds of the Clontarf Academy had been sown, and by the beginning of term in 2001, the college’s enrolment has risen to 165 students.
That year, the Academy entere d t hree teams in the Smarter than Smoking Cup, two of them becoming undefeated premiers and defeating all of the Private Schools Association Sides they came up against.
Today the Clontarf College is at capacity enrolment, with 175 students. There is also a long waiting list of students wanting to join the program. The Foundation has also branched out into more remote and regional areas, operating six academies across the state, pushing the total number of the academies participants to 424.
One of the academy’s football operation managers is legendary Indigenous footballer Dale Kickett, who played for five different AFL clubs and is one of the few Indigenous players to reach the 150 game milestones.
“I’ve been working at the academy for three and a half years now,l doing everything from boot studding, strapping and coaching,” Dale says, “We do a lot of training an d t each the boys not just footy but also life skills – everything from hygiene to diet.
“We have a lot of boys come in from remote communities and for many of them it’s their first ever time in a big town.”
With interest in the program soaring, the foundation is now planning on establishing projects in the Northern Territory this year, with academies to open in Bunbury, Kununurra and Alice Springs.
Over the past six years the Academy has produced some of the top footballing talent in the nation, including Hawthorn star Mark Williams, Richmond goal sneak Andrew Krakouer, former Docker Dion Woods, Fremantle defender Michael Johnson and Essendon ruckman Paddy Ryder.
At the 2006 AFL Draft, the Academy smashed its previous best of three AFL draftees in a year when it produced a stunning six AFL draft picks – Leroy Jetta, Nathan Krakouer, Calib Mourish, Brennan Stack, Brad Dick and Carl Peterson.
“It’s been fantastic,” says Dale. “There are a lot boys here that can really play.”
While the Academy has consistently produced some exceptional athletes, the institution is about much more then just football.
To maintain their position in the Academy, participants nee d t o show commitment towards training an d t he education program. They must attend school regularly and maintain retention rates above the state average.
Many students arrive at the academy severely lacking in confidence and self-esteem. But once there they are taught how to set and achieve goals and learn skills to help them find work.
The feeling at the academy is that no matter whether a student gets drafted into the AFL or plays in the WAFL, or even if they simply graduate and go on to get a job, every student who graduates is a success story.
“The best part about it is just watching young men develop, not only as footballers but as people,” Dale says.
“The boys just love playing footy, an d t hat’s basically it. We keep them at school through their love of footy an d t hey get an education. We teach them that even if you don’t succeed at football, your education will open up even more doors.”
By the conclusion of the 2006 AFL Draft, 18 West Australian teenagers were on the books of AFL clubs, an d t here is no doubting that the rise of the Clontarf Football Academy will continue to play a significant role of the make up and face of West Australian football an d t he AFL for years to come.
But more importantly, through the values and lesson which its students learn during their time at the academy, Clontarf is not only producing champion footballers, but exceptional men which the whole community can be proud of.
Record Draft in 2006
The 2006 AFL draft was considere d t o be one of the most talented in the draft’s history. A truly national draft saw players from all over the country selected. It also heralde d t he arrival of Queensland as new nursery for AFL talent.
As the number of Indigenous players in the AFL continues to soar, last year’s draft produced a record number of Indigenous draftees with a total of 15 – an indication of the impact the huge influx of Indigenous players is having upon the AFL.
Remarkably, the Indigenous draftees at the 2006 draft made up for 20 per cent of the total intake; this coming from a people who only make up around 2 per cent of the total population!
Heading all Indigenous draftees was West Australian speedster and dual U18 All-Australian Leroy Jetta, taken by Essendon with their 18 th pick. Leroy was followed by:
Albert Proud (#22 – Brisbane Lions)
Nathan Djerkurra (#25 – Geelong)
Shane Edwards (#26 – Richmond)
Clayton Collard (#31 – Port Adelaide)
Alwyn Davey (#36 – Essendon)
Nathan Krakouer (#39 – Port Adelaide)
Brad Dick (#44 – Collingwood)
Brennan Stack (#45 – Western Bulldogs)
Clinton Benjamin (#51 – Carlton)
Carl Peterson (#60 – Richmond)
Isaac Weetra (#62 – Melbourne)
Malcolm Lynch (#67 – Western Bulldogs)
Joe Anderson (#67 – Carlton)
Calib Mourish (#77 – Fremantle).
Keep your eye out for these rising stars as they take their first steps into the AFL.