FOUR south-west footballers have helped a Victoria-Tasmania squad finish third at an indigenous football carnival at Coffs Harbour.
Koroit’s Josh Chatfield, Allansford brothers Jyran and Phillip Chatfield and Heywood’s Gordie Slade represented the combined squad at the Kickstart championships.
The annual championships involved indigenous under 15 footballers from across Australia competing in a round-robin carnival in front of talent scouts.
The teens also took part in workshops covering nutrition, leadership and indigenous culture as part of the week-long showcase.
Victoria-Tasmania had two wins, two draws and a loss in its five matches, which ranked it third out of six competing states.
The combine beat Queensland 7.2 (44) to 0.3 (3) in a semi-final but lost to eventual champion Western Australia 3.5 (23) to 3.3 (21) in a preliminary final.
Co-coach Shane Bell said he and sidekick Daniel Charles were pleased with the result, despite the agonising way to bow out of title contention.
“Obviously it was disappointing to lose by a couple of points to the eventual premier. But we were happy with the progress of the boys the whole week,” he said.
“It was a chance for the boys to be exposed to that elite football. You’re competing against the best in Australia.
“We used it as a development stage, playing everyone in different positions than they’re used to so they can take that experience back to their local clubs.”
Bell said the players met AFL legend Kevin Sheedy and Sydney 300-gamer Michael O’Loughlin during the carnival, with both passing on invaluable knowledge.
He said the coaches and carnival organisers were intent on developing the teens’ personalities and off-field traits, as much as their football skills.
“It’s more than winning and losing. It wasn’t entirely football up there. We were up there for seven days,” he said.
“In that time we weren’t preparing for matches, we were attending workshops in regards to health and nutrition, awareness of social media and cyber bullying.
“They had guest speakers: Kevin Sheedy one morning and a few others.
“And you’ve got a lot of ex-indigenous players up there walking around the grounds, passing on hints, engaging with the boys, telling them about the pathways.”
Bell said eight Victoria-Tasmania players earned selection for the Flying Boomerangs squad as a result of their performances at the Kickstart championships.
The Flying Boomerangs will contest the AFL under 16 championships in July and embark on an international tour later this year.
North Warrnambool Eagles’ Dion Johnstone was a member of the squad in 2013 and toured New Zealand last December.