A Day at Clontarf
Introducing the Clontarf Australian Football Academy
We are proud that Clontarf Football Academy are sending 11 representatives to play a game against Rumbalara Football club on the 20th November as part of the Yorta Yorta trading floor. Here is some background on this mighty enterprise.
The Clontarf Football Academy was established on-site at the Clontarf Aboriginal College site in January 2000.
Gerard Neesham who, through his coaching roles in the WAFL and AFL, has had a long and successful association with young Aboriginal footballers developed the concept for the Academy. Gerard was acutely aware of the cycle of disadvantage confronting Aboriginal people and the largely negative image of them held by many in the wider community.
Gerard's experience with Aboriginal Footballers and their families had been anything but negative. He recognized that the football environment was one in which Aboriginal people had traditionally excelled. This clearly had an impact upon the self-esteem and self-concept of the individual players, their families and the wider Aboriginal community. Gerard witnessed fine young Aboriginal Footballers grow into fine men in this environment where they had great success and which offered terrific support structures.
After his four years as coach of the Fremantle Dockers Gerard was approached by an old friend who asked him to do some relief teaching at Clontarf Aboriginal College. While there he was asked to do some football coaching along with his normal teaching load. He recognized that during the football sessions the collective energies of the group were much more focused and positive than during other times during the day. Gerard found that through the involvement in football individuals developed positive behaviours and much negative behaviour started to become less prevalent.
After consulting with the school administration it was agreed that Gerard would set up an Academy that was attached to the school. The agreement was that the Academy would operate in partnership with the College but would remain an independent body. This meant that the Academy would need to provide their own funding, management, staff and equipment. The Academy was given access to the footballers in and around the school timetable and the Academy commenced at the beginning of 2000.
Gerard recognised the need to provide the boys with high quality coaches and surround them with good role models and mentors. To this end he acquired the services of former Hawthorn premiership and fairest and best player, Ben Allan to assist with the coaching on a part-time basis. Simon Nimmo, a graduate in Human Movement and Exercise Science from the University of Western Australia and a current Claremont League Footballer agreed to come on board as a full-time Physical Conditioner and Program Coordinator. Percy Johnson, a former WAFL player and coach and media personality also joined the team.
In this first term of operation the College had approximately 50 students on their roll and about 15 boys attended the football training sessions. At this time the College had an average daily attendance of 25-35.
As the year progressed, the Academy numbers grew to 25 and the team won the Barry Cable (top) division of the Smarter than Smoking Cup. Of the 25 boys who completed the year in 2000 17 students returned 2001, 3 were drafted into the AFL, 3 gained employment, one commenced a Tafe course and one returned to his community in the North-West.
During the course of 2000 the Academy grew in profile through media coverage, their football exploits and word of mouth.
In the first term of 2001 the College's enrolment had grown to 165 students and the Academy had ninety-three young men attending training. This result was achieved without any formal marketing or selection processes.
With the increased numbers Mark Riley joined the coaching staff at Clontarf. Mark had six years experience as Assistant Coach in the AFL and had just been appointed to coach WAFL club Claremont. In 2001 the Clontarf Football Academy entered three teams in the Smarter than Smoking Cup. Two sides were undefeated premiers and our second team lost only one game. We played most of the Private Schools Association Sides and were victorious on each of these occasions.
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