Main content

Indigenous past players to support future generations

Sun's season done, De Goey race hots up Nat Edwards with the latest news

THE FIGUREHEADS behind the new Indigenous Past Player Group plan to have an indigenous players' association up and running in as few as three months.

The group, headlined by president Des Headland and 1993 Brownlow medallist Gavin Wanganeen, came together publicly for the first time on Thursday to reveal their intentions.

They do not see themselves as a "splinter" group, but rather a complementary piece to improve Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders' AFL experience and help others understand cultural complexities.

The Indigenous Past Player Group's appearance followed the release of a study where 25 past indigenous footballers anonymously shared their positive and negative thoughts on their career.

Dr Sean Gorman, an indigenous AFL specialist with two decades' experience in the area, oversaw the report, which was given to League chief executive Gillon McLachlan and dedicated to the late Shane Yarran.

There is momentum in this space, with the AFL committed to having an indigenous commissioner by the end of the year.

"We need to come a fair way and that's why we're here," Wanganeen said.

"We believe we have a voice. We've been in our players' shoes in the past, we understand where they're coming from and the cultural barriers they face and we want to be a voice for those boys.

"We have a high representation of our indigenous boys in the game, let's face it. Our boys bring excitement to the game and we want to keep that going when we're long gone.

"We're at 10 per cent (of the playing group) now – and that can easily grow to 15 per cent, with support from an organisation like ours."

The group's major goal is to increase Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders' post-playing opportunities, including in coaching, at board and administrative level and the media.

This year there are only three indigenous coaches: Andy Lovell, Roger Hayden and Xavier Clarke.

"As Gav mentioned before, there are 10 per cent playing AFL football as we speak, but within the industry itself I couldn't tell you how many per cent – but it'd be less than two per cent," Headland said.

"We're great footballers, but we're also great managers, we're great people and we have a cultural background where we can give to the industry in management and welfare situations.

"We're underrepresented in that area of industry."

Part of the idea is for the Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders who enjoyed success post their AFL career, such as Michael O'Loughlin and Che Cockatoo-Collins, to serve as mentors for the next wave of players.

"They can talk to Micky O, who runs his own business around Australia. How did Micky O get to that point of his career to set himself up?" Headland said.

"We need our leaders to lead the way for our younger generation, because football only lasts a certain amount of time.

"You're going to spend most of your life outside of the game and hopefully into great employment."