The Meanings Of National Youth Carnivals

By and large, junior and youth football carnivals do not get the airplay or associated press that goes with the higher level national leagues. That is probably fair in the sense that there are only so many resources available for so many carnivals. But the value of these carnivals is enormous, as anyone associated with them can tell you.


With so many people across so many spheres of football involved it would be no surprise that these carnivals mean different things to different people.


The current National Diversity Championships in Townsville are a great example. From coaches to players, umpires, administrators, media representatives and a host of other employees and volunteers, meanings are as varied as the people who make the carnival happen.


Simon Lethlean (AFL General Manager – Game & Market Development) stated that he enjoyed watching the work of the people behind this event come to fruition. Simon has seen first-hand how hard everyone involved has worked the get the event to where it is today and shares their joy at a job well done. He is excited also by the success of this pathway for the players and by extension their communities.


Kashif Bouns (AFL Diversity Engagement & Evaluations Lead) is the AFL Championships Manager. He acknowledges that this event is a part of the most elite talent program in the AFL and one that gives the best opportunity for the indigenous and multicultural players to showcase their skills. Kashif admits though that his greatest joy is the holistic success of the carnival in terms of the development pathway for not just the players but also coaches, administration, umpires, trainers and all involved.


Ali Fahour (AFL Diversity Manager) sees the great legacy of the carnival as providing the opportunities for everyone from players to managers, coaches, umpires and a host of other roles to challenge themselves in professional environments. Not only does this take individuals further along their development pathway, but they can also build relationships and networks across Australia by working with and beside great people.


Neville Stibbard (Recruiting Department – Western Bulldogs) also sees that the event contributes to a greater pool of elite player talent. As AFL clubs now value younger players with the opportunity to trade future draft picks, 17 year old players will be at a premium come draft time – which brings the players at these championships even closer to the discerning eyes of recruiters. With a high drop-out rate of prospective players historically, the wider talent pool is important as players get an earlier chance to take opportunities and showcase their talents.


Ross Monaghan (Recruiting Department – Port Adelaide Power) echoes what Neville has stated but adds that this event gives first time opportunities for some players to even play the game. He points out that prospective players from age 15 to 18 are now firmly in the sights of recruiters on the road to potential drafting because of carnivals such as the National Diversity Championships.


Brian Royal (AFL Diversity Coaching Academy Mentor) enjoyed a distinguished AFL career at Footscray in the VFL as well as coaching roles at many VFL/AFL clubs. His coaching knowledge is invaluable to the coaches at this carnival. He enjoys watching and observing coaches “on the run” as they pursue their own coaching pathways. Brian sees that the carnival environment creates many real learning opportunities for all involved, but especially coaches as they get a taste of coaching elite talent.


Keith Shangere (AFL Diversity Co-ordinator, AFLQ) sees this carnival as an opportunity for all involved to grow and develop their skills and appreciate the value of those opportunities. Keith states that without these events and elite talent programs many players, coaches, umpires and people in all manner of other roles would miss out on such development chances.


Anda Tyalana (Coach – Queensland All-Nations Team) admits that he loves this event. He sees it as a great way to enhance his own coaching skills as well as they players he mentors and educates. He can see that prospective coaches can go along way along coaching pathways through these events and programs and can improve more and more each year.


Jim Floyd (Program Assistant – Queensland Kickstart Team) sees the value for support staff. “It is terrific that someone from humble club level can get an overall view of the whole scheme of things for rep football and the pathways to the AFL.” The knowledge and skills learned can be taken back to local club level to help develop local kids further and put them on the right path to success.


Nadine Rabah (National Diversity Championships Umpiring, Media & Promotions Manager) is especially conscious of the opportunities presented to the players, umpires and other people involved to bring their heritage, their cultures and their representation of first people to an event such as this. As they work hard and make the sacrifices to tread this path to potential success, they do so for their heritage and their people.


Mathew Nicholls (AFL Field Umpire & Coach/Mentor) has watched a group of volunteer umpires come together on Day One from all across the nation, not knowing Matthew or even fellow umpires and being nervous about their opportunities. Then, across the length of the event they grow as people and umpires from day One to Day Five – they improve dramatically and become umpires on the fringe of bigger and better things. When asked if there are any candidates at this event to be an AFL umpire on the biggest stages, he says “Who knows? It could happen.”


Billy Burch (Queensland Kickstart player) loves this event. He says the carnival is excellent and cites being around the team and mates as a huge part of the experience. He also loves the chance to develop his footy skills, learn a bit more about leadership and make friends with other players across the nation that may yet become lifelong connections and maybe team mates on a greater stage in the not too distant future.


James Sebire (Rio Tinto Indigenous Programmes Manager) sees the event as a chance for sport to work together with industry to expand opportunities in education, employment and careers and personal development. Events like this provide the chance for young indigenous and multicultural men to pursue a range of life pathways, especially for life after footy, and take skills back into their communities.


The final word goes to former AFL player David Rodan (Tour Manager Victoria/Tasmania All Nations Team).  David is passionate about this carnival and others like it. He believes it is much needed by both the AFL and communities. Often this type of event is the first experience at footy for players as they come from other codes or backgrounds. Because it is fully funded, players who might not otherwise be able to experience this level of an elite talent pathway can do so. David also points out that the event is holistic in its aims to develop not only players but also coaches, assistants, umpires, officials and others involved and the skills these people take back to their communities is invaluable.


The National Diversity Championships in Townsville have been a success because of the people involved at all levels of the game and in all manner of roles. This cross section of opinions is consistent across all similar carnivals. The variety of beliefs is matches only by the diversity of the people involved, and that also sums up the value of such events.



About Wesley Hull

Passionate lover of Australian Rules football. Have played and coached the game and now spend my time writing about the game I love and introducing young people to the game through school coaching. Will try and give back to the game what it has given me for more that 40 years.

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