WHAT SIR DOUG NICHOLLS ROUND MEANS TO ME

Growing up I lived next door to my Grandma and so I was incredibly lucky to be able to celebrate and recognise my Indigenous heritage with her. I’d take in the stories she’d share about her childhood and what it means to be Indigenous.

I grew up loving hunting and fishing and would often spend my time yabbying with my uncle where he grew up. I feel privileged to have been able to enjoy those activities and celebrate my culture through my family.

Here at Port Adelaide, we’re pretty lucky as a playing group to be guided by Pauly Vandenergh and his team. The work they do helps us as players to get in touch with our culture a little bit more. Paul is really instrumental in helping us explore our heritage. As a playing group we’re led by the likes of Paddy Ryder and Sam Powell-Pepper who drive our values as Indigenous men.

With Sir Doug Nicholls Round starting tonight and being held over the next two weeks, as a club we spent Tuesday making traditional boomerangs and spears. The day wasn’t about the Indigenous playing group but ensuring our whole club was involved in celebrating culture.

As a group we all joined in learning the traditional dance of the Kaurna People. You could tell the guys that hadn’t experienced that before really enjoyed and appreciated having the opportunity to expand their understanding.

Earlier in the year at the Indigenous All Stars Summit we made a pact to catch up more as Indigenous players. There was one in Melbourne earlier this year and our dinner in South Australia was next on the calendar. Being a two-team town it worked out perfectly that we could celebrate this ahead of Indigenous Round.

As all Aboriginal people do, we celebrated our evening by eating together and sharing yarns with our family. The experience of getting to know opposition players in a relaxed environment away from the football field was something I’ll treasure.

The rivalry between teams in South Australia is strong so often we only see these players on the field or read about them in the papers but to get to know them as people was really special and a great initiative from the playing group.

I only made my AFL debut last week, which was surreal, but the opportunity to be part of this round as a player and for the wider AFL industry is significant. This occasion provides a great opportunity for Australians to take a step back and recognise and appreciate Indigenous culture.

It’s also a great chance to celebrate the old fellas, such as Doug Nicholls, who paved the way for us in the early days and pushed for opportunities like this one.

I feel incredibly proud to be part of this round and look forward to seeing the Port Adelaide boys proudly wear a jumper designed by our teammate Sam Powell-Pepper.

Source: aflplayers.com.au

PLAYERS’ VOICE — TOM CAMPBELL

Football has been a part of my life since I was a little kid. I’ve always loved being part of a club from a grassroots level, through when I was playing state-league football and to eventually being drafted into the AFL.

I’ve had the privilege of being part of a football club and involved in the sport but unfortunately there are people out there who are not afforded this opportunity because they don’t feel safe in a sporting environment.

Understanding this, I chose to become involved with Stand Up Events and Move IN May. I want to stand up for equality in sport and in life and be part of the change that will allow everyone to feel comfortable to be involved in sport and the opportunities to love sport in the way that I have.

As part of my role as an ambassador, I am involved in a world-first research program into homophobia in male-dominated team sports. Along with Jordan Roughead and Jayden Hunt, we visit community football clubs around Victoria and speak to them about the impact their behaviour can have on the people around them and how language affects people’s involvement, and continued involvement, in sport.

Before delivering these programs, we were involved in two three-hour training sessions with Stand Up Events and Monash University where we came to understand the current research around attitudes and behaviours relating to homophobia.

After developing a better understanding of these issues, the three of us began to unpack our reasons for being involved in the program. Our ideas resulted in powerful discussions centring around how we can create maximum impact and tackle behaviours, especially language, around homophobia in sport.

The research shows that while attitudes are changing and sporting environments are becoming more inclusive, homophobic behaviours are still prevalent.

When you look at the statistics surrounding the Lesbian, Gay and Bi-sexual community, the suicide rates are four or five times higher than straight people, reaching to 14 times more likely to attempt suicide, with 50 per cent of the Trans community attempting suicide at least once in their lives.

When you begin to understand the significance of those numbers, you understand the impact that your behaviour is having on other people – it’s not something to ignore because people’s lives are on the line.

It’s why Move IN May is such an important event. It’s not just a pride march – it’s about people – it’s about supporting equality.

It’s an event for everyone who believes in equality in sport and society.

All proceeds raised from Move IN May go towards supporting this world-first research and the delivery of these programs so that we can continue to have an impact on the community and people’s lives.

When we can change behaviours to match the shifting attitudes in society then everyone is going to have the same opportunity to love sport the way I did when I was growing up, and still do to this day.

We want this program to be delivered as wide-reaching as possible. There is no limit on reducing stigma and homophobic behaviour.

I’m participating in Move IN May because I believe everyone should be comfortable playing and being involved in sport.

It’s about fostering environments where people feel comfortable to be their true selves.

Blues lock away No.1 gun after stunning start to AFL career

SAM WALSH, the AFL’s most exciting young player, has re-committed to Carlton until the end of 2022. 

In a resounding show of faith in the Blues, it is believed Walsh agreed to the new deal on Tuesday night, just four matches in to his AFL career. 

The overall No.1 pick in last year’s national draft, Walsh has stunningly averaged 26 disposals in those four games – losses to Richmond, Port Adelaide, Sydney and Gold Coast.  

He has been listed among the Blues’ best players in each match, and earned the round four NAB Rising Star nomination. 

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Walsh earns rising star

Carlton Football Club’s exciting, young midfielder Sam Walsh is this week’s deserving recipient of the Round 4 NAB AFL Rising Star Nomination.

The No.1 pick from the 2018 NAB AFL draft racked up 28 disposals, six clearances and a goal during yesterday’s game at Metricon Stadium.   Walsh has made the transition into AFL seamlessly, with the 18-year old already averaging more than 26 disposals a game in his first four outings.          

In his first three games, the former Geelong Falcon joined the elite company of Greg Williams, Mark Bairstow and Gilbert McAdam as the only players to record 24 or more disposals in their first three career AFL/VFL matches.

Having already made an impact early in his AFL career as a hard-running, classy midfielder, Walsh showed his courage on Sunday as he took a big hit whilst sitting under a high ball during the third quarter.

Carlton Senior Coach Brendon Bolton praised Walsh, whose courage matched his eye-catching ability to win the ball. “He is terrific, as a first-year player to once again rack up close to 30 possessions and show his courage, sitting under that contest, he got crunched,” said Bolton. “It was a big hit however it was great to see him get back up, go again and run the game out.”

Walsh’s first month of AFL football has seen him collect surreal numbers, gathering 24, 25, 28 and 28 disposals, including a total of 20 clearances and 17 inside 50’s.

Walsh now has the opportunity to become the Blue’s first NAB AFL Rising Star winner since the award’s inception back in 1993.   

PLAYERS VOICE – Back where I’m supposed to be

For days, I built it up in my head. I was terrified to tell my parents.

How would they react? They had every right to be angry. Over the previous three or four years they’d done so much to help me. I was 17, been playing all sorts of rep footy across NSW and Queensland and they’d carted me around.

I used to have to go to Newcastle on a Tuesday and down to Sydney on a Wednesday for training. Mum or Dad used to finish work early, pick me up from school and take me. Every school holiday, as part of my scholarship, I’d go off to Melbourne to train with the Western Bulldogs.

My parents really stretched themselves for me and here I was, about to tell them I’d had enough.

I sat them down together at home. ‘Mum, Dad, I don’t want to keep going to Melbourne and training like that,’ I said. ‘I don’t want to do the rep stuff anymore. I don’t want to take it all so seriously anymore’.

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A surreal debut for Walsh

IT was a surreal debut for Sam Walsh.

And you get the feeling that he’s only just getting started.

The No.1 draft pick collected 24 disposals in a composed debut in the Navy Blue, showing no signs of being overawed by the occasion in front of over 85,000 people.

Walsh said the ability to play alongside his new teammates and in front of a capacity crowd was an incredible experience.

“I didn’t know what to expect. I was so excited to play with the boys and the crowd was insane,” Walsh said.

“I loved it, I loved the experience. It would’ve been good to get the win.”

The Blues were well and truly on the back foot early, with Richmond kicking the first six goals of the game.

What was most pleasing for Carlton supporters was that its younger brigade — including Walsh, David Cuningham and Will Setterfield — were catalysts in the fightback.

The first-gamer said the Blues were always confident that they could work their way back into the game.
“I mentioned to a few of the boys how electric it felt. We really thought we could claw it back and win the game,” he said.

“The crowd got up and about and we got a run-on with things. We’ve got a few things to work on, but there were definitely a few positive signs.”

One of the most memorable things for Walsh was the fact that he ran out in his debut alongside Carlton’s newest 250-gamer.

As the man who provided the assist for his third-quarter goal, Walsh said the veteran already had a profound impact on his short career so far.

“Marc’s been amazing. His guidance and leadership and he’s just a great bloke as well — you love playing with people like him,” he said.

“To see him play well tonight, kick that goal and everyone get around him — it would’ve been great to get the win.”

Witts appointed Captain

David Swallow and Jarrod Witts have been appointed co-captains of the Gold Coast SUNS.

Both aged 26, Swallow and Witts have recently recommitted to the club and are determined to lead the club through its next phase.

GC SUNS Chief Executive, Mark Evans said the club had undertaken a significant process to appoint two players that had bought-in and were willing to drive the club forwards.

“Both David and Jarrod are extremely invested in our football club and are committed to helping us become a team that truly inspires the Gold Coast community,” Evans said.

“Over the past 18 months we’ve undertaken a deliberate, but significant reset of our football programs, and it’s exciting to see a number of new additions to our leadership group.

“We believe David and Jarrod, with the support of the leadership group will play a pivotal role in shaping our future, they all display the attributes we are looking for and we congratulate them on their appointments.”

Swallow, who joined the club in 2010 ahead of the club’s inaugural season, said the occasion wasn’t lost on him.

“It’s a very proud moment for me, I’m excited by the challenge that is in front of us as a football club and I can’t wait to play my role in driving our club forward,” said Swallow.

“We want to build an environment that sees accountability put right at the very heart. A place where we know people won’t always get it right, and that’s ok. But where we won’t shy away from taking responsibility either way. Of the good or the not so.”

In his third season with the club, Witts was quick to acknowledge the significant impact the club has had on him.

“My leadership is something I’ve worked hard on over the last couple of years and I’m grateful for the opportunities the club has given me and I’m looking forward to playing a role in shaping our future,” said Witts.

“We are in the unique situation where we still are creating the foundations of our club. We know we are in a tough industry, but we want to look for the good and be positive. It doesn’t mean there are no home truths, but we look to build people up. Show them how they can contribute.”

“Throughout the past 18 months we’ve really focussed on ensuring that as a group we all take responsibility for leading our club forwards, it’s not the job of any one individual.

Witts and Swallow will form a new look eight-man leadership group that includes Touk Miller and Pearce Hanley as Vice Captains and Alex Sexton, Jarrod Harbrow, Brayden Fiorini and George Horlin-Smith.

Hanley, Miller and Harbrow have all been members of the GC SUNS leadership groups previously, while Sexton and Fiorini have been elevated to the group for the first time, as has new recruit and former Cat, Horlin-Smith.

McKay re-commits to North

Ben McKay says he is ready to take his opportunities with both hands in 2019, after signing a new two-year contract extension.

The key defender will remain at Arden St until at least the end of 2021, and is eyeing a permanent spot in North’s back six.

“It’s really exciting. Entering my fourth year now it’s an exciting part of my career and two years is a good deal,” he said.

“My first three years were a bit below par, by my standard, not playing as many games as I’d like but in the next three years hopefully I can really make an impact and start showing people what I’m capable of.

“Whether that opportunity comes early or late in the year, it’s just about making the most of it if I get it. I can’t wait for the year ahead and very happy to get the deal done.

“I don’t like to put pressure on myself but I’m one of those guys who thinks ahead and I really want to start making an impact at afl level and it does come down to opportunity, but I’ve got to focus on what I can do and not leaving any stone unturned, taking the game on and not being afraid to make mistakes and going for it.”

After a summer training alongside Robbie Tarrant, McKay is feeling confident and strong.

“I did a lot of training with Taz [Tarrant] over the break. We formed a really good connection I think so hopefully that blossoms on-field as well this year and we can work well together,” Mckay revealed.

“I reckon I was playing 97-98kg last year but I’ve done the whole pre-season with him [Tarrant] and there’s been a lot of weights sessions together.

“He has been fantastic for me. I owe a lot to him as well. I’m probably 3-4kg heavier now. Probably 101-102kg at the moment , when I first got to club I was 92-93kg.”

A much larger frame and more experience via the VFL has given McKay the belief he needed.

The 21-year-old has also been playing on the best opponents in order to develop and improve his craft.

“I played on Browny [Ben Brown] last week, which was good,” he said.

“Browny has been back the last week or two. I feel like, we did a bit of match sim, I did pretty well and he’s a great measuring stick.

“I played on the best forwards in the vfl and at afl that’s ideally what I want to do. I’m probably more comfortable on the best opponent.

“It’s a good feeling knowing the club want you playing on the best forward and it’s a challenge and I’m always up for the challenge. I’d love to take that role on in the AFL alongside our other defenders. That’s what drives me and excites me. Obviously at afl level there’s no easy opponent but i want to take the best and challenge myself.”

After making his debut in 2017, McKay had to bide his time in the VFL last season and didn’t register a single AFL appearance. However he never let the lack of opportunities get him down.

“It was a selection thing,” he explained.

“We had Taz, Scott Thompson and Maj [Majak Daw] all play really good footy. I was playing well at VFL level and Scotty [Brad Scott] was pretty good at saying, ‘You can’t do much more’ which was nice of him and the coaches were all positive about it.

“I’m a big one for everything happening for a reason, so opportunity didn’t come last year but I learnt a lot and ‘patience is a virtue’.

“You can always take something out of every situation and last year for me was being patient and keeping a positive attitude.

“It was a good character test to be positive and upbeat and hopefully I reap the rewards from that this year.

Out of contract at the end of this season, McKay said he never contemplated leaving North Melbourne.

“I’ve never thought about playing anywhere else,” he told the Herald Sun.

“The club’s been really supportive, I’ve got really good feedback and I can’t imagine playing at another club.

“When I do get an opportunity I want to grab it with both hands and start repaying the faith. They’ve waited a long time for me to burst on the scene and when I do, hopefully I make an impact and start showing everyone that I’m an AFL player.

Witts commits until 2024

Jarrod Witts has extended his contract with the Gold Coast SUNS in a deal that sees him commit to the club until the end of 2024.

Witts, 26, said he was thrilled about the opportunity to sign a long-term deal with the club.

“I’m so excited to have extended my contract with the club for another five years,” Witts said.
“I can’t wait to build on the hard work we’ve all been putting in as a group and continue aiming towards something special here on the Gold Coast.”

Witts said it was an easy process in making the decision to commit to the club long term.

“There were no hesitations at all in re-signing, as soon as I moved up to the Gold Coast, I knew I loved the club and I can see what we are all working towards,” said Witts.

“We’ve got a lot of new faces this year, both on and off field, but everyone has really come together over the last few months.

“We’ve all put in a huge amount of work to start the pre-season and I’m looking forward to continuing that momentum as we get closer to Round 1.”

In a strong message to SUNS members and fans, Witts was confident in the club’s direction.

“Our members and fans should be really excited in what we’re building towards,” he said.

“There has been a significant amount of change at the club in recent times and the boys have got full confidence in the program that the club has put in place, as a supporter I’d be really excited.”

After originally being drafted to Collingwood, Witts joined the SUNS as part of the 2016 NAB AFL Trade Period and has since gone on to play 40 games for the club.

Witts joins David Swallow in committing to the club long-term in recent months.

Dimma deal done

Young Hawk Blake Hardwick has put pen to paper, signing a two-year contract extension to remain at the Ricoh Centre.

The re-signing is the icing on top of a breakout season that saw the 21-year-old finish runner-up in Hawthorn’s Peter Crimmins Medal Count.

Hardwick was also named the club’s ‘Most Promising Player’ after averaging 16.4 disposals, 4.6 marks and 4.8 one percenters across his 24 senior appearances.

GM-Football Graham Wright said the club is delighted to have secured the youngster’s signature ahead of the Christmas break.

“We’re thrilled to have Blake recommit to the club until 2021,” Wright said.

“Blake has become an integral part of our defensive unit and, at 21 years old, we believe he could be a future leader of our club.

“His development over the last 12-18 months has been commendable, so we can’t wait to see what more he can produce in the brown and gold.”

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No ifs and Butts: Jordon leaves nothing to chance

He may have been overlooked in the 2017 AFL Draft, but waiting an extra year gave new Crow Jordon Butts a senior premiership he’ll never forget.

Jordon grew up in Shepparton, in country Victoria – a town of 50,000 with four football clubs, four soccer clubs and a thriving basketball scene.

He had his options, but for Jordon, it was always going to be the Shepparton Bears that became his second home outside of his TAC Cup duties with the Murray Bushrangers.

After all, his father Gerard was part of the premiership side who secured the victory for the Bears in the dying seconds of their 1993 clash with Rochester.

So, it was a no-brainer for Jordon to follow in his father’s footsteps at the Bears, where he played most of his junior football.

But it wasn’t until after he missed out on the draft that he had his chance to make history of his own back home in Shepparton.

Twenty-five years after his dad celebrated a premiership with the Bears, so did Jordon.

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New deal for Darcy

Exciting young ruck prospect Sean Darcy has committed to Fremantle for the long-term, signing a two-year contract extension that will see him at Freo until at least the end of the 2022 season.

The extension is on top of a deal signed in 2017 that secured the ruckman through to the end of the 2020 season.

Darcy is now set to play at least the next four seasons at Fremantle, joining Michael Walters and Rory Lobb as Freo Dockers who have signed on until 2022.

Only captain Nat Fyfe has a longer agreement with Fremantle, contracted until the end of the 2023 season.

Darcy has averaged 33.7 hit outs per match in his opening 15 AFL games, more than the likes of Aaron Sandilands, Brodie Grundy, Nic Naitanui and Max Gawn at the same point in their careers.

Having trimmed down ahead of the 2019 pre-season, the 20-year-old is expected to use the 2019 season to challenge the veteran Sandilands for the no.1 ruck role.

Darcy said the decision to remain at Fremantle was an easy one and highlighted his relationship with Ross Lyon and his teammates as a significant factor towards re-signing.

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Twos company for a young Cat

LOCAL product Tom Atkins has declared a move from midfield bull to small forward will give him the best chance in 2019 to emulate a long line of Geelong VFL success stories.

After five years in Geelong’s VFL program, a second best and fairest award for Atkins this season proved too much for Cats recruiters to refuse, selecting him at pick 11 in the NAB AFL Rookie Draft.

And while he has forged his name as an inside tackling machine at state league level, the 23-year-old believes a star-studded Geelong midfield might force him to look elsewhere.

“If I had to guess, I would probably say a small forward role and maybe helping out in the midfield where needed,” Atkins, who stands 180cm, said.

“I played midfield most of this year but might have played as a small half forward a few times, but two or three years ago I pretty much played the whole year in that role.

“From that I have learnt a bit of the craft, but obviously it is a different thing doing it at AFL level.”

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Campbell gives ruck hand

North Melbourne has secured an AFL-ready ruckman with Tom Campbell crossing to Arden St.

The 27-year-old ruckman will provide support to Goldstein, who returned to near career-best form last season, and replaces Braydon Preuss.

Campbell joins the club under the new pre-season supplemental selection period (SSP), after he was delisted by the Western Bulldogs. He has played 42 games since his debut in Round 13, 2012.

“We obviously identified the need to bolster our ruck division and we are confident Tom can come straight in and will be a great addition to the team,” North GM football Cameron Joyce said.

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Q&A — PAT MCKENNA

After an injury-interrupted four years on AFL lists with the GWS Giants and Melbourne, Pat McKenna was delisted at the end of the 2018 season. As he transitions out of the AFL system, McKenna has signed on as an assistant coach with Melbourne’s AFLW team. We went one-on-one with the Demons backline coach about his move into the coaching box, his plans for the future and whether or not he plans to continue his AFL dream.

You had quite an injury-interrupted career across your time at the GWS Giants and Melbourne. At what point did you start thinking about a career post-football and was coaching something you had always been interested in?

It was probably largely when I missed the whole season with hamstring troubles that I started helping out, just sitting in the coaches’ box with our VFL team Casey. I didn’t do much or say much, just listened to the coaches and tried to help out where I could. That gave me an idea that it was something I could see myself doing when I got out of football and then I had a similar year with some injuries this year and unfortunately got delisted. Coaching was something that I have grown into and the Melbourne job was lucky that it popped up when it did but I wasn’t expecting anything that soon or that big. I knew I wanted to complete my courses and get qualified and then give myself the option to enter into coaching.

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