Melbourne Victory visits Churchill

Melbourne Victory came to Churchill on August 3 to put on a clinic for Koorie youth.
The day was organised by Budjeri Napan (Latrobe Valley Koorie Sports Committee) and the LVA with support from the Churchill United Soccer Club. The event was attended by over 80 Koorie students from schools ranging from Drouin to Traralgon.
Budjeri Napan Sports Committee has organised events to promote football and cricket and used this to take indigenous teams to compete in Melbourne. The ability to do this for soccer was there but they needed more participants.
Budjeri Napan has been running for ten years and in that time has organised three Gippsland Carnivals for football and netball. They have over 1000 indigenous participants active and engaged with these events. These competitions range from four football teams between Drouin to Lake Tyers and 12-14 netball teams.
Other sports that Budjeri Napan have worked with are cricket and swimming. This is through come and try days and school clinics – starting with Woolum Bellum ten years ago.
The day commenced with a Welcome to Country by Christine Johnson. Christine also shared the dreamtime story of Tiddalik the Frog. The story tells the importance of sharing what we have.
Melbourne Victory separated the children into four groups and took them through skills training for soccer. The day ended with the participants playing friendly games with each other.
Before lunch Christine Johnson presented Melbourne Victory star Archie Thomas with a gift – a handmade bull roarer. Archie was delighted to receive the traditional indigenous instrument.
Archie Thomas began his soccer career playing for the Falcons who are currently getting a ground redevelopment. He expressed his excitement to come back to the area where he grew up and work with rural kids, as they appreciate it more than the city kids who have everything on their front door step.
Archie hopes sharing his story will encourage these indigenous students to do what they can and follow their dreams. Currently Indigenous Australians make up 10% of AFL listed players while that number goes up to 12% for NRL. Indigenous players only make up 1.2% of A-League lists despite an Indigenous Football Strategy started in 2012.
The Melbourne Victory and LVA program goal of seeing more Indigenous children playing soccer will help level the participation gap between soccer and the other football codes.
The partnership between LVA and Melbourne Victory will continue over three years. On September 1 Melbourne Victory is set to play a match in the Latrobe Valley.