The Age, an Australian newspaper, has an interesting article on the Mallee Park Football Club, a largely Aboriginal sporting club from my high school town of Port Lincoln.
Dad used to play cricket for Lincoln South, so I supported Souths in the footy. Mallee Park was always the most talented side and it shows: they have produced 8 current AFL players. My brother, Liam, umpired some of the current AFL players.
Every night after school as many as 60 kids play what Jack Johncock calls rough and ready on the Mallee Park Oval. There is one football, no teams, no rules and the objective for the five-year-olds is not to get bashed.
So they learn how to dodge their 59 opponents. The eight-year-olds work on quick disposals before they’re tackled, and the 12-year-olds do all of the above, plus kick the goals. But then they, too, get bruised when they train with the A-grade side twice a week.
Then on Saturdays those five-year-olds play against kids twice their age, and by the time they turn 12 they have played 100 games.
According to Johncock, it is why this amazing club at Port Lincoln on South Australia’s Eyre Peninsula has produced so many champions.
As an aside, the Aboriginals (or “Aborjin” in Turkish) are one of the top subjects brought up when Turkish people (particularly the young) find out I’m Australian. I believe a book about Aboriginals is part of the Turkish school curriculum.