By Molly Stapleton

As the annual Laguntas Program comes to an end for 2014, this year’s participants are emerging as strong leaders both on and off the field.

The Laguntas squad made a big impression this year, winning all three exhibition matches played at the ME Bank Centre, Punt Road Oval.

Matching their success on-field, the off-field development of the young men has been equally impressive. The participants are demonstrating a strong level of maturity and commitment to broadening their future opportunities.

Throughout the program, participants were encouraged to develop off-field leadership qualities with the encouragement of respected role models.

In a series of personal development sessions with KGI facilitators, Melbourne Demons’ Neville Jetta and Richmond’s Dustin Martin, the squad focused on the importance of celebrating cultural identity and how to find success in all areas of footy and life.

“In our second session we got the boys to think about values and what having strong values can do for them on and off the field,” said Jetta.

During the session, the Laguntas identified the four core values that best represent them as a group of young Indigenous men: Deadly, Proud, Discipline and Respected.

Billy Cooper of the Laguntas leadership group, explained the meaning behind their chosen values.

“The values we came up with are about representing ourselves and taking the next step forward in our journey,” said Cooper.

“We spoke about the importance of showing respect, discipline and being proud of ourselves and the team.”

“But I think the main word was ‘deadly’ – that pretty much covers everything.”

Cooper says the significance of their values stretches far beyond the football field.

“We’re not just proud of ourselves, we’re proud to be playing on a culturally significant ground for our mob and respecting both elders past and present.”

“The sporting precinct around Richmond Football Club and the MCG are the old Corroboree grounds. We play for our ancestors that used to gather here and our elders that played Marn Grook on these grounds.”

“We show them our respect when we play.”

The KGI would like to thank everyone involved with this year’s Laguntas Program and looks forward to the 2015 program.

If you would like to find out more about the Laguntas Program please contact the KGI on 03 9426 4478.

The Laguntas program is run in partnership with AFL Victoria and supported by the Victorian Electoral Commission (VEC).