On-field performance doesn’t solely define a great football player or team – what they do off the field is just as important.

The Laguntas program, delivered in partnership with the Korin Gamadji Institute (KGI) and AFL Victoria, provides young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men the opportunity to play in invitational football games and receive support in areas such as cultural strengthening, leadership, health, education, and training and employment pathways.

Now in its fifth year, the Laguntas program provides a platform for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders with an alternate AFL talent pathway.

Throughout the year participants play four exhibition matches against AFL Victoria’s multicultural academy, the Jim Stynes Academy.

Participants also utilise the KGI’s facilities and facilitators to participate in sessions where they develop skills in leadership and communication, strengthen their identity and engage in KGI pathway activities such as Indigenous art and War Cry performances.

The program places emphasis on these sessions in order to assist participants with their personal development and aspirations, in addition to their football performance and development.

The Laguntas engage in sessions that focus on the following pillars:

• Culture and identity
• Resilience
• Decision making
• Communication
• Respect and responsibility

Each pillar has created the foundations for these educational sessions to exist in the program and have been critical to the success of the program.

Participants are supported through the program by expert staff that facilitate and assist them to emerge as young leaders both in the community and on the football field.

Over the course of the Laguntas program, participants are challenged through both the physicality on the field and mentally in these KGI sessions. Not only do participants who complete the Laguntas program leave with a better understanding about the demands in an elite sporting environment, they also gain knowledge in the areas of leadership, communication and cultural strengthening.

The KGI recognises the importance of providing young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander footballers with the opportunity to develop themselves and their football skills in first-class facilities at the Richmond Football Club.

The Laguntas program does not revolve solely around football. Education and cultural activities are critical to the development of participants throughout the program so they are equipped with skills to have a positive impact in their communities.