The Richmond Football Club is set to play an integral role in the development of an all-Aboriginal team that could play in the under 18 TAC Cup competition as early as this year.
The team, named the Laguntas, after the Aboriginal word for Tiger, will be based at the Korin Gamadji Institute in the ME Bank Centre at Punt Road Oval, and is a joint initiative between the AFL, AFL Victoria and Richmond.
It will come from the establishment of the Laguntas Indigenous Tigers program, which aims to support the pathway to the AFL competition while providing training and education for the off-field development of 50 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders annually.
There will be 40 indigenous players involved in the high performance football program and 10 indigenous staff, who will be provided with career pathway opportunities in team support roles.
The idea behind the concept is to encourage an increase in the number of Victorian-raised Aboriginals playing in the AFL, with just Adam and Brett Goodes, Nathan Lovett-Murray, Andrew Walker and Koby Stevens currently on lists.
AFL community engagement manager Jason Mifsud said the aim was to grow the participation levels of young Indigenous people in AFL Victoria’s talent pathway.
“We believe that the program will address the current talent pathway gap that exists for indigenous players aged between 16 and 19,” Mifsud said.
“The program will help to retain indigenous players, as well as coaches, trainers, support and administration staff who begin in our KickStart program at under-15 level and will aim to provide career transition opportunities into state league and AFL industries for indigenous people over 18 years of age.”
The Laguntas will play a select number of games in the TAC competition in 2013.
Indigenous players already in the TAC competition will remain with their sides but will have the opportunity to play with the Laguntas and participate in their development program if not selected.
The Tigers are strongly supportive of the team’s formation, with the Laguntas to use the club’s training facilities.
These include the Korin Gomandji Institute facilities at Punt Road, which were established in 2011 in conjunction with the federal government.
“The KGI is about creating opportunity for young indigenous people and it makes perfect sense for it to become the base for this program,” Richmond CEO Brendon Gale said.
“Everything we do in the indigenous community is about facilitating opportunity and this program achieves that on two levels – it increases the preparedness of young indigenous talent to enter the elite pathway while providing valuable educational outcomes at the same time.”