Premier Pre-Season Carnival

Friday, February 24, 2012

Some of the most exciting Indigenous footballers will travel to Wagga Wagga on February 24 and 25 for the third annual Jack Atkinson Memorial Carnival.

The carnival will see eight teams participate in the event – up from five teams three years ago – and a 12-team netball division which has been added this year.

While the showpiece of the carnival will be the football and netball, the event is quickly becoming a community festival with much broader significance.

The carnival has a strong focus on education and healthy lifestyles with an overall goal of teaching the wider community about the importance of staying in school, getting a job and being healthy.

The event is alcohol and drug free and there will be Indigenous community based programs involved in the carnival which is expected to attract over 5000 people through the gates.

Being run by NAIAFA and AFL NSW/ACT, the Jack Atkinson Carnival is quickly turning into a premier event in the pre-season calendar.

Some former AFL champions will also showcase their talents including Chris Johnson (Brisbane Lions) and Xavier Clarke (St Kilda-Brisbane).

"For the Indigenous community the significance of the carnival is to promote the game of Australian football throughout NSW and the ACT," NAIAFA Chairperson Rodney Craig said.

"This is the third year running … the game is growing in the state and the Indigenous interest in the game is also growing.

"On top of that, we’re also promoting a healthy lifestyle through the Indigenous community.

"On a broader scale it’s a way to showcase our talent and help to bridge the gap.

"There are a lot of non-Indigenous people involved in the carnival so it’s a way of working on reconciliation."

In a positive step forward in working on reconciliation, the event has been opened for a non-Indigenous side, Invitational Chairman’s XVIII, made up of local Riverina footballers.

With the Sydney Swans’ and Greater Western Sydney GIANTS’ commitment to growing the talent pool in NSW/ACT there will be some interested onlookers during the night and day event.
GWS are even holding an AFL Combine at Mt Austin High School for over 120 students on Friday, February 24 to identify and develop future stars of the club.

For Craig, the Combine is an integral development in NAIAFA’s goal to provide opportunities for Indigenous footballers to excel at the elite level.

"I’d like to say within the next three to four years we’ll have a player drafted from this carnival," he said.

"With the AFL Combine and the exposure these kids get now with the development program – especially with GWS now in the mix – the game is always looking for kids who haven’t grown up playing AFL.

"We get a lot of kids from other codes that want to come and give it a go so that also gives the [AFL clubs] a chance to see some talented kids."

Running in conjunction with the carnival will be an under-17s Indigenous program for 50 teenagers. The players will take part in education seminars on healthy lifestyle, employment and they’ll also discuss the opportunities available to make it in the AFL.

The group will be split into two and will play a game against each other during Saturday’s matches.

Following the carnival a state Indigenous Merit Team will be selected to represent NAIAFA and participate in the NSW Regional Championship on the long weekend in June.

The event is free, but a gold coin donation at the gate is encouraged.

The following teams will take part:

  • Cummeragunja Swans (Moama/Echuca)
  • Moonacullah (Deniliquin/Finley)
  • Narrungdera Warriors (Narrandera/MIA)
  • Marrambidya Crows (Wagga Wagga and surrounds)
  • Northern Allies (Sydney/ACT)
  • South West Magic (Wagga Wagga and surrounds)
  • Millewah Suns (Albury-Wodonga)                  
  • Invitational Chairman’s XVIII
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