Bushrangers look to make ‘positive impact’ with

Power had the skill, sure, but as a young Indigenous man he couldn’t help but feel a formidable sense arise.

Even years later, as an adult walking into the same camp to assume a coaching position, to Power, the environment was exactly the same ― daunting.

That is all about to change.

Murray Bushrangers launched its Dungala Talent Pathway on Wednesday, aimed at identifying and supporting up-and-coming Indigenous footballers in the region through high level training, coaching and mentorship.

Partnering with Rumbarala Football Netball Club, the 12-week program will culminate in the Bushrangers’ round 12 game against Bendigo Pioneers on July 1, coinciding with NAIDOC Week.

It will also have the launch of the Dungala Bushrangers guernsey, the first time in club history an Indigenous jersey has been worn.

That’s how the whole idea behind the program began, according to Power, who now serves as assistant coach of the club.

“There were lots of conversations with the club about how can we make a better impact with our community within the Bushrangers program,” he said.

“There were other initiatives we’ve looked at, and we started with ideas around Indigenous designs for jumpers, but we thought that probably doesn’t go far enough in terms of making better outcomes.

“We thought ‘great, we can look at the Indigenous jumpers, but what can we do at community level in terms of action around better outcomes?’

“It’s good symbolism, but also to pair it up with something that’s really meaningful and is going to make a positive impact in young Aboriginal kids’ lives is great.

“That’s where we are today and it’s great to finally launch it given we’ve been trying and talking about it for a while.”

Making the leap: Yulkirri Bamblett, Nakiah Bamblett, Brogan McGee and Peter Woods.
Photo by
Rechelle Zammit

The AFL threw its full support behind the program’s launch, with the event attended by head of talent pathways Grant Williams and talent ambassador Kevin Sheahan.

With five decades of football smarts beneath his belt, Sheahan praised the pathway for opening doors to young Indigenous footballers.

“This is fantastic to give the Indigenous kids of the Goulburn Murray area that will be a part of the Dungala program a chance,” he said.

“It’s specialised help for the boys and girls that want to have a real go at footy with some additional coaching at quite an elite level, so they can fine-tune those skills away from the pressures from training as a team to win the game next Saturday.

“It’s like getting out on the driving range in golf or on the putting green, you’ve got to fine-tune those little things with some experts helping you along the way.

“An additional chance like this is pretty special and I know they’ll embrace it and have a lot of fun along the way.”

Murray Bushrangers have been the launching pad for a number of gifted Indigenous footballers in the past.

North Melbourne co-captain Jy Simpkin and Hawthorn’s Jarman Impey aren’t bad examples of that.

They honed and mastered the fundamentals which Sheahan spoke about in Shepparton, but ball skills are only half of what the Dungala Talent Program is about.

“We don’t want to put a ceiling on what’s possible – the big thing for me is bringing the community and these young ones into the four walls of the footy club,” Power said.

“It’s up to them what they take out of it and, hopefully, it gives them an opportunity to aspire to something.

“I know there’s some great talent already in the program, so hopefully it’s that little spark they need to see themselves in that environment.

“First and foremost, I think it’s a great initiative by the club to say ‘how can we be more culturally safe?’ and bring the Aboriginal community into the program.”

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