TALENTED young guns took to footy field and the netball court for the inaugural AFL Central Victoria Multicultural celebration on Thursday.
Primary and secondary school students from across the region braced the cold wintry conditions at the North Bendigo Football Netball Club to take part in the festivities.
AFL Central Victoria football development manager Rick Coburn said footy was a great way of bringing people together.
He said one of the aims of the multicultural day was to encourage people of all races to get involved with either football or netball.
“Multicultural groups haven’t had that participation in football and aren’t aware of how football works in the region,” Coburn said.
“It is a good chance to bring schools together; there are students from a wide range of different multicultural backgrounds participating.
“It gives them a good taste.”
City of Greater Bendigo chief executive Craig Niemann agreed saying sport was an ideal way of bringing people of all different ages, backgrounds, races and religions together.
“It doesn’t matter where you are from or what your ability is like, to get people out on the oval or out on a court playing together, learning new skills in a team environment with mums and dads being able to watch, is a great way to get people involved,” he said.
“As a council we are trying to provide as many facilities and support services as we can to enable these types of things to happen.”
The AFL Multicultural Schools Ambassadors for Central Victoria, Patrick Hancok and Dayna McGough were also involved.
Hancock represented Victoria at the All Nations Cup earlier this year and McGough is an impressive netballer with Strathfieldsaye.
Coburn said the two sport stars were great role models for the community.
He said it was great to see some of the region's top multicultural and indigenous players give back.
AFL Multicultural ambassador David Rodan said sport, especially footy was a great way of breaking down barriers.
He said it was important to make new people in our communities feel welcome.
As part of his role with the AFL, Rodan is coordinating multicultural and indigenous development squads within the TAC Cup.
“It gives them a stepping stone into the main stream pathway because kids usually come across to Australia when they are 13 and 14 years old,” he said.
“They want to join a football club but at that age most kids are well skilled and so they shy away because they are not skilful enough so the 10 week program up-skills them and fast tracks them so they can make that transition.
“There is quite a bit of talent coming through.”