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Richmond Academy hosts Hawks

Next generation of Tigers and Hawks In a first for both clubs, the Richmond Academy hosted Hawthorn's top NGA talent for a hit-out at the Swinburne Centre.

A passion for their Next Generation Academy Programs (NGA) brought Richmond and Hawthorn together at the Swinburne Centre last Saturday.

In a first for both clubs, the Richmond Academy hosted Hawthorn’s top NGA talent for a hit-out at the Swinburne Centre.

The scoreboard was not the focus of the match, rather exposing the participants to the Club’s elite Swinburne Centre facilities and coaching staff.

The NGA introduces the game of Australian Rules to both boys and girls, aged 11-18 years, who are from Indigenous and multicultural backgrounds.

Richmond’s region includes AFL Central Vic, Central Murray, Goulburn Murray, North East Border and Sunraysia – the Murray Bushrangers and Bendigo Pioneers catchments.

The Hawks area covers the Gippsland Power and Eastern Ranges talent zones, as well as the Katherine region.

Richmond Academy coordinator Todd Sigalas said the program also aims to create a culturally affirming environment in order for participants to thrive in the talent pathway.

“(The) program came about through a passion of both Hawthorn and Richmond football clubs, to field a team of multicultural youth and Indigenous youth at the under-15’s age level,” Sigalas said.

“Participants in this game will go on to hopefully play in the AFL Victoria Kickstart and All Nations teams at the Diversity Championships in April, so we’re trying to showcase the best talent we have on offer from our program and the best talent that Hawthorn has from their program…

“It’s an absolute privilege to be able to host that here with our partners AFL Victoria, Plenary Group and also working closely with the Hawks who run a fantastic program.”

Plenary Group partnered with the Tigers last year and is an internationally recognised public infrastructure developer and asset manager that has delivered some of Australia’s most high-profile projects.

With its support, the Tigers have heavily invested in their NGA region since its inception in 2016, drafting Mildura product Derek Eggmolesse-Smith as a Category B rookie at the end of last year.

An exciting and quick defender, Eggmolesse-Smith joined the Tigers’ NGA following its launch in 2016. He then trained with the VFL Tigers last year and played five matches for Craig McRae’s side.

Sigalas hoped matches such as last Saturday’s would further expose the participants’ talents.

“It’s important for our academy participants to get involved in games like this so they can showcase their talent,” he said.

“We want to see them thriving in our environment. Footy is a fun game, we’re here to get footy open to as many people as possible and we hope playing on Punt Road inspires them to go on and continue to play the game.

“New faces to the game in a multicultural sense, Indigenous kids coming out and thriving in a safe and respectful environment, this is a celebration of culture as much as footy, and really making sure that we open our arms as a family to the broader community from our zone, which is basically the top half of Victoria.”

The Richmond Academy team featured players from right across the Club’s zone, including Shepparton’s Abel Connors.

Connors, 15, has been involved in the program since its inception in late 2016 and held a leadership role last Saturday.

“A great part of (Saturday’s game) was being asked to co-captain the side,” Connors said.

“I felt really honoured to be a part of that and to get around all the boys. There were some really good highlights – a couple of good speckys, couple of good marks, a couple of good goals.”