There was an excited crowd of promising young Indigenous and multicultural footballers at Ivanhoe's Ford Park in the inaugural Girls Next Generation Academy (NGA) Tournament earlier this year.

The NGA is targeted at Multicultural and Indigenous communities who may have less opportunity to be involved in football programs or who have limited understanding of the game and how it is played.

While the program focuses on these non-traditional football communities, it is available to young players of any skill level aged 11 – 18.

For the first time, girls are part of the NGA tournament, a round-robin style game day that saw the Richmond NGA girls compete against teams from other NGA academies like St Kilda and Melbourne.

Richmond's NGA team came away with two wins and one loss, an impressive feat considering that some girls have little football experience and had only trained together a few times in the lead-up to the tournament.


Many of the girls had been looking forward to this tournament, including 16-year-old Ellie Armstrong from Shepparton's Rumbalara community. Armstrong is part of Richmond's Korin Gamadji Institute (KGI), a centre of cultural strength and learning for Indigenous youth, providing leadership and mentoring to the next generation.

"I have been really looking forward to this and counting down the days," she said.

"I want to play for Richmond when I'm older, so playing for the club when I'm young is pretty exciting. If I follow on and continue going through the KGI program, I will hopefully get drafted straight to Richmond."

Armstrong feels that the leadership and mentoring she has received through the NGA and KGI programs have helped her develop as both a footballer and a person alongside her teammates.

"The girls that haven't played football before, you wouldn't even know because they're just playing really well and putting their best effort in."

"The coaches have helped us with our resilience. They say it doesn't matter if you make mistakes, just learn from it and move on. It's alright to make mistakes, just try your hardest and have fun all the time."

15-year-old Michelle Vanzuyden, a fellow KGI participant from Bendigo, joined Armstrong on the field. Vanzuyden appreciates the opportunity to play the sport she loves in an environment that celebrates her culture and heritage.

"It makes me feel really excited and grateful to have this opportunity and to play with all my friends, especially for Richmond," she said.

"It's a really inclusive, multicultural club, and it makes me proud to be who I am. To be proud of my culture is really important to me because it's who I am."

And despite having to sit out on the tournament due to a concussion from her weekend Coates Talent League game with the Bendigo Pioneers, KGI's Kelsey Laubsch enjoyed the opportunity to be involved from the sidelines and pass on some of her knowledge and experience to the younger players.

"I was glad I could be with the girls and see them win. It makes me feel involved still," she said.

"What I learn in Pioneers, I'm just trying to teach them as well. Our connection is strong, and us girls are just strong together; our culture brings each other together."

Richmond AFLW player Bec Miller was involved in mentoring the girls through both the training and match day and was impressed to see a high level of talent coming through in the younger girls despite many of them being new to football.

"Their tackling was pretty ferocious. I was glad I was on the sidelines," she joked.

"That tackling pressure is a huge part of Richmond's DNA, so it's cool to see that coming through in other programs."

"I said to some of the girls, 'You may not have played a lot of footy, but you've got some athletic background; use that as your strength; if you're a netballer or a basketballer, be proud of that and take that into your footy game."'

"There's a reason why no one can tackle Mon Conti, because she's a basketballer…I wanted to reinforce that where they have come from is part of their story and a real strength of theirs to take forward into their footy journey."