FFA CEO David Gallop admits football is lagging behind the other codes when it comes to Indigenous athletes who play football at elite level.
The Inaugural National Indigenous Football Championships held in Nowra over the weekend have been hailed a success.
Out of 24 teams from across the country, Illawarra Bungarra defeated Northern Nations 4-0 to win the Women’s Division, while SE QLD Dingoes took home the trophy against Eora United 2-1 in the Men’s Division.
With Indigenous athletes making up nine percent of the AFL playing list and 12 percent in the NRL, Gallop agreed that the round ball game had some catching up to do.
“There is no doubt that football has been behind the other codes in terms of getting the ball at the feet of Indigenous kids,” he said to FourFourTwo.
“It’s things like having a National Championships for the first time, things like Indigenous football week, things like Jamie Warren and what Jamie Warren foundation do that is all going to lift the profile.
“One thing I do know is that if you put a football at the feet of kids in these communities many, many of them will have skill and pace which is needed in this game and we can start to lift our percentage to what you see in AFL and an in NRL.
“So Jade North, Kyah Simon, we are going to see a new generation and this is a great opportunity for showcasing the skills at the moment but inspiring a new generation.”
Tournament ambassador and Brisbane Roar star Jade North said Indigenous participation will grow on the back of the Championships.
“It’s important because it’s a grassroots pathway for young kids into adults to get the opportunity to showcase themselves,” he said to FourFourTwo. “For Indigenous athletes back in their communities it’s hard to get noticed from the bush but when you are together and you are here as one you get to showcase your talent and what you are made of.
“I’m hoping next year and hopefully it’s going to be an annual event, that’s it’s going to double and triple and hopefully it’s going to rival the Murray and the Koori knockout.”
North, who has 41 caps for the Socceroos and has played over 350 professional club games, said he hoped to see more Aboriginal footballers playing for the Socceroos.
“When I was playing in the A-League last year I was the only Indigenous one out of how many players,” he said. “So we’ve got a fair way to go and even when I played with the national team I was the only Indigenous at that one time.
"You look at Rugby League for example the Kangaroos, six or seven are Indigenous in the starting line-up. I want the game to grow in this country. My dream would be to see six seven in the national team.”
“It’s all part of building that culture and giving the round ball game to the first Australians which is very important.”
Photo Credit: Joe Mayers Photography