West Coast's Naitanui Academy All Nations and Kickstart Program reached new heights recently with a derby clash versus Fremantle’s Next Academy at the Cockburn ARC.
The AFL All Nations and Kickstart Program works to develop multicultural and Indigenous boys aged 13-15 in a high-performance environment, with a select few from each state advancing to the World Team and Flying Boomerangs programs in Melbourne later this year.
This serves as an exciting opportunity for the West Coast Eagles Naitanui Academy junior squad members, with the majority of boys qualifying under either the All Nations or Kickstart banners.
“Our Academy team identified the need to run a specific training block for our All Nations and Kickstart players here at Mineral Resources Park in late 2019, to give our boys the perfect preparation and best opportunity to make the final WA based contingent for the World and Flying Boomerangs Programs,” West Coast Eagles game development officer Chris Brown said.
“We had 60 players regularly attend the block, which included skill development training and on and off field player development. It’s been great to see some of our players take big strides over summer building up to the big clash versus Fremantle.”
The All Nations squad took the field first, debuting the Academy’s new gold playing strip.
The game was played at a very high level, with plenty of free flowing and attacking footy from both sides.
However it was to be the Eagles day, with a very classy displays from Ace Tinlin and Harrison Creighton helping the visitors topple the Dockers.
“I felt the boys went really well. Our preparation over the summer helped the team settle into the game early and put on a very strong performance across the ground,” West Coast skills coach Ashley Sampi said.
“With a strong breeze, it was really positive to see the boys work even harder to find avenues to goal, when kicking into the wind. This proved to be the real difference in the game”
The Kickstart boys took to the field in the second contest, with Coach Fraser McInnes taking the reins for the first time.
West Coast continued on their form from game one, with the two squads locked in a tight arm wrestle across the first three quarters.
Eagles’ young guns Lance Collard and Coen Livingstone worked hard through the middle, but it was a gallant effort deep in defence by Shayden Garlett and Blake Offer that helped halt the Dockers’ charge in the final term.
However, the purple barrage proved too much in the end, with Fremantle edging out the Eagles in a tight one to level the ledger at one game apiece.
“I was really pleased with the level of skill shown by our squad for this time of year; the group looked like they were in good touch,” McInnes said.
“The effort the boys showed was never in question and a number of them put forward a good case to enhance their chances for selection into the initial Flying Boomerangs squad.”
The program will culminate with one last hit out, an intra club to make a final claim for selection.
The Indigenous players are also available to participate in the Nicky Winmar Carnival in early March, leaving WA Football Commission selectors with a tough task to fill out the final places for the WA squads.