West Coast Eagles stars Nic Naitanui and Brendon Ah Chee took a short break from pre-season training to fly north in support of the club’s Kicking Goals program last week.

The Kicking Goals program is a curriculum-based collaborative partnership between the West Coast Eagles, V Swans (Swan Districts Football Club) and Inclusion and Diversity partner BHP that is offered to high school students in the Pilbara towns of Port Hedland and Newman.

The program utilises an incentive system to drive outcomes related to school attendance, behaviour, professional standards and community impact and rewards achievements through a range of exciting opportunities including regular visits by West Coast Eagles players.

Naitanui, one of the biggest stars in the game, has had regular and ongoing involvement in the program for over 12 years, starting with Swan Districts Football Club’s community arm V Swans and continuing in his current capacity as a West Coast Eagle.

Despite these regular visits, the 2012 All Australian ruckman still manages to draw a massive crowd, packing the venue for Newman’s major annual fundraiser last week to ensure significant funds were raised to help students participate in a range of activities, camps and interstate trips throughout the year.

“I love being involved in this amazing program,” Naitanui said.

“I am really passionate about providing opportunities for students from all backgrounds and it’s great that this program supports students from the Pilbara to ensure they don’t miss out.

“I always enjoy seeing the community get behind the program, which makes nights like this so much more meaningful.”

Naitanui spent time with Kicking Goals students at Newman Senior High School the following day, as well as students from the Martu Engagement Program.

His personal stories of resilience, hard work and commitment to achieve goals resonated with the kids, many of whom have similar aspirations for success in sport and other areas of life.

Further north, Ah Chee’s authenticity had a similar impact on Kicking Goals students at Hedland Senior High School.

Entering his ninth season as an AFL player, Ah Chee had a wealth of knowledge and experience to share with the students.

However, it was his personal stories of family and culture, with some specific connections to the Pilbara, that built an immediate and strong connection with the students.

The 40-degree heat and extreme humidity wasn’t enough to deter students from working on their football craft, with Ah Chee impressed by their motivation in tough conditions.

“The boys and girls showed some great skills throughout the sessions, but I was most impressed with how receptive and interested they were in such extreme conditions,” Ah Chee said.

On top of the engagement within the Kicking Goals program, Naitanui and Ah Chee both spent time alongside community and game development staff Drew Petrie, Ashley Sampi, Zac Fitzgerald and James Grabski to provide high-level training opportunities to young players in both towns, as part of the Naitanui Academy.

The West Coast Eagles thank Inclusion and Diversity partner BHP for their ongoing commitment to supporting both the Kicking Goals program and Naitanui Academy and in turn, providing opportunities like these to young people in the Pilbara and across WA.