• Courtney Dempsey talks to the Marngrook Footy Show. September, 2014 (NITV)Source: NITV
Former Essendon AFL player Courtney Dempsey says Port Adelaide’s awareness of issues Aboriginal athletes might face has played a big part in All-Australian ruckman Paddy Ryder’s superb 2017 season.
William Davies

15 Sep 2017 - 2:57 PM  UPDATED 15 Sep 2017 - 2:57 PM

Port Adelaide’s focus on Indigenous culture and awareness of issues Aboriginal athletes might face have helped Paddy Ryder reach All-Australian status, according to former Essendon player Courtney Dempsey.

Speaking on The Marngrook Footy Show live on NITV on Thursday night, Dempsey said his former Bombers teammate Ryder’s environment at Port Adelaide is a great credit to the club, and there are similarities to the support network Dempsey found when he joined Essendon.

“The best thing about Essendon football club at the time were the close-knit group of the Indigenous boys that were there,” Dempsey said on The Marngrook Footy Show.

“And having Dean Rioli already there as well, Nathan Lovett-Murray, Andrew Lovett and along came myself, Paddy Ryder, Leroy Jetta and Alwyn Davey. And then we had also Dean Dick, whose father used to play for the Bombers in the early 90s.

“So having that close-knit family and everyone understanding each other and just helping each other to get through the hard times and understanding where we’ve all come from and really obviously paved the way for a lot of us Indigenous boys now."

“So having that close-knit family and everyone understanding each other and just helping each other to get through the hard times and understanding where we’ve all come from and really obviously paved the way for a lot of us Indigenous boys now.

“You see Paddy Ryder going across to Port Adelaide and they have a massive, massive Indigenous culture there and with Pauly Vandenbergh (Director – Aboriginal Programs) running a really good show within the Port Adelaide football club and it makes him feel comfortable.

“And you look at the games that he’s playing, he’s just obviously, that’s why he’s All-Australian this year and just dominates every time he gets out there.”

Dempsey also spoke with the panel on Marngrook on Thursday evening about the personal struggles he had after being delisted by Essendon.

“It was pretty tough and daunting at the same time. Just the unknown,” Dempsey said.

“At the time I was sort of sitting around twiddling my thumbs and it was very tough at that stage. Because at the end of the year a lot other companies, a lot of businesses tend to just drop away because they’re obviously going towards the holidays and it was very hard to find myself some work so I can actually live throughout the last two months of the year and then get ready for the next year.

“We had to try and find a way of dealing with that and I found it very tough and I think it’s very important for the youth these days to actually look at something outside of football and hopefully the clubs get on board and try and help them out too.

“Because everyone keeps talking about the careers and how much they make in the football world but it goes very quickly and before you know it, I’m 30 years old and I’ve still got a long way in my life to go.”

Marngrook hosts Gilbert McAdam and Grant Hansen applauded Dempsey for his courage to talk publicly about his experiences and urged anybody dealing with similar issues to speak with someone about it or to seek help via services such as, Beyond Blue and R U OK? 

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As well as Dempsey, current Richmond player Shaun Grigg was also a guest on The Marngrook Footy Show on Thursday, and spoke about life at Tigerland in 2017 as they prepare for their AFL preliminary final.

“We were really excited by the challenge of playing in a final,” Grigg said of their big win over Geelong last weekend.

“We thought our footy that we’ve played this year was going to stack up in finals. So it was exciting to see that, all the work throughout the year, stack up in finals.”

The 29-year-old said they expected no major ill-effects of having another week off from a competitive AFL fixture, something they earned with the win over Geelong.

“We’ve produced off byes previously,” he said. “We’ve approached it how we did earlier in the year, just before the finals as well, so we’ll train hard this week, our VFL are in a prelim as well so we want to train hard and give those guys the best preparation possible for their game and that helps us leading into next week.”

Also on The Marngrook Footy Show on Thursday night, GWS defender Zac Williams dialled in from Sydney, Peter Daicos joined the panel as match analyst, as well as guest panel members Robert Walls and Simon Madden.

Rohan Connolly again presented his nostalgic segment Rounds of Our Lives, for which former Collingwood forward Ross Brewer joined the show to talk about the 1981 semi-final between Collingwood and Fitzroy.

For more football news and to be a part of the conversation, head to The Marngrook Footy Show’s Facebook and Twitter pages, or watch Thursday’s episode in full On Demand catch up service.