• Jade North, A-League player for Brisbane Roar and member of the Australian National Football Team. (Supplied)Source: Supplied
Football Federation Australia (FFA) is hopeful their first National Indigenous Football Championships will discover future Matildas and Socceroos currently flying under the radar.
Source:
AAP
3 Oct 2016 - 11:57 AM  UPDATED 3 Oct 2016 - 12:14 PM

The next Kyah Simon and Jade North are out there - and steps are being made to find them.

The FFA’s first National Indigenous Football Championships will be held in Shoalhaven, NSW in November, as part of an effort to emulate the success of other sports in fostering Indigenous talent.

Indigenous players make up nine per cent of this year's AFL list, while 12 per cent of NRL players identify as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander athletes. This is attributed to targeted recruitment and talent identification programs. In contrast, there are no more than handful Indigenous competitors in the A-League and W-League.

FFA chief executive David Gallop, a former NRL boss who witnessed the rise of stars like Johnathan Thurston and Greg Inglis, knows there are many opportunities to be seized.

"I did see in that job the enormous difference sport can make in those communities and the excellence that Indigenous boys and girls, men and women can bring to sport," Gallop says.

"Football has got some catching up to do in terms of embracing Indigenous communities and making sure we provide opportunities for Indigenous boys and girls."

It's unknown how many future Australian No.10s could be running around in tiny towns like Borroloola in the Northern Territory, from where prodigiously talented teenager Shadeene Evans was plucked and fast-tracked into the elite program at Sydney's Westfield Sports High. Evans, the face of Indigenous Football Week, was identified through John Moriarty Football, a program run in partnership with FFA.

Gallop describes the Indigenous Football Championships as an "overdue step" in redressing the under-

Wreck Bay Sharks FC President and Tournament Director, Bernie McLeod, started one of the country's first all-Indigenous football clubs about a decade ago on the NSW south coast. His aim was to help get kids off the streets and seek education and a healthy lifestyle.

McLeod believes this event is an opportunity to bring the skills of Aboriginal players to national attention.

“The event has received overwhelming support from the football fraternity, the corporate and government organisations involved, and the Indigenous communities right across the nation,” Mc Leod says.

"Football has got some catching up to do in terms of embracing Indigenous communities and making sure we provide opportunities for Indigenous boys and girls."

The tournament, expected to attract up to 1000 participants in its first year, will include a Johnny Warren Football Foundation celebrity match featuring the likes of Anthony Mundine, Andrew Walker, George Rose and Nathan Blacklock.

"We're not talking about taking Indigenous players from other games," said former Socceroo Craig Foster.

"We're talking about choice, and giving more kids from more communities the opportunity to excel, and through our game, to see the world."