North kicks off football program to help breed more Indigenous Socceroos

Jade North hopes the launch of his "Kickin With A Cuz" program in Wollongong on Tuesday will be the first step towards realising his dream of seeing multiple Indigenous players in the Australia team on a regular basis.

Jade North

Brisbane Roar's Jade North Source: Getty Images

The program is aimed at providing opportunities for Indigenous and disadvantaged children to learn how to play football.

The huge point of difference with his program, compared to junior clinics and academies, is that children will be able to take part for free thanks to the involvement of backers who are supporting his cause.

The Wollongong Wolves National Premier League club, which hopes to eventually be included in an expanded A-League, and the Illawarra Local Aboriginal Land Council have worked with Brisbane Roar star North to enable the first stage of the program to kick off.

Children from local schools will take part in the program, which will be conducted on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday at the Wolves' juniors home ground, Albert Butler Oval, at Kemblawarra.

North, who has 41 Socceroos caps to his name, said the plan was for the program to eventually cover areas across Australia, including remote communities.

"Wollongong was the first place to put their hand up and say 'we'd love to have you here' and we're in the process of arranging more clinics in other areas," he told The World Game.

"I've been getting interest from a lot of people and places. The potential for the program's growth is great - people who have the ability to help make things happen really want to get behind it.

"I'm a Taree boy, born and bred, so I know what sort of potential is out there in the country. The top end of Australia, far north Queensland, country areas, they all have different needs and you've got to try and cater for that."

North said the program was about teaching kids the basic skills, encouraging them to support each other, identifying those with genuine potential and then helping them to take further steps beyond the program, and having fun.

"Some of the kids might not continue on with football, but they might make some new friends through this program and some life opportunities could be created out of that," he said. "It's not just about the football, it's about engagement.

"It's an opportunity for Indigenous and under-privileged kids whose families wouldn't be able to afford to pay for something like this. Instead of standing behind the fence and watching the other kids, they'll be on the field and getting involved.

"Participation is free and we're currently seeking government support as well as sponsors to jump on-board. My program is a non-profit organisation and any earnings we get through those avenues will go back into funding the program.

"What I really want to do is create pathways for these kids. I never had that when I was growing up. It's about getting the kids engaged and interested in the round-ball game.

"It's about putting them in a position to develop without the cost being a big hurdle."

For North the ultimate aim is to help these kids reach the pinnacle of the sport and one day represent their country.

"Ten, 15, 20 years down the track I want to see four or five Indigenous boys lining up in the national team on a regular basis, like they do in the Australian rugby league side. That's my vision," he said.

"If that happened I would be one of the proudest people in Australia and there's no reason it can't happen if the best Indigenous players have the pathways that enable them to develop.

"We want to give these kids the chance to believe in themselves."

North said it was the support he had received from people influential in football and business that had allowed him to get the project moving much quicker than would have otherwise been possible.

"I've got some great people on my board, including Rob Cavallucci and David Pourre ... Archie Thompson is an ambassador for me as well, so I'm just trying to formulate the right approach and get the right people involved," he said.

"I'll be hands-on at the clinics in Wollongong, along with (Wolves coach) Jacob Timpano and some other coaches and players. I've had so many people contact me to say they love the initiative and want to help out.

"I can relate to the situation these kids are in, through the struggles I had growing up. I'm proud of what I've achieved in my career and I want to say to the kids 'hey, if you put your mind to it, dreams can become reality'."

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5 min read
Published 19 June 2017 at 6:00pm
By Greg Prichard