Wednesday 6 July 2011

Mt Gravatt’s Indigenous players will have an extra spring in their step when they travel to Labrador to take on the lowly Tigers on Saturday.

The NEAFL northern conference is recognising NAIDOC Week this round, which celebrates the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

Albert Proud and Jesse Green are outstanding Indigenous talents, while Papua New Guineans John James and Amua Pirika have also been warmly embraced by the Vultures.

“I can’t talk more highly about how the AFL treats the Indigenous players,” Proud said. “I take my hat off to them.”

“I’ve been a Mt Gravatt boy since I was 16 and I’ve seen a few Indigenous boys come through the club since then.

“We’ve got a great culture down there.”

Proud, who has been a big part of Mt Gravatt’s strong season that sees them sitting in third place since he was delisted by the Brisbane Lions, is hoping to see more Indigenous talent on the Vultures list in the future.

He credits coach David Lake with creating a welcoming environment for players of all races.

“I know if there are any Indigenous kids out there who want to give footy a crack, David is not just a great coach but a great mentor,” Proud said. “That’s the plus we get from him.”

Proud inherited his love of the game of AFL from his father, who is Australian, while his mum is from the Torres Strait.

“I was born in Victoria and my old man and I used to kick the ball out the backyard all the time,” he said.

“We went to the Braybrook footy club when I was six and I’ve trained every week of my life in winter since then.”

Proud moved north when he was 13 and “jumped on the Brisbane Lions bandwagon straight away”.

He had supported the West Coast Eagles because his father was originally from Western Australia, but the powerful Lions were a real attraction.

“They had some great Indigenous boys playing for them in Darryl White and Chris Johnson, who was the player I idolised along with Vossy (Michael Voss),” Proud said.

While he came from an upbringing in a State where AFL is king, it is a different story in Queensland and Proud is delighted to see the attention that AFL Queensland is paying to Indigenous development.

Two Indigenous staff have been employed by AFL Queensland in recent months and programs are being put in place aimed at fostering local Indigenous youth into the game.

“There’s a lot of Indigenous boys playing (rugby) league up here, but when they get onto the round oval they love it,” Proud said.

“It’s great that there is more being done to get them interested.

Proud defied back pain last week to play a significant role in Mt Gravatt’s outstanding 16.14 (110) to 14.17 (101) win over arch rivals Morningside, and won’t be taking injury-riddled Labrador lightly.

“When we were 4-0 we came up against Gold Coast and just thought it would happen for us, and they blitzed us,” he said. “If you don’t rock up to play, any team will beat you.”

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