DOCKERS LEGACY IN THE NORTH WEST
“I feel a deep sense of pride in what Fremantle has achieved here and if we were able to continue on, that would be a great thing for the club and the young people of South Africa” said Darren Beazley, Fremantle’s General Manager of Strategic Partnerships
Fremantle’s Community Development staff and former players Troy Cook, Justin Longmuir and Luke Webster flew in from South Africa early today, saying how amazed they were by the impact of the club’s presence in the Republic.
The week-long tour, highlighted by football development clinics in the club’s AFL allocated North West Province, was the club’s third visit to South Africa since 2007.
Over the course of the week the travelling party were joined by more than 1000 children in a range of clinics at various Potchefstroom schools. All children at the Potchefstroom clinics take part in the South African equivalent to Auskick, called footyWild.
The Fremantle delegation also spent time with the region’s talented senior players, coaches and umpires to help improve and develop their skills during various workshops and clinics.
During their week-long community camp, the Club saw more than 1250 children, players, coaches, umpires, administrators and volunteers reached in a bid to further establish the Fremantle and AFL footprint in the region.
When Fremantle began working with AFL South Africa in 2007, there were 2,500 registered participants in the game. Today there are over 17,000 nationally, with a large percentage in Fremantle’s recruiting zone.
The travelling party reviewed the development of the North West Province’s talented senior players during a training session on Saturday 14 February. Players travelled from all around the region to participate in the session.
Longmuir said that the desire to play football burns strongly in many young South Africans, with some travelling for hours from all over the North West Province to be at the clinics.
Teenager Tshepiso Mogapi travelled for four hours from Mafikeng, impressing Longmuir, who is a member of Fremantle’s recruiting staff.
“Tshepiso turns 18 later this year and has the speed and agility that we are looking for at Fremantle,” he said.
“I spoke to him about the need to work hard in the gym leading up to the 2009 South African footy season and that he should keep developing the non- dominant side of his body”.
“I am not surprised that he did well for South Africa in the AFL International Cup last year, but the challenge for him is to maintain that standard”.
Cook lauded the talent displayed by some of the participants.
“I am glad Freo came on this trip” he said.
“There are some talented kids here and, hopefully, Fremantle can capitalise on the work that the club has done over the last three years.
“I was really impressed with Thabiso Phakedi. He has huge stamina and was working just as hard in the last quarter of the practice game as he was in the first!
“I rate him.”
Fremantle’s community efforts were also on display during the trip when the group travelled to the Thakaneng Street Kids project in Ikageng.
The project ensures that children abandoned by their parents are given a bed, shelter and are cared for.
“It's for the second time that Fremantle has visited us and the kids had a great time. It’s amazing to see that even people from Australia care about what we do and want to help in building a better South Africa, said Thakaneng Social Worker Cindy Rademan
Fremantle held footy clinics with the Thakaneng children, who range in ages from five to 16 years, and made a financial donation. They visited the street kids in 2008 and a big sign at the front of the facility has the faces of the children who participated last year, wearing Fremantle caps.
Fremantle’s Player Development Manager Luke Webster was touched by what he witnessed at the Thakaneng Project.
“It is almost surreal to be driving through some of the poorest parts of South Africa and look up to see a huge sign with kids wearing Fremantle caps on it,” he said.
“It touched me and made me proud of what we have done for these kids over the past three years”.
The Fremantle delegation also travelled to Johannesburg and visited the Cotlands HIV/AIDS clinic as part of the club’s community spirit efforts in South Africa.
For Darren Beazley, Fremantle’s General Manager of Strategic Partnerships, it was his fourth and “most rewarding” trip to South Africa representing the club.
“The depth of football talent in the North Province is really starting to develop,” he said.
“The group that trained in Potchefstroom showed glimpses of something special. It was also heartening that the kids at the development clinics now have most of the basic skills and are beginning to understand the game.
“We have started to see some Fremantle fans emerge as well, which is a huge bonus and reward for our efforts here.”
Beazley also said that the impact of the Community Camps had exceeded his expectations.
“The AFL South Africa staff are well trained and know what they are doing,” he said.
“Our role has been one of refinement allowing our development staff to work with coaches, umpires and administrators on the finer points of the game.
“When I came for the first time in April 2007, they were pretty raw. That’s no longer the case”.
“I feel a deep sense of pride in what Fremantle has achieved here and if we were able to continue on, that would be a great thing for the club and the young people of South Africa”.
For AFLSA Provincial Development Manager July Machethe the continued support of Fremantle is vital to the sustainability of the program,
“The grass is always green at this time of the year but since Fremantle has committed to visiting the North West on annual basis, the grass has turned purple” said July, himself a proud, loyal and passionate Freo fan.
“We are already starting to see the legacy of Fremantle’s tireless work in the North West Province – the Dockers have helped us build capacity which means that South Africans can now pass on the knowledge they have gained to their fellow countrymen”, he added.
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