DUAL Henderson medallist Ted Lovett says Ballarat Football League’s inaugural “Indigenous Round” is a positive step in promoting Aboriginal players.
And it has the potential to be so much more.
Lovett says there is a wealth of untapped indigenous talent among Western Victoria football ranks. He believes more can be done to promote opportunity for such players in the game.
While North Ballarat Rebels under-18s unearth the best youngsters for their development program, Lovett says an Indigenous Round could help promote pathways to senior football and keep youngsters in the game. Lovett has touted the idea with AFL Victoria of an indigenous football academy for the state’s juniors.
“We’ve given boys a chance to play in a state side and there is a good opportunity for all these young kids to learn more about the game,” Lovett said.
“We had a good program at North (Ballarat) looking at Aboriginal kids and making sure they get a chance like everybody else.”
The BFL will host its first “Indigenous Round” this weekend in a bid to stamp out racial vilification.
From page 40
It is part of a response to an incident among spectators at a BFL elimination final last year.
The Indigenous Round follows a “Respect for Women Round” designed to raise awareness of the pivotal role women play in football at all levels.
Redan forward Grant Bell, in his first BFL season, said the indigenous themed round was a great initiative.
While the former North Ballarat Roosters’ player has not personally experienced racial slights, he agreed the Indigenous Round could promote pathways and open opportunities for all indigenous footballers.
“It’s good to recognise all the league’s indigenous players because there’s been some great indigenous players to play senior football in Ballarat,” Bell said.
Bell has seen first-hand as a mentor in Ballarat and the Northern Territory how the game can help educate indigenous children and keep them on the right track.
In the Northern Territory, Bell said football was the main way of life and youngsters had amazing football skills — it was all about having opportunity. Bell said the AFL had done a lot of great work to promote indigenous footballers.
He said he realised he was experiencing the positive effects of stands taken in the game by the likes of AFL greats Nicky Winmar and Michael Long. Ted Lovett said so much had changed since his playing career with North Ballarat in the BFL and with Fitzroy in the VFL through the 1960s when it was “open slather” with derogatory remarks.
Lovett recalled people crossing the road to avoid him when he would walk up and down Sturt Street to warm up before a game. At Fitzroy, there was one team-mate who never once kicked the football to him.
Lovett said there were still little undercurrents, as evident in last year’s BFL elimination finals, that needed to be stamped out — for all races and cultural backgrounds.
He said some used to argue racist remarks were to put players off but he felt there was always an underlying personal opinion or feeling.
To help spark change, Lovett has worked extensively in schools and through the community on Aboriginal awareness and issues. It has taken a long time, but Lovett said the culture was a lot better. This weekend’s BFL matches will start with a welcome ceremony acknowledging the traditional owners at each venue.
Centre circles at all grounds will be painted in the black, yellow and red of the Aboriginal flag and, where possible, indigenous players will represent their clubs at the coin toss.
Lovett said it was a great initiative from the BFL, although he will miss it. He will be in Melbourne to watch a grandson represent Victoria in an indigenous team for an under-16 multicultural curtain-raiser to the VFL match between Collingwood and Bendigo at Victoria Park.
Lovett hopes his grandson will continue in the strong football heritage of his Gunditjmara people.
Lovett’s uncle played for Geelong in 1919, his father for Carlton and North Melbourne in the 1930s, Norm McDonald (Essendon), Eric Clarke (St Kilda), Phil Egan (Richmond/Melbourne), Chris Egan (Collingwood), Andrew Lovett (Essendon/St Kilda) and Nathan Lovett-Murray (Essendon).