A NORTHERN suburbs junior football program is helping develop the state’s next senior players, with young players being given the opportunity to showcase their talent.
The Ben Brown Academy was established in October last year by Glenorchy District Football Club (GDFC) senior coach Paul Kennedy after he saw a need to increase the opportunities for junior players.
“The drop off in youth football in Tasmania is well above the national average,” Mr Kennedy said.
“In Tasmania if you’re not in the State Academy, which is really elite for each age group, then there is only local footy.
“There was a loss of aspiration from these kids where they thought football wouldn’t take them anywhere.”
Mr Kennedy said the Ben Brown Academy was about helping talented youth players from the Glenorchy, Claremont and New Norfolk regions develop their skills and give them a pathway.
“I think the most important thing is to show them they can go somewhere with footy because that’s been missing and is of a particular concern to the northern suburbs,” he said.
“We can give them something that’s free, accessible, run by really talented footballers and coaches, and show them they are on track to something with their footy that’s worth sticking at.
“It’s also about preparing them so they’re learning skills and structure that most kids don’t learn until they get to senior football.”
Mr Kennedy said he did not want players involved in the academy to be forced out of playing for their respective clubs.
“We’ve played two academy games against Clarence and it’s been really good for our kids to challenge themselves,” he said.
“We come together and do three or four training sessions before we play a game, and some of our top-tier senior players teach them skills.”
The Ben Brown Academy players face a trip up to UTAS Stadium in Launceston in July to play against the North Launceston under 16 emerging team.
Mr Kennedy said he plans to expand the Ben Brown Academy to include a girls’ academy in September and to launch a new academy aimed at older juniors aged 16 to 18.
The juniors at GDFC are also facing a big year, with the club celebrating its 100th anniversary.
Mr Kennedy said it was important to continue junior development to ensure the future of the club.
“History is something that’s made every day and what happens now is just as important as what’s happened in the past,” he said.
“For us to maintain a high state league team this is something we need to get right, right from our Auskick junior development to the Ben Brown Academy.
“It’s about connecting the juniors and their families to our football club, and everything we do that opens up our club and exposes our club to people is really important in making ourselves sustainable into the future.”
The GDFC under 14 boys team recently received their premiership flag from last year and coach Jordan West said it was a testament to the club’s approach of developing junior players.
“The kids love seeing the senior player getting along to their trainings and helping out – it’s a good one-club vibe, which is good to see,” he said.
“It’s about the juniors striving to make themselves better while still enjoying it, making sure they’re not just playing because they feel they have to.”
Mr West said the younger players were excited about the club’s 100th year.
“Every night there’s kids down at KGV training or just having a kick of the footy and having shots at goals,” he said.
Caption: The Glenorchy District Football Club under 14 boys team receive their 2018 premiership flag at a recent home game.