For many junior Australian Rules Football players in the northern rivers, once they have outgrown the under-14s there isn’t really anywhere else for them to go and not a lot of opportunity to make it into the AFL unless they plan on leaving home at a time when what they need as young men is the support of their family and community.
Enter the Northern Rivers Storm Australian Football Club. In association AFL Queensland, the Storm is giving local lads the extra run in the paddock they miss out on between finishing local football at the junior level and the big league. The aim of the program is to provide an opportunity for young AFL players and coaches to continue to develop their football skills, fitness and life skills through a structured training program and match-day experience. The boys play against teams in the Gold Coast junior league.
The Storm fields teams in the under-18s AFL Queensland competition and the under-16s Gold Coast Juniors competition, but Storm is not to be mistaken for a representative team or an ‘elite’ program. The team is open to anyone who wants to continue the sport after the local age divisions finish. The focus is to help for all players to be their best on and off the field.
When Echonetdaily visited the squad on Monday evening, it would have been easy to think that we had arrived at any of the major AFL league team training sessions as the evening ran looked like a well-oiled training machine – it wasn’t until stepping a little closer that we could see that the players were juniors. The coaching staff are trained and work together as a team and the experience is a great forerunner to a senior career in football.
Derek Harbison is president of the club, which he hopes to further establish this year. He is currently acting coach for the boys as the 2012/2013 coaching staff for each team is yet to be appointed. Derek put the lads through their paces on Monday at Bangalow, keeping a tight rein on their training development and their behaviour. ‘The Storm is a great opportunity for the top-age junior players in the region to match themselves up against the best players the Gold Coast has to offer. The players from this region have so far performed very well against these teams and are now being recognised as players to keep an eye on by senior teams on the Gold Coast.’
Derek says that as the boys are all coming from different clubs to play in their age-ability groups, it is a good chance for them to mix with other players that they would have played against in the past and learn some new skills and styles of play. ‘The players get to extend themselves and try to improve their football with some serious competition on the Gold Coast. There are more teams to play and the clubs are very well organised so each game is a contest.’
The Northern Rivers Storm welcome all players to come and train with them. The club has fairly strict guidelines about positive attitudes and fair sportsmanship, and expect this to be practised by all, both on and off the field. They encourage young men to become better footballers and better people by training and playing under experienced and qualified coaching staff in the spirit of the greatest game of all – Aussie Rules!
For more information about the team, visit their website: www.nrstorm.com.