AFL starting to realise Kimberley talent

Elise Van Aken and Jakeb WaddellBroome Advertiser
Sport. Fremantle Dockers training. New recruit Liam Henry and Michael Walters do battle during a drill. Picture Jackson Flindell The Sunday Times
Camera IconSport. Fremantle Dockers training. New recruit Liam Henry and Michael Walters do battle during a drill. Picture Jackson Flindell The Sunday Times Credit: Jackson Flindell/Picture: Jackson Flindell

It has long been known as the region of untapped potential, but AFL clubs may finally be scraping the surface of nation-leading talent in the Kimberley.

Five new youngsters from the north were picked up in the recent senior and rookie drafts, including Derby’s Liam Henry, who was selected at pick nine for the Fremantle Dockers and Halls Creek product Jy Farrar, swooped up by the Gold Coast Suns.

Halls Creek’s Isaiah Butters and Leno Thomas, from Warmun, will also don the purple guernsey next year.

Broome boy Anthony Treacy and recently de-listed Derby native Brendan Ah Chee were both signed on as Category B rookies at the West Coast Eagles, while pre-season pick Jack Martin will head to Carlton.

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New West Coast Eagles recruit Anthony Treacy, from Broome.
Camera IconNew West Coast Eagles recruit Anthony Treacy, from Broome. Credit: Michael Wilson.

They are the latest batch of young Kimberley men to make it to the AFL, with the floodgates well and truly opening after Sam Petrevski-Seton and Cedric Cox were drafted in 2016.

The region also boasts the likes of Bailey Banfield, Francis Watson, Callum Ah Chee and Shane McAdam, as well as 2018 draftees Jason Carter and Irving Mosquito.

Contributing to the recent influx has been Fremantle’s Next Generation Academy, rolled out in the region in 2017.

Working with organisations including the Clontarf Foundation, Garnduwa and Kimberley Spirit, the Tendai Mzungu-led academy, which has already helped to produce Henry, Thomas, Butters and Carter, scouts potential talents and helps them transition to Perth and prepare for AFL standards, while developing their education and wellbeing.

The academy is led by former player Mr Mzungu.

Mr Mzungu said the program offered the welfare, support and genuine care to those picked up from the region to overcome the challenges of moving to the city.

“It’s a long process for some of the kids we are working with in the Kimberley,” he said.

“We will see them from 11 years of age right through to when they’re 18 so it’s a long game with these kids.”

“Every player that does get drafted is seen as a real leader in the community, which gives more opportunities to other kids coming through.”

Halls Creek Hawks head coach Clinton Cox said Farrar and Butters’ skills were developed when they went away to Perth for schooling but their talent had come from the heart of the Kimberley.

“In Halls Creek the talent was always here but we never got the recognition or exposure and now with Cedric and “Samo” getting drafted it’s started,” he said.

“When Isaiah came back (from boarding school) there wasn’t any colts so he played straight with the seniors. Each year when he came back for school holidays you could just see him getting better and better.”

Dianne Butters and Clinton Cox.
Camera IconDianne Butters and Clinton Cox.

Dianne Butters said she knew her son Isaiah had sporting talent from a young age but never wanted to push him too hard.

“You have to watch how you say it and explain to them if they want it they are going to have to work (for it), as much as their parents and everyone supporting them as well to meet them halfway,” she said.

“He used to kick around with his little uncle Irving Mosquito — it was special to watch them kick around when they were five and six.”

Farrar’s mother Delphine Seaton said the “big clubs” were only just “scraping the surface” of the talent they could develop from remote towns.

“Just to be exposed to a different environment was the best thing I ever did for those boys,” she said.

“The only reason Jy is where he is right now is he chose to get out of Halls Creek. In the Kimberley area, in those remote areas, we can show our kids that’s where these boys come from and if you want something you can go get it.”

AFL draft - Isaiah Butters
Camera IconAFL draft - Isaiah Butters Credit: Supplied

WA Football Commission Kimberley development officer Eamon Rice said footy in the region was in a great place.

“The talent is starting to get recognised, be it through players taking their own pathways, heading off to schools to further their education elsewhere and their football talent getting recognised or through WAFC pathways,” he said.

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