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Melbourne partners with Redtails

Matt Burgan  October 27, 2017 5:40 PM

 

MELBOURNE has partnered with the Redtails, an Alice Springs-based football team, which aims to drive change in the Central Australia community.

The Redtails (men’s team) and Pinktails (women’s) are made up of players from Central Australia, from about “300 communities” in the area.  

General manager of football operations Josh Mahoney said Melbourne had been looking to formalise its relationship with a club in the Northern Territory, and the Redtails were the right fit for both parties.

“After playing the first AFL home and away game in Alice Springs in 2014 and being allocated the Alice Springs region as part of our Next Generation Academy, we have been looking at potential partnerships in the region,” he told melbournefc.com.au.  

“Once we spoke to Redtails president Rob Clarke about his program, how it started and the success stories, we felt that a partnership between the Redtails and Melbourne Football Club made sense and would have a positive impact on the community.

“Our MOU (memorandum of understanding) with the Redtails is about helping to develop the program through shared resources and creating commercial opportunities.

“AFL football has time and again shown to be a great catalyst for improved outcomes in communities. Whist there may be some talent outcomes through the development of this program, we also believe if we are can play a role in assisting young people in the Alice Springs region in becoming role models  models in the communities, then we see that as a success.”

Mahoney said there was also the possibility of creating some internships with Redtails players coming to Melbourne from Alice Springs.

“There is the potential of creating pathways for our men’s and women’s sides in the VFL and VFLW, which we will explore over time,” he said.

Founder and president of the Redtails, Rob Clarke, said it was a great opportunity to partner with Melbourne.

“To have the opportunity to get involved with the Melbourne footy club is amazing,” he told melbournefc.com.au.

“I honestly believe that with the right opportunity and support, there are players who could [end up playing in the VFL or make it in the AFL]. It’s definitely the case.

“The fitness and commitment is the thing that we lack here, but let’s see what happens when they get an opportunity.”

Clarke, who was born and bred in Alice Springs, said he started the club after a tragic incident occurred locally.

“It started from a very sad story when a young fella lost his life due to a domestic violence incident. He was a young Indigenous lad and a local footballer,” he said.

“I thought I was doing enough by engaging these lads and getting them into work, through my own footy club, but when that happened, it hit home that I wasn’t doing enough.

“In the paper, there was basically a classified ad-size saying ‘Man murdered corner of Elder Street and Lovegrove Drive’, so to me, this said ‘we accept this’, which was pretty ordinary.

“So, I came up with a bit of a plan to inspire young men at that stage to train in summer, which is when most of the drama happens here, because they go back to their own thing and back to their old, bad habits.”

After Clarke got the club up and running, the Redtails gained an opportunity to play in the NTFL in 2012. Their first game was against St Mary’s at TIO Traeger Park on October 6, 2012.

“We got told we’d get smashed by 150-plus points and we’d never be good enough and it was a crazy idea. We went on to win three out of the four games that year, and we flew three times in a row to Darwin after the win over St Mary’s in Alice Springs,” Clarke said.  

In 2013, the Redtails played eight matches, and flew seven times in a row to Darwin. They won one game, but were competitive in all but one.

They had 120 players train that year, but about 50 players played that season, due to other commitments such as work.

The Pinktails were also formed in 2013.

In 2014, the Redtails tried to play in the NTFL, but ended up playing division one teams in Adelaide. In 2015, the Redtails played in Adelaide and in 2016 against the Port Adelaide Academy.

In March this year, the Redtails ventured to Casey Fields and played against Casey Demons.

“It’s turned into a pretty big show. We’ve got under 14s, under 18s, the Michael Long Cup, where we’ve hooked up with Melbourne and the Next Generation Academy – we had 60 young men come to under-14 training, can you believe that? And we’ve got male and female teams,” Clarke said.

“So, we’re across a fair age group now and it’s all about being the best you can be on the field, but more importantly off the field, with employment and school.

“We also cover drug and alcohol workshops, employment pathways and health checks, so the program is pretty broad. It’s basically to engage young men and women into mainstream society and bridge the gap.”