Seven years of changing young people’s lives
Keen to encourage young people from culturally and linguistically diverse (CaLD) backgrounds into the Australian Football League (AFL), the Edmund Rice Centre WA created its own team of CaLD players seven years ago.
“The idea was to form a team, get them to train together and then play in Harmony Cup a match against a local club. This hadn’t been done in Australia before” said Joe Moniodis, the centre’s sports program coordinator.
“The program started in 2010 and was scheduled to run for six weeks, but because it was so successful, it’s now seven years old and still going strong.”
The Edmund Rice Lions is Australia’s first multicultural AFL team.
Joe believes that part of the program’s success is due to three principles.
“We wanted to build a community team that encourages community service and includes mentoring youth,” he said.
“We also make sure that the team is led by young coaches with CaLD backgrounds trained through the Edmond Rice Youth Leadership Program, and that players move into local clubs after their time with the Lions.”
The Harmony Cup is the premier event of the year for the Edmund Rice Lions. The 2011 Harmony Cup against the Scripture Union Team was the most memorable in the Lions’ history, with a thrilling finish on a goal scored seconds before the end.
“We’ll always remember that—the whole ground erupted in celebration and the Lions were overjoyed at their first Harmony Cup victory.”
The year 2013 was the year of the multicultural female AFL team with the launch of the Butler Falcons. Although membership was open to any young woman with CaLD heritage, those with African backgrounds were the most enthusiastic. The result was the world’s first all-African female AFL team. Their motto became ‘We came to Australia, we love AFL, come join us!’
The team became Refugee Week Ambassadors for the Refugee Council of Australia in 2014 and 2015. Three Falcons—Aker Athoi, Monica Yengi and Sandra Paul—were the faces of Refugee Week in 2016, appearing on posters, promotional fliers and cards.
In 2016, the Butler Falcons featured in the Dear Australia video series produced by the Guardian Australia, documenting their journey as seen through the lives of Scovia Anzoa and Akoor Dhelbai, the first WA Africans selected in the WA State under 15s team.
The Edmund Rice Coaching Academy has been developing young coaches since 2008. These young coaches have taken lead roles in training and mentoring the AFL teams. Three young coaches, Peter Ajang, Bella Ndayikeze and Reuben Riak took the helm of the Edmund Rice Lions in 2011 and later went on to work for the WA Football Commission, promoting AFL.
Bella was recognised as the youngest qualified African female AFL coach in the world, and wento on to manage the Lions and develop other young coaches along the way. One such coach was Bonheur Cubahiro, who attained his Beginners General Principles Coaching Accreditation at age 10 and began coaching the Young Lions at age 11, making him the youngest AFL coach in the world.
Many Edmund Rice AFL players have transitioned to local teams including Kingsway Football Club, Balga Junior Football Club and Ballajura, Ellenbrook and Wanneroo Football Clubs.
Butler Falcons have transitioned to the Joondalup Falcons, the Joondalup Falcons Youth Girls and the Brighton Seahawks, often being the only girls in their teams.
Some players have transitioned quickly through Edmund Rice AFL programs onto bigger and better things. With AFL talent already in abundance, Akech Makur Chuot joined the Lions in late 2011. She was appointed captain in 2012 and played a season with the Lions, after which she played with Mt Lawley and later Swan Districts. In 2013, she made the WA State Women’s Team, and in 2016 debuted for the West Coast Eagles in the inaugural Women’s AFL match.
More details of the on-field success of players through the Edmund Rice AFL programs can be seen on the Edmund Rice website at http://www.ercwa.org.au/.