Bringing football to a wider audience is the aim of Mallee Sports Assembly’s All Abilities Football Program, and that aim is being reached thanks to the help of the South Mildura Sporting Club and in particular its volunteers. Angus Dearlove catches up with young South Mildura footballer Connor Irwin about the 2019 edition of the program and why he loves being a part of it. Pictures: Carmel Zaccone
MALLEE Sports Assembly’s All Abilities Football Program has closed for another year and is remaining a great success.
The third edition of the program, run at South Mildura Sporting Club on Friday afternoons, finished last week with coach Connor Irwin reflecting on the season.
“It’s gone really good, we’ve had a good turnout over the time,” Connor, 18, says.
“It started off pretty slow, we only had a couple coming, but word of mouth got out and a lot of people came so it’s been great.”
Connor helps deliver the program with Georgia Leutner and Deklan Loveridge, with the trio integral to the program’s success since its inception three years ago.
Back then they were students at Irymple Secondary College when Mallee Sports Assembly and South Mildura entered a partnership to deliver the program.
Connor got involved through his Dad, Patrick, who at the time was the Bulldogs’ senior coach.
The younger Connor and Deklan are now establishing themselves as senior footballers at the Bulldogs, and establishing themselves as fine leaders of the next generation along with Georgia.
“Deklan and a couple of my mates have come along to help out. It’s a great program (Mallee Sports Assembly project officer) Tanya Wild has put together,” Connor says.
“The kids absolutely love it, it’s just getting them out and about and putting a smile on their face.
“Numbers vary every week, there’s usually around 17-18 maximum but it varies all the time.”
Connor says it is that smile from the kids that keeps him coming back.
“I don’t really look at it as community work for myself, I just look at it as helping the kids out,” he says.
“I don’t get nothing out of it, just the smiles on their faces and getting them out and playing footy – most of the kids if you talk to them they just want to play footy.”
And of course under the coaching they get the kids are coming along in leaps and bounds.
“Their skills are actually awesome, the first week there were kids kicking 20-30 metres and now they are kicking further, kicking goals and hitting handballs and everything,” Connor says.
“It’s improved out of sight to be honest.”
The program will look to continue next year.
Tanya Wild praised the likes of Connor, Georgia and Deklan as well as the others who have helped out to make the program a success.
“It’s fantastic they’ve been really willing to be here, and when they haven’t they have certainly let us know and made sure there’s others to help out and fill in,” she says.
“They’ve been able to encourage more people, they have had other kids coming along to help them out, which has been really good.
“Having sometimes a dozen kids here you need more than two people to coordinate.”
Overall the program has been a great way to introduce its participants into the game in a way they feel part of the community that revolves around football.
“We love the fact it’s alongside the club’s traditional Auskick program, there’s people here at the facility at the same time, that’s been a really great aspect as well,” Tanya said.
“We are still part of the club using the same facilities and venue.
“The enjoyment the parents see on the kids’ faces the program has been fantastic and that keeps them coming back each week.”