Mul­ti­cul­tural round gets a big ‘si’

Southern Gazette (South Perth) - - Sport - With Josh Kennedy

OUR goal at the start of the 2015 sea­son was pretty sim­ple. We wanted to im­prove.

We wanted to chal­lenge the best teams in the com­pe­ti­tion and if we did that, we felt our lad­der po­si­tion would look af­ter it­self.

We have qual­i­fied to play fi­nals football and on Satur­day night we showed we could com­pete with the best.

Over the past five or six years Hawthorn has con­sis­tently been a top four team and have won the last two pre­mier­ships. That has hap­pened be­cause they have per­formed at a very high level, have de­vel­oped and kept a solid team to­gether.

That suc­cess does not hap­pen by ac­ci­dent. You need con­stant ex­po­sure to the best teams in the com­pe­ti­tion so you be­come ac­cus­tomed to the in­ten­sity and pres­sure of big games. It has been a while since we have played in a game like that and it was a valu­able ex­pe­ri­ence for our younger guys.

Sure, it was dis­ap­point­ing to lose but we matched it with the Hawks for 95 per cent of the game. There were just a few mo­ments in the game at crunch times when they were a bit bet­ter than us and that proved the dif­fer­ence. They also had a few play­ers, like Sam Mitchell, Cyril Ri­oli and Jor­dan Lewis, who stepped it up when the game was on the line.

That’s ex­pe­ri­ence. They have been in those sit­u­a­tions many times in the past few years and they recog­nise those sit­u­a­tions and take charge. The more we get to play in matches of that in­ten­sity, the bet­ter we will cope. This week we get another op­por­tu­nity against Fre­man­tle. Last time they blew us away in the first quar­ter and this is a chance to see how much we have im­proved since. WEST Coast’s Nic Nai­tanui is a known leader in pro­mot­ing mul­ti­cul­tural in­clu­sion in football cir­cles but he shares the op­por­tu­nity with other AFL play­ers such as Hawthorn for­ward Paul Puopolo, Rich­mond de­fender Bachar Houli and Greater Western Syd­ney’s midfielder Stephen Coniglio.

While the story of Nai­tanui’s Fi­jian her­itage is well known in Perth, last week­end’s AFL Mul­ti­cul­tural Round al­lowed the spotlight to shine fur­ther.

“From the grass­roots level to the AFL level, to see di­ver­sity in our game has been awe­some,” Nai­tanui said.

“It’s some­thing to be re­ally proud of, like the in­dige­nous boys do with In­dige­nous Round, for us to be able to celebrate the di­ver­sity in our game and have a round ded­i­cated to it is a priv­i­lege and an hon­our.

“There are guys all over the AFL at dif­fer­ent clubs, so that rep­re­sen­ta­tion, and peo­ple buy­ing in, has been awe­some, es­pe­cially this year.

“The more we can spread the word of ‘many cul­tures, one game’, the bet­ter the game is go­ing to be.”

West Coast put the flavour of its fo­cus on Perth’s Ital­ian com­mu­nity dur­ing Satur­day’s home game against Hawthorn. A mul­ti­cul­tural and di­ver­sity cur­tain­raiser fea­tured the Nic Nai­tanui Academy side tak­ing on Djinda Fal­cons.

Pre-game en­ter­tain­ment came from Syr­ian drum­mers and the Chung Wah As­so­ci­a­tion Chi­nese dragon, while sev­eral new Aus­tralian cit­i­zens played in the half-time game along­side re­tired West Coast play­ers Dwayne Lamb, John An­n­ear and Kasey Green.

West Coast’s cheer squad also got in­volved on the night by cre­at­ing a “Many Cul­tures, One Game” mul­ti­lin­gual ban­ner for the play­ers to run through be­fore the game.

Puopolo, who played for the Hawks on Satur­day night, has a strong con­nec­tion with Italy. His fa­ther Frank, who is from a small farm­ing town in Italy, ar­rived in Aus­tralia by boat aged 10.

Coniglio, while now play­ing for GWS, is a West Aus­tralian but is also of Ital­ian her­itage.

Com­mu­nity News­pa­per Group is an af­fil­i­ated part­ner of the West Coast Ea­gles.

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