Multicultural round gets a big ‘si’
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 curtain-raiser 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 along- side 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.
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