The West Australian

EAGLE CALLS ON WA TO DIG DEEP FOR CYCLONE APPEAL

- STEVE BUTLER

The West Coast Eagles are calling on WA footy fans to dig deep to help the State’s Mid West rebuild after being torn apart this week by cyclone Seroja.

Veteran forward Josh Kennedy said yesterday that he and teammates Jamie Cripps, Liam Ryan and Jack Darling — who all have family ties in the hard-hit towns of Northampto­n, Geraldton and Kalbarri — were united in their thoughts ahead of tonight’s clash with Collingwoo­d at Optus Stadium.

The club is developing plans to raise money for the many WA families affected by the cyclone and recent bushfires in the Perth Hills and details for an online auction are expected to be announced soon.

“It’s just devastatin­g, mate, and there’s obviously quite a fair bit of damage . . . it looks like a bit of a war zone up there at the moment,” Kennedy said after yesterday’s final training session before today’s clash with the Magpies.

“There are a lot of homes up there that were not built for a cyclone and not ready for a cyclone.

“A lot of people are safe, but a lot of people lost their homes, which is quite sad for all of us. The rebuild is going to take a long time, so hopefully we can get something going to direct some funds to the people in need and help in any way we can to get them back on their feet.”

Cripps this week expressed his sadness as he posted photos, above, of his former family home in Northampto­n that had been reduced to near rubble.

Kennedy, who spent his early footy years in Northampto­n, said he felt deeply for his many family members and friends who had endured the cyclone ordeal on Sunday night.

He said the Eagles would be out to give the people of the region something to smile about.

“It will definitely be nice to win for all of them,” he said. “It puts things in perspectiv­e, too. We can get consumed in this football bubble of ours, but there are bigger things in the world and right now those towns need a lot of help and as much support as a community in WA that we can give them.”

It’s not the homecoming I wanted. Returning to my hometown of Northampto­n this week was simply heartbreak­ing, as I look at the impact tropical Cyclone Seroja has had on the little country town.

Roofs missing, trees down, powerlines damaged, farm sheds obliterate­d, homes and businesses destroyed.

It’s devastatin­g for a close-knit community which is built on the fundamenta­ls of Australian culture, which is now needed more than ever.

While I look around at the town, I am quickly reminded of what makes it so great and why it has been an unlikely hotbed of AFL talent for the better part of 25 years.

The statistics are simply remarkable.

A small WA country town with a population of around 800 people boasts a record of five premiershi­ps, eight All-Australian­s, two Coleman medals, seven Glendinnin­g-Allan medals, a Rising Star and four club best and fairests.

Some of the biggest names in the AFL of the past decade have come from Northampto­n and its mighty football club, the Rams, that competes in the Great Northern Football League.

From inaugural West Coast Eagle Andrew Lockyer to the likes of Daniel Chick, Jamie Cripps, Tarkyn Lockyer, Liam Anthony, dual premiershi­p defender Harry Taylor and two of the best in the competitio­n right now — Patrick Cripps and Josh Kennedy — Northampto­n has punched above its weight when it comes to producing AFL talent.

Of those players, seven will end up playing more than 200 games, barring any serious setbacks to Patrick and Jamie Cripps.

There is a strong connection between many of us and the town, shown by the fact that Taylor is back there this year, returning to the team after retiring at the end of last year.

Rumours are circling around town that Kennedy may join him soon when he decides to walk away from the AFL.

Many people often ask what’s in the water in Northampto­n given its small population.

I can confirm while the rain water is good, there’s nothing special in it except high levels of lead that were found in it a few years back. But that’s another story.

There are a few key reasons for the town’s remarkable success when it comes to producing AFL talent.

Firstly, sport has been and still is king in this town.

My childhood was spent at the footy club, the tennis club or in our big back yard kicking the footy, hitting tennis balls or smashing sixes with family members and other local kids.

I compare the hours that I spent doing these activities to my own kids and even other families in Perth and the time spent playing and practising sport is poles apart.

We were never inside until mum called us in for dinner as the sun set over the surroundin­g farms.

Secondly, we all have had great role models to follow and aspire to, except for the trailblaze­r Lockyer who was the first.

He showed us all that anything was possible when he made his way on to the Eagles’ list in 1987 and ran out on to the oval with those now legends of WA football.

A guy from our little country town in the big time, it was massive for all of us and gave us something to strive for whenever we ran out on the weekend.

The town is so proud of it’s success stories that they’re even working towards building statues of the players to display proudly through the town, which we were so honoured to hear when the idea was raised.

Lastly though and probably the most important component has been the strength of the community.

Whether it be from the volunteers, committee members, umpires, coaches and players who have all donated their time to allow all of us who have represente­d the mighty Northampto­n Rams to not only play sport but thrive.

Northampto­n almost comes to a halt when the Rams are playing and the town turns green when they’re in the finals.

That’s why I know the town will rebuild from this, the footy will be played once again and there will no doubt be more gun footballer­s from our great town.

Who knows with Taylor back in town and the adversity of Cyclone Seroja bringing them together it may just turn out to be the year the mighty Rams win their first premiershi­p since 2004.

I wouldn’t bet against this community.

If you enjoyed watching any of us play, please donate to appealswa.org.au to help with the recovery from Cyclone Seroja.

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 ??  ?? Patrick Cripps
Patrick Cripps
 ??  ?? Andrew Lockyer
Andrew Lockyer
 ?? Pic: Twitter ?? Yesterday in Northampto­n.
Pic: Twitter Yesterday in Northampto­n.
 ??  ?? Harry Taylor & Josh Kennedy
Harry Taylor & Josh Kennedy
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