In a nod to the region's history, and with an eye to footy's current status, the AFL North West development program will colloquially be known as the "Blue Heelers".
The development program will follow the guidelines of the Sydney Swans Academy coaching program, and will also incorporate the representative teams. The focus of the program is in helping individuals become the best player they can be, irrespective of their playing background, and starting them out on the player pathway.
Paul Taylor, Community Football Manager, said that the Blue Heelers name has a strong link to the region.
"Cattle dogs were first bred to move stock across the Liverpool Plains and New England, so their origins are intertwined with our region," Taylor said.
"The way that Blue Heelers can control cattle that are much bigger and stronger than them by relying upon their intelligence, bravery, tenacity, and resilience is extremely impressive. As one of the smaller Leagues in the state, we want to replicate these qualities and let the bigger Leagues know that the North West Blue Heelers are here to make an impact.
"Having this identity is important to remind us of what we can achieve if we commit to the program and are prepared to work hard."
The North West Blue Heelers development program is conducted in partnership with the Sydney Swans Academy with potential opportunities for identified players to progress with the Swans Academy.
"While there will be chances for identified players to go further as a result of the Blue Heelers program, it exists to help any player that just wants to improve and become the best player they can be. If that means they ultimately play state footy or beyond, that's great, but developing quality players for the local competition is every bit as important", Taylor said.
"It's a great opportunity for players that are relatively new to the game to fast track their development."
Trials for the North West Blue Heelers development program will be held in Tamworth on Sunday 27 March, and in Armidale on Sunday 3 April.
Nominations will be called for in the coming weeks, with the opportunity to be considered open to all boys and girls aged 11 to 17 (i.e. born 2005 to 2011) who intend to play with a club in the North West competition in 2022.
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