THE Laguntas and Jim Stynes Program sides battled it out at Punt Road Oval on Friday, with the Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islander side coming out 10.13 (73) to 8.2 (50) victors.
Donning Richmond’s traditional yellow and black colours, it was only fitting that the Indigenous side won the day on the Tigers’ home turf, but the match was about more than just footballing results. The fixture’s second instalment is a product of the Laguntas and Jim Stynes program, which aims to support talent pathways through the NAB League and AFL by targeting talented Aboriginal, Torres Straight Islander, and multicultural footballers between the ages of 16 and 19. Embracing cultural identity and providing education to these young men about opportunities within the AFL outside of the realms of team crests, the program allows a total of 50 participants to take part in the showpiece match. The game is also used as part of the selection process for the Diversity All Stars team set to face Victoria Country Under 16 in another exhibition match later this year, with the best talent well and truly putting their hands up.
Despite trailing for most of the match on the back of inaccuracy in front of goal, the Laguntas stormed home in the last quarter to snatch victory, with multiple final-quarter goals from Tyson Neal-Edwards and Desmond Tipuamantamurri crucial to the cause. Throughout the game, the likes of Jordan Proctor and Taj Proctor were lively for the winners, with Josiah Kyle showing off his vertical leap both in the ruck and in aerial contests. Alexander Bennett was solid down back, while Alick Nai hit the ball hard all day at speed to provide forward drive alongside skipper, Brock Perichon.
For the Jim Stynes Program team, Emiliano Aleixo, Ryan Koo, and Luke Vella were industrious through the midfield, providing run and good service forward to the likes of Amuor Amuor, who booted two first-quarter goals. Zach Cileceken played a monster role down back in the first half, with some outstanding intercept marks, and was thrown forward late on to no avail. Smalls Kai Suparta and Mohammed Yassine were zippy around the forward arc, with Akash Singh also amongst it in a solid team display.
With eyes forward on Diversity All Stars selection, these 50 juniors have now wrapped up camp with valuable experience and learnings gained for whatever future endeavours they may pursue within football – both on and off the field.