AFL North Coast junior excels for state Indigenous Girls Team

Deja Barlow warms up for the NSW/ACT Indigenous girls team.

ONE of AFL North Coast’s brightest junior prospects has been a standout playing for an Indigenous representative team.

Deja Barlow earnt selection to the NSW/ACT Indigenous girls’ team after participating in the state Indigenous Youth Girls Leadership Program over the past few months.

The Bellingen Bulldogs junior was part of the Indigenous team who took on the Multicultural team in Sydney.

She was one of her side’s best players in their 30-point loss to the Multicultural representative team.

Barlow led the efforts of the Indigenous team in the third quarter, breaking the lines on several occasions and delivering to her teammates.

It was a tough quarter for the Indigenous team as the Multicultural girls upped their intensity, but she led from the front and almost kicked the goal of the day.

Community Football and Competition Manager – Northern NSW, Paul Taylor, said Barlow had what it takes to one day play in the AFLW.

“There’s no question that Deja has the commitment, attitude, and leadership qualities to make it to the AFLW,” he said.

“Programs like the Indigenous Girls Youth Leadership Program and the Sydney Swans First Nations Academy will give Deja not only the opportunity to develop her skills and game sense, but also the chance to be identified to make it to the elite level.”

AFL North West and Tamworth Kangaroos player Ruby Spark was also in the NSW/ACT Indigenous girls’ team, after participating in the state Indigenous Youth Girls Leadership Program.

During the camp the two Northern NSW players had the chance to rub shoulders with, and learn from, Sydney Swans AFLW player Aliesha Newman who doubles as the AFL NSW/ACT’s Indigenous Ambassador.

Aliesha’s role is to inspire young Indigenous women, a role that’s made much easier with the help of young leaders such as Barlow and Spark.
The AFL NSW/ACT Indigenous Youth Girls Leadership Program and Multicultural Girls Youth Leadership Program extends well beyond the bounds of just playing AFL.

Both programs include education sessions on topics as diverse as pre-match routines, mental health and wellbeing, and road safety thanks to a longstanding partnership with Transport for NSW.

Mark Leavy, AFL NSW/ACT Diversity Partner, said that both Northern NSW players were major contributors to the entire program, not just the match.

“Ruby and Deja showed great leadership throughout, especially with the younger girls, and were role models for the entire group,” he said.

“In the education sessions, they both made valuable contributions, sharing their own life experiences and those of their families, and this really got the conversation flowing amongst the group.

“As players, both showed real maturity by seeking feedback on their own play and developed strong, collaborative relationships with the coaches.

“Ruby and Deja are the sorts of players that have the capacity to make a generational impact in terms of growing AFL at whatever level of footy they play, or role they take on in the game.”


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