In the far North West of South Australia, bordering both WA & the NT is 105,000 square kilometres of stunning arid lanscape. This is Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara lands, home to 2500 people the vast majority being the Aboriginal peoples who have called this home for thousands of years. And now the local Australian Rules Football superstar is coming to the big smoke to challenge the best in the AFL.
With the 34th pick in the 2012 AFL Rookie Draft the Hawthorn Hawks selected Amos Frank. A two time Far North West Sports League best-and-fairest, the record holder in the SANFL for the 20m sprint and with skills giving him the ability to do anything on the field the drafting of Frank should come as no surprise. Yet today he is grabbing headlines as only the first man from the APY lands to have ever been listed with an Australian club. Like most Aboriginal peoples from his lands he speaks English as a second language and has only travelled to Melbourne three times. But the Hawks, SANFL and AFL are all confident they have the appropriate support networks in place to help him transition to a huge life change.
Frank will move to Melbourne with his partner and two young children and is proud to represent his home country and act as a role model for the young people of his community. He will follow in the footsteps of Warlpiri man Liam Jurrah, from Yuendumu who has successfully transitioned from remote central Australian to superstar AFL player and 2010 NT Young Australian of the Year.
“The community as a whole, they will all be in brown and gold as Hawthorn supporters now,” SANFL Aboriginal participation manager James Moore said. “They will follow Amos, everything he does in Melbourne, he will be followed. So, he’s become a leader and a role model for all the kids up there and he knows that. He’s got the pressure of performing well and I think he will do that as he is a very level-headed young man who represents the APY Lands very well.”
For many young men the promotion to the AFL is tough as they overcome home sickness, the pressure to perform well and the daily grind of playing with and battling the best. For Amos Frank there is the extra pressure of a new language, fast paced city and the expectation that only a trailblazer for his people can understand. But mark my words, this is a superstar in the making. He has Ferrari like speed, the ability to kick beyond 50 with both feet, tackling ability to rival new team mate Cyril Rioli and a feeling for the game to do things we haven’t even dreamed.
This too is a test for the AFL and Hawthorn, while their efforts to assist Aboriginal players has come ahead hugely in the last 20 years there is always more work to be done and each and every individual must be given full support from the right people as well as cultural understanding to know how best to handle any issues that may arise. But as generations of Indigenous superstars have shown, their excellence on and off the field is a great uniting force both in football and in the broader community.
When Amos Frank has you out of your seat with highlight real action just remember, Indigenous Excellence is in every child in these lands.