The best Victorian FIDA footballers are preparing to don the Big-V jumper next week, when Vic Country and Vic Metro head north for the 2017 AFL National Inclusion Carnival on July 24. Jake Morris reports.
Held on the Gold Coast, the AFL National Inclusion Carnival brings together footballers with an intellectual disability from across Australia to take part in a week-long round-robin tournament.
For the first time, all states and territories will have a team represented in the competition, with squads from the Northern Territory and Western Australia joining regular competitors Queensland, Tasmania, South Australia, NSW/ACT, Vic Metro and Vic Country.
Forty of Victoria’s best footballers with an intellectual disability – including eight emergencies – have been selected to form the two Victorian representative squads.
Of the 20 players in the Vic Country side, nine country community FIDA (Football Integration Development Association) clubs are represented with players hailing from the CVGT Australia Northern Conference and Western Conference, while players from nine different Victorian FIDA Football League clubs make up the final Vic Metro outfit.
Claiming the last two National Inclusion Carnival titles, Vic Metro will be keen to keep its winning streak alive as it strives for a third consecutive crown, while Vic Country – which finished third last year – will look to conquer its state rivals in this year’s tournament.
Rob Klemm, who will lead the Vic Metro side as head coach for the fourth consecutive year, says his side is ready for the challenge in what will be another competitive tournament.
“We are very excited about the level of fitness and play our boys are putting together in the lead up to the competition, which is putting us in good stead to make another run at the flag,” Klemm said. “The boys have shared a lot of stories about missing opportunities in football so being able to represent their state in the game they love is really quite special.
“We want to come out successful on the field, but also really make a positive account of ourselves and wear the Big-V with pride.”
Leading Vic Country for the second time, coach Matt Deegan says he is focused on helping his players develop into fine young men, both on and off the field.
“We have formulated a really good squad this year and I am really happy with how the team is shaping up,” Deegan said. “Win, lose or draw, I just want to see the boys have fun and create some life-long friends they can hang onto for the rest of their lives – that is what footy is all about.”
Keep up to date with all the results from the 2017 AFL National Inclusion Carnival on social media using the hashtag #AFLInclusion