The Fitzroy Cubs secured a victory over Carlton’s VFL side in the pathway program’s inaugural outing on Sunday.

The debutants knocked off the AFL reserves side 85-79 on their home deck at IKON park.

Ahead of the mid-season rookie draft next month, the match was a showcase of First Nations and culturally diverse talent selected from state and local leagues around the country.

The increased profile hopes to aid players transition into new opportunities on and off the park.

“While the AFL men’s competition has more than 10 per cent Indigenous player representation, the number of Indigenous and multicultural players across second-tier competitions is lower by comparison,” AFL diversity talent manager Paul Vandenbergh said.

Kobe Brown has a shot at goal for the Cubs.
image: Jethro Calma-Holt

“We believe this program will provide Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and culturally diverse young people a new pathway into elite football competitions and are excited by the additional opportunities the program will present.”

Vandenbergh, Northern Bullants VFL assistant coach Jason Williams and three-time AFL premiership player and Cubs manager Chris Johnson have been instrumental in the process.

Johnson is a Gunditjmara and Wiradjuri man and has worked with a number of similar setups since his retirement.

“There’s so much potential now, so much room and so much appetite for people from Indigenous backgrounds and multicultural backgrounds to get involved in football,” he said.

“A lot of players that have been through our programs at one stage or another have missed the opportunity in the last couple of years to showcase their skills.

“We’re lucky enough to pull them together, play against a team and get them in front of a group working very closely with AFL Victoria.”

The squad for Sunday’s match was finalised following a talent identification day last month.

Their skills and prospects were on full display during the match, however Johnson was quick to remind of the opportunities outside of getting picked up as a player.

“If they get to a state league or they play in a

Smoking ceremony prior to the match.
image: Jethro Calma-Holt

very high local league competition, there’s nothing wrong with that,” he said.

“They should be celebrating that as well.

“We go to employment opportunities within within the construction industry, with recruitment services or group and then gave them some opportunities around what can happen at AFL clubs in terms of pushing clubs to actually employ multicultural indigenous people not just for those identified roles but potentially mainstream roles as well.”

Sunday’s contest was played as a pre-cursor to the AFL’s Sir Doug Nicholls Indigenous rounds kicking off Friday evening.

Nicholls’ niece, Aunty Zeta Thomson, and her family presented a Welcome to Country and Smoking Ceremony before the first bounce.

The Fitzroy Cubs plan to play more games in the future.