By Marnie Cohen
Footy keeps on getting better for East Brighton Vampires’ Thomas Williams, with the SMJFL superstar recently selected for the Victorian Indigenous Under 15 Team.
The interleague representative has endured the last three months of trials, which concluded in a practice match in Ballarat and a 3-day Future Leaders Camp in Halls Gap.
He is the only player from Metropolitan Melbourne to feature in the final side.
Thomas is incredibly honoured by his selection and can’t wait to represent Victoria.
“It means a lot to me knowing that I can represent my state for the first time knowing that I have put in the hard work and I’m deserving of this opportunity,” he said.
“It’s great to know that I’m not only representing my state but also my school (St Kevin’s College) as well as my club and the SMJFL… Most importantly, I’m representing my family and my culture.”
The indigenous team is part of AFL Victoria’s KickStart Program, which aims to promote the importance of health, education, employment and participation to indigenous communities through AFL.
KickStart is spread out across the country, with teams representing every state in Australia.
The program is both a great opportunity for participants to improve their footy, and learn about their culture and influence through the game.
AFL Victoria reached out to Thomas, and invited him to try out for the side. Aside from representing the indigenous talent in Victoria, the 14-year-old is looking forward to learning about his family’s past.
“I believe this will allow me to grow as a person, whilst enabling me to explore my indigenous culture and learn more about my heritage,” Thomas said.
“It’s great to know I can achieve something like this, especially knowing what my dad went through as a child as an indigenous Forgotten Australian.”
Supporting Thomas throughout his KickStart journey is proud father Johnathon. By his son’s side every step of the way, Johnathon can’t wait to see Thomas play on behalf of the indigenous community and Victoria.
“I am extremely proud of Thomas that he is representing our great State wearing an indigenous jumper…I’m so proud that he is embracing my family’s culture and heritage and wants to learn more,” Mr Williams said.
Thomas and his Victorian teammates will fly to NSW, and play in the U15 National Diversity Championships over the Easter weekend. The Williams family will be in the crowd, cheering Thomas and the team on.
The Australian team (The Boomerangs) will be announced following the championships.
The KickStart program has been an incredible experience for Thomas, who heading into the championships has victory on his mind.
“We definitely want to go out and win the competition… I don’t take losing too well,” he said.
“It’s not going to be easy, but I think we are certainly up for the challenge,”
Regardless of the result, Thomas will walk away with new mates, a collection of memories and a deep understanding and appreciation for indigenous culture.
The SMJFL congratulates Thomas on his outstanding achievement, and look forward to him starring for Victoria in the championships and beyond.