Auskick for Islamic youngsters kicks off in Bendigo

INSPIRED by the play of Richmond star Bachar Houli, youngsters from Islamic families in Bendigo are eagerly taking part in Auskick sessions run by AFL Central Victoria.

The second of the Bendigo Islamic Association Auskick sessions will be run this Wednesday between 4pm and 5pm at the Latrobe University Bendigo campus in Edwards Road, Flora Hill.

Night one last Wednesday included a parent information session about Auskick and community football.

A highlight was the presentation of a Richmond guernsey signed by Bachar Houli being presented to the Bendigo Islamic Association.

A triple premiership player with Richmond, Bachar Houli was the first devout Muslim and third Muslim to play in the AFL.

Football Development Manager for AFL Central Victoria, Jake McLean said Houli was an inspiration for many.

“He has shown AFL can be played by anyone, no matter your background, or your beliefs.

“Not only is he a sensational footballer, Bachar has done so much for the Islamic community,” McLean said.

“A goal for AFL Central Victoria is to provide more opportunities to learn and play the game.

“Our first session with the Bendigo Islamic Association was last Wednesday and had great support.

“There were 15 children ranging in age from three up to 13 or 14 years old.

“Their enthusiasm was fantastic.”

McLean said AFLCV and the Bendigo Islamic Association had been working at teaming up to run Auskick sessions for almost two years.

“Our first discussions were in 2019 and initial plans were to start last year, but they were delayed because of COVID,” McLean said.

“Conchita from the Islamic Association has done so much to get this program going.

“We plan to run the sessions on a Wednesday night for the next three or four weeks.

“Massive thanks to Latrobe University Bendigo for the use of its facilities for the program,” McLean said.

Boys and girls keen to join in the sessions which run for an hour can do so by being at the Latrobe University Bendigo oval near the gymnasium by 4pm.

Those passing on kicking, marking, handpassing tips and much more at the sessions include Bendigo Pioneers and Sandhurst young gun Cobi Maxted, and AFLCV inclusion development officer Jedd Manton from Strathfieldsaye Storm Football Netball Club.

Now in his third year as AFLCV development manager, McLean is passionate about providing opportunities to grow the game within diverse communities throughout central Victoria.”

A dashing half-back flanker, Houli has played more than 230 games in the big league through stints at Essendon and Richmond.

Selected in the All-Australian team in 2019, Houli played a key role in the Tigers’ grand final wins in 2017, ’19 and ’20.

He earned the Yiokeen award for best afield in the Dreamtime At The G match between Richmond and Essendon in 2019.

Another AFL star keenly followed by the Islamic community is Carlton defender Adam Saad who began his AFL journey with Essendon and then crossed to the Blues.

Written by Nathan Dole.