Jade North is already a trailblazer in Australian football, but the Brisbane Roar defender remains keen to continue breaking new ground in the sport.
A product of Taree, North was the first aboriginal to captain the Australian national football team in 2008 and can lay claim to being the nation’s most decorated indigenous player.
But the talented 35-year-old is determined to ensure he can make a difference off the pitch as well.
It’s why the ex-Socceroo will come to the Illawarra next week to launch the inaugural “Kickin With A Cuz” football program, with the help of the Wollongong Wolves and the Illawarra Local Aboriginal Land Council (ILALC).
The program hopes to help create a sustainable pathway to enable kids to make better life choices, with a strong focus on indigenous and disadvantaged communities.
North will head up the program when it begins on the South Coast.
“I firmly believe utilising sport and community are the perfect avenues to reinforce education, health and responsibility to our next generation and this is exactly what ‘Kickin With A Cuz’ is all about,” he said.
The program will kick-off for the first time at Albert Butler Memorial Park and run from June 20-22 before eventually moving to different regions throughout the country.
North said it will include ‘individual skills development combined with strategic teamwork challenges, leadership and responsibility to give kids a great, fun and positive introduction to football.’
It will also stress the importance regular school attendance and education as well as community engagement, health, culture, future pathways and closing the gap, where relevant.
Players from the Wollongong Wolves and Illawarra Stingrays will play a significant part throughout the program.
Wolves CEO Chris Papakosmas was pleased the NSW NPL club could play a pivotal role as was ILALC, CEO Paul Knight.
“Both the Wolves and the Illawarra Local Aboriginal Land Council are incredibly proud that Jade choose the Illawarra to begin the program here,” Papakosmas said.
“He was quite impressed by the work we have been doing together and we felt down here was the perfect environment for a program like this to kick off.”
Papakosmas said the initiative would be the first of many that the club hoped to play a part in with the ILALC.
“This is just the start,” he said.
“The whole point of doing this partnership was for programs like this. They have quite a lot of similar goals to us and we want a lot of the same outcomes for the region.
“It’s a sense of marrying sport with community.”
This is just the start