On a cold winter’s evening in the Melbourne suburb of Flemington a two-metre tall American kicks the footy with children of a range of backgrounds.
The big guy is North Melbourne rookie Eric Wallace. The kids are excited fans from the Kangaroos’ heartland who love Australia’s indigenous game.
Round 19 in the AFL is Multicultural Round – a celebration of the many cultures who all share a common passion for footy.
“I am used to basketball, baseball and football. You come out here to Australia and Australia’s game is Aussie Rules.” – eric wallace
Every day of the year, however, North Melbourne ensures that love of the game and community connection is strengthened through The Huddle.
Established in 2010 to improve social cohesion by addressing the causes of disengagement among young people, The Huddle’s programs target youths from migrant and refugee backgrounds in inner Melbourne, and across the north and west of the city.
Wallace was joined by teammates Lindsay Thomas, Michael Firrito and Scott McMahon for the recent clinic. At times it was hard to tell who was getting more out of the activity – the enthusiastic youngsters or the professional footballers.
“Footy brings everybody together and the kids love it,” Firrito told aflplayers.com.au.
“Where we are is a multicultural sort of place. North has entrenched itself in the community and really makes an effort with the local community.
“In return, a lot of kids embrace the footy club and it’s good for everyone.”
Wallace, a former US college basketballer from North Carolina, joined the Kangaroos in December 2012 after a 10-day trial at Arden Street.
He has been building his game at VFL level since. Like many others from across the globe, Wallace has fallen in love with the game.
“Different parts of the world have different cultures and different games,” Wallace said.
“I am used to basketball, baseball and football. You come out here to Australia and Australia’s game is Aussie Rules.
“It makes sense that kids take that much enjoyment out of footy.”