It’s not unusual to hear players say “there’s a great feeling amongst the group” at this time of year, but the Indigenous All Stars aren’t a run-of-the-mill football team, and the sentiment shared by Port Adelaide’s Paddy Ryder is certainly not a cliche.
At the side’s first training session on Monday morning, the group’s unique bond was on show for all to see. As the ball zipped from one end of the ground to the other, players could be heard laughing, cracking jokes and jovially cheering on the players in recovery who were restricted to running laps.
“That’s what the boys do when they’re together, have a laugh and enjoy each other’s company” – Paddy Ryder
When All Stars senior coach Andy Lovell – a 164-gamer with Melbourne and West Coast, and now an assistant coach at Gold Coast – addressed the media after the session, one of the first questions asked was, “have you ever seen a group of AFL players so happy?”
“This is my first time on camp so it’s an opportunity for me to experience first-hand what they think of the camp, and they’re just all rapt to be here,” Lovell said.
“They’re in good spirits. We had a really good start to the program with a Welcome to Country up at King’s Park and a fantastic ceremony. It set the scene for what we hope will be a really strong and enjoyable week.”
— Aboriginal Football (@WAFCAboriginal) February 16, 2015
While the final team to take on West Coast is yet to be finalised – there are more than 60 Indigenous players attending the AFL Players’ Indigenous Camp this week – Lovell says injury will be the only thing stopping the group’s highest-profile players from taking the field.
“They really value playing and I’ve got no doubt, talking to the boys individually and speaking to some of the leaders, if they were all fit and prepared to go, they’d all be putting their hands up to play. There’s absolutely no doubt about that.”