Spirits soar with Eagles

Sam JonesNorth West Telegraph
Nic Naitanui in Newman.
Camera IconNic Naitanui in Newman. Credit: Twitter

It is not every day an AFL star stops past the Pilbara to teach youngsters a thing or two, but the region was lucky to welcome a legend and a rising star recently.

West Coast ruckman Nic Naitanui and young gun Brendon Ah Chee visited Port Hedland and Newman for clinics last month, as part of a collaboration between V Swans and the blue-and-gold side.

The duo took time off pre-season training, flying to Pilbara schools and bringing together crowds of excited students.

The program is part of an incentive system to drive outcomes related to school attendance, behaviour, professional standards and community impact and rewards achievements through a range of exciting opportunities including regular visits by Eagles players.

Ah Chee, who has family connections to the Pilbara, visited Hedland Senior High School, where the 40C heat and extreme humidity were not enough to deter students from working on their footy skills. He said he was impressed by their skills and ability to cope with tough conditions.

“The boys and girls showed some great skills throughout the sessions, but I was more impressed with how receptive and interested they were in such extreme conditions,” he said.

Naitanui, who visits regularly, recently drew a big crowd at Newman’s major annual fundraiser, ensuring cash was raised by the local community to enable students to participate in activities, camps and interstate trips throughout the year.

He spent time with students in the Kicking Goals program at Newman Senior High School as well as the Martu Engagement Program, sharing stories of his own resilience and commitment.

“I love being involved in this amazing program; I am really passionate about providing opportunities for students from all backgrounds and it’s great that this program supports students from the Pilbara to ensure they don’t miss out,” he said.

Naitanui and Ah Chee also spent time with game development staff Drew Petrie, Ashley Sampi, Zac Fitzgerald and James Grabski to provide training opportunities to young players in both towns, as part of the Naitanui Academy.

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