The Men of League are fully committed to the Clontarf Foundation in their efforts to improve the education, discipline, self-esteem, life skills and employment prospects of young Aboriginal men.
Since opening its first Academy for 25 boys in 2000, the Foundation has grown to cater for about 2,800 boys in 54 schools across NSW, Northern Territory, Western Australia and Victoria. The most recent Academy was established at the Brewarrina Central School in the second half of last year. The Foundation uses the passion that Aboriginal boys have for rugby league, and in some places Aussie Rules, to attract them into schools and keep them there.
The Chairman of the Clontarf Foundation is Ross Kelly AM, who is a very successful businessman. Ross is currently the Chairman of Wood and Grieve Engineers and Chairman of Imdex Limited. He is also a former Commissioner with the Western Australian Football Commission and Fremantle Dockers Chairman.
Although Australian Rules is his sport, Ross clearly understands that for the Clontarf Foundation to succeed in NSW, rugby league has to be the vehicle that the Foundation uses to engage the students in education.
On Friday 21 June, the Clontarf Foundation held a very successful junior rugby league carnival at Erskineville and Waterloo Ovals, which featured Academy students from Armidale, Bourke, Brewarrina, Coonamble, Inverell, Moree and Oxley. The boys were elated when Team of the Century member and Immortal Graeme Langlands arrived to support the boys and watch some of the action.
"It was a pleasure to meet so many happy young men," Graeme said, "and I was also impressed with their on-field ability. "
The NRL also backed the carnival and NRL Welfare and Education Manager Dean Whidders watched several matches and spoke to the boys.
South Sydney legend Bob McCarthy (15 Tests) also spent several hours at the carnival, along with Men of League National Vice Chairman Jim Hall.
Other rugby league identities who enjoyed the day included Ricky Walford and Geoff Carr, while Chief Executive David Smith found time in his busy schedule to enjoy some of the matches and later make a presentation. World famous boxing trainer and Men of League member John Lewis was also present. John has always been a supporter of the Aboriginal community and Aboriginal athletes in particular.
NSW Member of Parliament for Canterbury Linda Burney also enjoyed the carnival. Linda is Chairperson of the Australian Rugby League's Indigenous Council and a long-term hard-working activist for all Aboriginal causes.
The Clontarf Foundation welcomed the Men of League support and the boys have quickly become fans of our organisation. Currently they are working hard in a fund-raising drive, with the aim of presenting some funds to the Men of League.
The newest and smallest Academy, Brewarrina, won the final after a tight and entertaining clash with Armidale. The Clontarf Foundation is grateful for the Men of League involvement, while they were also thankful for the volunteers from AMP, Caltex and Goldman Sachs, who helped make the carnival a success.
By Barry Ross