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North Melbourne’s Jy Simpkin calls for more NT attention

Ed Bourke -

Jy Simpkin says the AFL needs to improve its player pathways in the Northern Territory to help arrest a concerning decline in Indigenous players at the elite level.

The North Melbourne co-captain said he supported a 20th team being introduced in the NT as AFL inclusion manager Tanya Hosch said the league was "not alarmed" by the drop in players.

Hosch said the effects of Covid were partly behind the falling numbers, and the AFL wanted to ensure the trend did not gain "too much traction".

There were 87 Indigenous players on AFL lists in 2020, but that number has now fallen to 71.

"I am not alarmed … but we're very aware that it's something that we can't allow to gain too much traction and so we're absolutely working on addressing that," Hosch said at the launch of Sir Doug Nicholls Round in Adelaide.

Victorian AFL players don their club's Indigenous guernseys at the launch of Sir Doug Nicholls Round for 2024. From L-R: Tyson Stengle, Kysaiah Pickett, Jy Simpkin, Bradley Hill, Jayden Davey, Rhyan Mansell, Jamarra Ugle-Hagan, Zac Williams, Bobby Hill and Karl Amon. Picture: Michael Klein

Victorian AFL players don their club's Indigenous guernseys at the launch of Sir Doug Nicholls Round for 2024. From L-R: Tyson Stengle, Kysaiah Pickett, Jy Simpkin, Bradley Hill, Jayden Davey, Rhyan Mansell, Jamarra Ugle-Hagan, Zac Williams, Bobby Hill and Karl Amon. (Image: Michael Klein)

"Obviously Covid had an impact there. But what we know is that this game is important to our (Indigenous) community.

"And to make sure that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples continue to play at the highest level of the game both in the men's and the women's competitions is absolutely a priority."

St Kilda star Brad Hill said he was unsure what the reason was for the drop but called on AFL recruiters to keep scouring the states for Indigenous talent.

"We want to be drafting Indigenous players every year and keep getting those numbers off," Hill said.

"Hopefully we can keep on improving and AFL clubs keep investing and keep looking at drafting Indigenous players, because there's a lot of talent there for sure."

Simpkin, who said he supported an NT bid to receive the licence for a 20th AFL club, wanted to see more investment in junior football in the Top End.

Kangaroos co-captain and Indigenous AFL player Jy Simpkin has called for the league to bolster its junior football pathways in the NT to help increase the number of Indigenous players being drafted. Picture: Michael Klein

Kangaroos co-captain and Indigenous AFL player Jy Simpkin has called for the league to bolster its junior football pathways in the NT to help increase the number of Indigenous players being drafted. (Image: Michael Klein)

"I feel like there can be a lot better pathways (in terms of) NTFL stuff, I think there can be a lot more development up that way, that would help," he said.

AFL chief executive Andrew Dillon said the league wanted to promote Indigenous representation at all levels to address the decline.

"We're continuing to invest in new programs. The AFL Commission is going to invest now 10 per cent of all revenue into community football – there will be focused programs on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders to make sure that we can have representation at all levels," Dillon said.

"We're reviewing our Next Generation Academies and the mechanisms there so that boys and girls can come and train at clubs from the age of 13 and above.

"And then have the right mechanisms that incentivise the clubs to continue to invest … to get those men and women onto the list.

"When I say representation at all levels, that is coaches, people selecting the team – if we have that, then we'll get a playing cohort at the elite level that represents what Australia is."

Ed Bourke - NCA NewsWire

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