Juniors punch above weight in Geraldton Guardian Mid West Sports Awards
A strong focus on junior talent at the Geraldton Guardian Mid West Sports Awards reflects the dynamics of sports in the region.
While the junior sportsperson of the year award is an obvious avenue for recognition, juniors have also performed well in the sports team of the year category.
Multiple award wins for junior teams meant they beat senior sides such as the Great Northern Football League champions, the Geraldton Buccaneers and country week and representative squads.
Mid West Sports Federation chair Mike Bowley said that reflected strong junior development, while there was a focus on trying to retain or bring back talent, with young adults often having to leave for education or work.
“There are always promising juniors coming through all the time,” Mr Bowley said.
“But there’s no doubt about that, and every town has that challenge (of people leaving) in the Mid West.
“That applies to people who live at Morawa or Mingenew or Northampton.
“When kids go to higher education, we do lose them to our competitions, and hopefully we get them back.”
He said regional education services like TAFE and the Geraldton Universities Centre helped keep talented juniors in town, but change took time.
Midwest Academy of Sport chief executive Darren Winterbine said the academy aimed to provide high-level coaching opportunities to help sportspeople stay longer.
“When they get to that highest level like the AFL they’ve got to leave, but we’re still working very hard to make sure they’ve got viable options,” Mr Winterbine said.
He said there were 77 juniors in the academy’s program who would otherwise have had to leave to get top-level training, in turn leaving a hole in the regional economy. The East Fremantle Shark Pack created the pathway for Jack Carroll to go to the WAFL and then be drafted to Carlton.
Among other specialist training programs is the Football West program that has featured training from coaches such as former Perth Glory captain Gareth Naven.
Mr Winterbine said among other sports, the academy’s surfing program had featured talented rider Sophie Butcher, who has now graduated, and youngsters Cruz MacDonald, Edel Rodden and Jake Hagan. MWAS also hoped to set up programs for kitesurfing and other sports, and was aiming to help local athletes get to the 2032 Brisbane Olympics, he said.
An under-19s State basketball side won the team award in 1992, and many young sides have featured from the 2000s.
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