It’s a long way to Gosford from the remote Northern Territory town of Katherine, but the three-and-a-half-thousand kilometre gap was well and truly bridged this afternoon, as 16 members of the Katherine Football Academy were put through their paces by Mariners Football and Commercial Operations Manager Lawrie McKinna, and Development co-ordinator D
It-s a long way to Gosford from the remote Northern Territory town of Katherine, but the three-and-a-half-thousand kilometre gap was well and truly bridged this afternoon, as 16 members of the Katherine Football Academy were put through their paces by Mariners Football and Commercial Operations Manager Lawrie McKinna, and Development co-ordinator Damien Brown.
The smiles on the faces of the 15 to 18 year olds – some in barefoot, and some in top of the line name-brand boots – put life as being part of a professional football club well and truly into perspective.
“For a lot of these boys it-s a once in a lifetime opportunity, they won-t ever get another chance to go to Sydney so we wanted to make sure they had a really good time.
“They are all stoked with the day so far being day one, we-ve really set the benchmark for the rest of the trip,” said the Academy-s Football Operations Manager Ryan Woolfe.
The Academy, which aims at using sport to highlight the importance of an education to indigenous teenagers in the top end, celebrated the graduation of five students from year 12 this year, the most indigenous graduates from Katherine High School ever.
The trip, which also features sessions with the Sydney Kings and Sydney Swans, as well as learning to surf at Manly Beach and a trip up the Sydney Harbour Bridge, is a reward for the kids who have put so much into their academic endeavours against considerable odds.
For some students, home is up to 800 kilometres from School, in regions that sometimes miss out on the vital services bigger regions can often enjoy.
““It-s great to see them come down here and enjoy themselves, but also put in because a lot of boys get the opportunity and don-t take it.
“These boys have come down, had a go and been enthusiastic, they respect the skill that is required,” said Mariners Football and Commercial Operations Manager McKinna.
From training, it was off to Bluetongue Stadium where the kids of Katherine were amongst 7,160 fans to watch the Mariners clash with Sydney FC, the crowd close to the size of the Northern Territory-s third biggest city-s entire population.
As their heads hit the pillow on the first of an unforgettable seven-night trip, their minds may have already been thinking about what-s next, but a Hyundai A-League training experience will also linger long into the future.
For McKinna, Brown and the rest of the Mariners staff lucky enough to share the experience, the feeling would be mutual.