Fulfilment. Craig “Fred” Perry is a strong advocate of supporting sportspeople from a young age and knows full well this helps create well-rounded citizens.
The 63-year-old has devoted himself for more than a decade to the Smithton Auskick program and to encouraging juniors to reach their full potential.
Now, the football stalwart plans to retire his whistle.
Perry became affiliated through his grandchildren Isaac and Austen, volunteering alongside program coordinator at the time, Craig Porteus.
Though his grandsons have long since graduated from the development program, Perry has remained ever faithful to the task for the past 12 years.
“All I have ever wanted to do is see kids develop and have the chance to play at the top level and learn as best they can,” Perry says.
“That’s what I think Auskick is about. It gets the kids playing sport, interacting and hopefully they become better citizens and better people.”
The Smithton program was established in the early noughties with the aim of introducing children aged between five and 12 to the sport.
“Generally, it’s just to get the kids interested in playing Aussie Rules but it is more about the development,” Perry says, as well as involving families.
The program introduces basic principles such as kicking, marking and handballing amongst other exercises.
Averaging up to 170 participants five years ago, Perry says numbers have recently dwindled down to half as junior competitions have been implemented or restructured within the North West Junior Football League (NWJFL) and Circular Head Football Association (CHFA).
While Perry supports such opportunities, he says a conflict of interest between the entities and increasing personal commitments have led him to the decision to retire.
According to Perry, eight underage CHFA teams and three NWJFL teams is not a realistic expectation with not enough players in the district to fill the squads.
“Some kids are playing up to three games a weekend. That is too much on our kids, we’re just going to burn them out.”
While Perry supports the inclusion of the Circular Head Giants in the NWJFL and is not opposed to an underage CHFA competition, he says something needs to be modified.
Perry’s main concerns centred around children playing against older and more developed players.
“Those that run around and don’t get a touch, that’s not what we want to teach our kids.
“They should be rolling around, grabbing the ball, running or bumping into their mate.
“I just want to see what is best for the kids.”
Perry, who was the 2014 state recipient of the ‘NAB AFL Auskick Volunteer of the Year’ award and holds a level two certificate in coaching, says his main objective is to support all players and give them the opportunity to reach their highest potential.
With this in mind, he has been actively involved in helping launch an Under 12s squad in the NWJFL this year.
He said this change would provide a structured model and the transition will allow players to progress into more advanced levels of the sport.
“They’re not all going to go to the Giants [once they finish the NWJFL], they’re going to filter into the local comp, so everybody gets a chance.
“It’s going to be beneficial for Circular Head as a whole, it will keep the local association viable and it will keep the Giants viable.”
While Perry intends to fulfil the coordinator position throughout the 2017 season, he is urging the footballing community to continue the program well into the future.
“I just hope that somebody else will put their hand up now and keep it going because it would be a pity to lose it,” he says.
“I think that if we all work together we can get a good outcome.”
He thanked the community for their continuous support in the past decade, especially Greenham Tasmania for their $20 sponsorship per child and Smithton Laundry Services for washing guernseys each week.
To chat to Perry about the Auskick coordinator role, phone 0407 817 475.