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Northern Tasmanian Junior Football Association

Mrs Armitage (Launceston) - Mr President, I speak today about an organisation which has served its community with great distinction for the past 40 years.

The Northern Tasmanian Junior Football Association was formed by a group of Mums and Dads in 1975 to give local children a chance to take their footy from the backyard into a more competitive environment. 40 years on, that move has been a huge success.

Association life member, Colin Targett says there were about 400 children playing in the competition in 1975. There were Under 13, Under 15 and Under 17 divisions. The clubs taking part at the start of the NTJFA were Longford, Deloraine, George Town, South Launceston, Launceston and East Launceston. Games were played at Windsor Park, South Launceston, Longford, Deloraine, Beaconsfield and George Town and the grand finals were played at York Park, which is now known as Aurora Stadium. Unlike 2015, all the players in those days were boys. The Association has put considerable effort into growing grassroots football since it started; Colin Targett recalls they approached the late and great Melbourne footballer, Jim Stynes in the late 1980's/early 1990's because they were concerned about drop- out rates in the Under 17 boys competition. Jim explained it was happening because many of the Under 17's footballers were more motivated by girls and the need to get their driver's licences, so footy was taking a back seat for some!!! He advised the Association to lower each age group by one year, which they did. So at that point, they had Under 16's, 14's and 12's and they also introduced an Under 11's competition. Colin Targett says they noticed improvements virtually straight away and they gained an extra 200 footballers just by introducing the Under 11's competition alone.

In 2015, an estimated 1600 children take part in the NTJFA every week. There are 11 clubs: East Launceston, Deloraine, George Town, East Coast Giants, Launceston, Longford, North Launceston, Prospect, Scottsdale, South Launceston and Tamar Valley.

The Association has 64 teams, with Under 9's, 10's, 11's, 12's, 13's, 14's, 15's and Under 16's.

An example of the strong growth is the East Coast Giants, who, in their third year in the competition, have 90 registered players from St Marys, St Helens and Bicheno.

The season starts around April 12 and the 16 rounds are completed by early September. The Under 9's, 10's and 11's games don't record a score, they play for an hour for the benefits of fun and fitness. For the children wanting to take their skills to the next level and perhaps pursue football as a career, there are representative sides offering specialist training for the Under 12's, 14's and 16's.

Hundreds of dedicated volunteers are involved in the competition across Northern Tasmania every weekend. That includes coaches and their support staff, boundary and goal umpires, match managers, trainers, team managers, kiosk staff, gate staff, ground maintenance crews and people who run water on to the ground for players to drink. It's incredibly inspiring to think that so many parents and their family members continue to drive the organisation 40 years on.

The clubs do a wonderful job getting the teams on the field every week but, as you'd imagine, it's not a cheap exercise. Clubs pay a registration fee of five dollars per player and they supply everything else cost wise with gate-takings being an important source of meeting those expenses. Organisations looking to involve themselves in a community organisation would do well to consider making a donation to the NTJFA, which has a proud reputation of serving its community tirelessly.

Colin Targett says there are important life lessons for the children to learn on the footy field such as seeking opportunity and being proactive. He feels, while the competition focuses on fun and fitness, that it prepares its players for life after school by teaching skills that will help them to always put their best foot forward.

He says there have been a number of players who've started out with the NTJFA who've gone on to successful AFL careers, including Tim Mohr who plays for Greater Western Sydney, former Melbourne Football Club player and former assistant Carlton coach, Brad Green, Gold Coast's Jesse Lonergan and Kade Kolodjashnji former Essendon and Richmond player Sam Lonergan, Geelong's Jackson Thurlow and Jake Kolodjashnij to name a few. Equally inspiring is the dedication of players such as Longford's Brendan Jones who played his 400th senior game for the club last year and teammate, Anthony Williams, who played his 400th senior game a few months ago. Three under 15's players, North Launceston's Tarryn Tringle-Thomas, Burnie's Blair Ruboch and Longford's Chayce Jones have recently been selected in the Australian AFL under 15s side playing South Africa, in South Africa later this year.

Mr President, I congratulate the Northern Tasmanian Junior Football Association on 40 wonderful years of serving our community and I wish them continued success in the future.

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