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Academy taps into talent

Next Gen Academy members Diing Akur, Deng Yong and Kudzaishe Motsi
Deng Yong, Kudzaishe Motsi and Diing Akur are part of the Crows’ Next Generation Academy
The first time I went I didn’t go that well. Then I came back and I started progressing and liking the sport
Diing Akur

They stumbled into football almost by accident and have less than eight years in the game between them, but now Diing Akur, Deng Yong and Kudzaishe Motsi are dreaming of a career in the AFL.

The three teenagers, who all have origins in Africa, grew up playing soccer and basketball and had very little exposure to Australian Rules as children.

But each has quickly developed a passion for the sport and their natural ability has now seen them selected in the Crows’ inaugural Next Generation Academy emerging talent squad.

The squad consists of 22 young athletes from across South Australia who have been identified in partnership with aligned SANFL Clubs.

Originally a soccer player, 14-year-old Akur got involved in Australian Rules three years ago by helping out a neighbour when his school team was short on numbers.

The Year 10 student is already 194cm tall and came to Australia from Sudan in 2007 with his family.

“I used to play soccer and then I moved houses and I had no ride to soccer – because it used to be down the road from me. So my next door neighbour said he could give me a ride to Saturday morning footy, so I could be involved with sport and because the school he was at needed numbers,” Akur said.

“The first time I went I didn’t go that well. Then I came back and I started progressing and liking the sport.”

Similarly, Yong and Motsi first got involved with the game through friends.

“The way I got into footy is a pretty simple, my friend said Í reckon you’d be good at footy and I had nothing else to do so I just went out,” 16-year-old Yong, whose family came to Australia from Kenya seven years ago, said.

“The first training session I did not like the sport at all. I couldn’t understand it. But then as I got into it I realised this sport is so interesting, it’s like 20 sports combined into one so I just stayed with it.”

The three are all training with the Central District Football Club's junior teams and are excited about receiving extra coaching through the Academy.

Members of the squad will participate in regular football skill development and education sessions with the Crows during the next year, covering topics including football craft, strength and conditioning, nutrition, recovery, personal development, recruiting expectations and more.

The squad will have access to Club facilities, high performance and welfare staff, as well as sessions with coaching staff and players delivering key messages.

“It’s very exciting and I feel really honoured,” Akur said of his selection.

“I want to expand my awareness and take my game to the next level.

“I’m also hoping to develop my leadership skills and communication skills on the field.”

Similarly, 16-year-old Motsi, who is from Zimbabwe and made the switch from soccer to football three years ago, is hoping to become a more well-rounded player through the Academy.

“This year has been big. I’m really excited.”

And, as for his desires to play in the AFL one day…

“It’s a dream,” he said.

Designed to increase the opportunities for young people from diverse backgrounds to participate in Australian Rules, the Next Generation Academy is a joint initiative between the Crows and the AFL.

To find out more about the Crows Next Generation Academy click here

The views in this article are those of the author and not necessarily those of the AFL or its clubs