AFL Victoria’s talent competitions have produced 10 of the 19 Australia Post AFL Multicultural Player Ambassadors for 2017 announced on Wednesday.
One of the 10 ambassadors entered the AFL system from the Peter Jackson VFL (Coburg’s Adam Saad – now at Gold Coast) and two ambassadors are Swisse VFL Women’s players currently also on AFL Women’s lists (Darebin’s Darcy Vescio – also at Carlton – and VU Western Spurs’ Helen Roden – also at Collingwood), while seven were drafted into the AFL from the TAC Cup.
The seven former TAC Cup players are: Essendon pair Dyson Heppell (ex-Gippsland Power) and David Zaharakis (Northern Knights), Gold Coast’s Tom Nicholls (Sandringham Dragons), Melbourne’s Christian Salem (Sandringham), North Melbourne’s Majak Daw (Western Jets), Richmond’s Bachar Houli (Western) and Western Bulldogs’ Lin Jong (Oakleigh Chargers).
Saad, Salem and Houli have Lebanese heritage, Vescio has Chinese and Italian heritage, Roden and Nicholls are of Fijian descent, Heppell is Australian, Zaharakis has Greek heritage, Daw has Sudanese heritage and Jong is of Taiwanese and East Timorese descent.
Players of multicultural heritage this year comprise 15 per cent of player lists across the 18 AFL clubs and 7.8 per cent across the eight AFL Women’s clubs.
The AFL Multicultural Player Ambassadors will be at the forefront of the AFL’s Multicultural Round, which will be held in Round 19 of the upcoming AFL Premiership Season (July 28-30) and will continue to celebrate the many cultures present in the Australian Football community.
AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan said the ambassadors represented Australia’s diverse range of cultures.
“They will play a crucial role in increasing cultural awareness, promoting inclusion and encouraging participation at all levels of Australian Football,” McLachlan said.
“We have increased the number of female ambassadors from two to four in 2017, which reflects the growing prominence of NAB AFL Women’s and the commitment we have made to build the foundations of women’s football.
“It’s a historic year in our game. In addition to the launch of AFLW, we are also taking a Toyota AFL Premiership Season match to China in Round 8. The landscape of football is changing and the ambassadors reflect that.”
The other AFL Multicultural Player Ambassadors for 2017 are: Sabrina Frederick-Traub (Brisbane AFLW), Akec Makur Chuot (Fremantle AFLW), Dayne Zorko (Brisbane), Jake Kolodjashnij (Geelong), Stephen Coniglio (GWS), Jimmy Toumpas (Port Adelaide), Aliir Aliir (Sydney), Nic Naitanui (West Coast) and Jason Johannisen (Western Bulldogs).