From PKC to the MVE and now the national stage
Over the past two years, the number of Indigenous players coming from the Kempsey region to represent New South Wales and the ACT at the AFL Female Diversity Championships, has become an expected positive to the team.
The Female Diversity Championships expose Aboriginal, Torres Strait Islander and Multicultural players, coaches, and umpires to an elite AFL program, and sees the most talented female AFL players from across Australia compete.
With New South Wales having the highest Aboriginal population in Australia, and with 11.5 per cent of the Kempsey population identifying as Aboriginal, there is great talent to be unearthed.
As the only AFL team in Kempsey, the Macleay Valley Eagles Football Club sees the majority of their Youth Girls players come from an Indigenous background.
This year, three girls from the Macleay Valley Eagles – Maleah Waters-Holten, Mattarley Kelly-Scholes and Kirrilee Cutmore – will be playing in the Indigenous stream of the Female Diversity Championships, in the Kickstart team.
Kelly-Scholes, a Dhunghutti woman and Year 9 student from St Pauls College, will be representing her state for the first time.
“I didn’t grow up with AFL a big part of my life. I grew up with rugby league, cricket and netball,” Kelly-Scholes recalls.
The first time she was introduced to AFL was when she was in Year 6 and she represented her school, West Kempsey Public in the Paul Kelly Cup – the largest AFL primary school competition in New South Wales and the ACT.
“I have now been playing AFL for four years, but I have only joined the Macleay Valley Eagles this year.”
Kelly-Scholes says she is looking forward to meeting new people, creating friendships and representing her region and state.
“It is an honour representing my state as well as my people,” she said.
“I only hope that I can live up to that.”
Kelly-Scholes’ Macleay Valley Eagles teammate, Year 8 student from Kempsey High School and Kamilaroi woman, Kirrilee Cutmore is also participating in this year’s Kickstart competition at the Female Diversity Championships.
Cutmore has been involved with soccer and athletics, but only began playing AFL when she moved to Kempsey.
Similar to her teammate Kelly-Scholes, Cutmore also began playing AFL when her school, West Kempsey Public competed in the Paul Kelly Cup, placing an impressive third.
This is when she decided to join the Macleay Eagles where she has been playing for the past three years.
“I’m looking forward to playing alongside fellow Macleay Eagles players and new team members from all over New South Wales,” Cutmore said.
“I feel very proud to have this opportunity to represent my local club, New South Wales, and my Aboriginal community at the Female Diversity Championships.”
Cutmore now has goals of developing new skills that will enable her to improve her overall football performance. She also hopes to use this opportunity to become someone that others from her local community can look up to.
“I hope that from this experience I can be a positive role model for fellow young people within my community and AFL club.”