The Northern Inland Academy of Sport sent their Inverell RSM AFL program on tour to Sydney last week.
This tour was for the male athletes, and saw 44 athletes and coaches take part in a weekend of opportunity and experiences.
The NIAS squad travelled to Newcastle for the first leg of their tour where they held a training session with the Newcastle City Football Club, organised by former NIAS coach Tim Cotter.
NIAS head coach Alan Martin said this training was a fantastic opportunity for the athletes to find out the expectations for their abilities at their age groups.
"I was quite impressed, a few of the coaches pulled me aside at the end and said some of our athletes were at, if not above, their standard. It was fantastic to get feedback from other athletes at their level."
Day two saw the young athletes back on the bus and on their way to Sydney. A tour of the Greater Western Sydney Giants facilities was on the agenda. Here the NIAS squad got to see the gym, locker room, recovery rooms that the Giants utilise every day in training, prep for games and post-game recoveries, giving them a better understanding of how the AFL works at the elite level.
The boys also got the opportunity to meet a few of the GWS Giants stars including co-captain Callan Ward.
"The tour of the GWS facilities usually takes 30 minutes but the guide said, as a result of the kids' interest, he pushed it a bit longer and they ended up inspecting the facilities for over 2 hours."
On Friday evening the squads attended the Sydney Swans and Adelaide Crows game. Swans star and Gunnedah local Sam Naismith took the time to see our athletes.
NIAS programs manager Brent Hartley said, "it's tremendous for our athletes to mingle with AFL stars like Sam. He's a country boy now playing at the elite level and he is proof that these athletes have a pathway to the top if they want it".
On Saturday the boys participated in an Independent Schools AFL Gala Day. They'd split into two teams, an U12s and an Opens' team. Unfortunately, the weather cannot be controlled, and it interfered with the day. However, the Opens boys still managed to squeeze in a competitive game against Knox Grammar.
ATHLETE PROFILE: Declan Rich
Home town: Armidale
Sport: NIAS Athletics Program
How long have you competed in athletics for? This is my second year of competing in athletics.
Best result to date: I finished 14th at the Nationals last year with a time of 6:52.37 in the Steeplechase event.
Sporting hero: My coach Jay Stone is my inspiration. Jay still competes for Australia in the World Masters and is achieving some incredible results.
What is your target for 2019? I would like to break into the top three for the steeplechase at this year's National titles.