Former Qantas Wallaby and Indigenous Australian Jim Williams has backed Australian Rugby to grow the game in Aboriginal communities, saying that there needs to be a combined effort across Rugby organisations in Australia.
Williams passionately spoke to ARU Media about the cause close to his heart:
“There needs to be a coordinated effort, whether from club Rugby, NSW Rugby, the Super Rugby level and then the Australian level, so everyone’s working off the same page. Not one doing one thing and one doing the other.”
With the Rugby World Cup edging closer, Williams, sees great things for Indigenous participation in Australian Rugby with the Wallabies representing Australia on the world stage.
“I think we can change the landscape of the game if we can get more of our indigenous athletes playing the game.
“They’re naturally gifted, with their ability, their reaction speed, and their awareness to play sport.”
The former Qantas Wallabies Forwards Coach can identify with the choices that young Indigenous players face with each code fighting for their natural talents. As a teenager, Williams had to decide whether to stay playing his first sport Rugby League, or to make the switch to Rugby.
Choosing to carve out a career in Rugby eventually paid off, when Williams was selected to play for the Wallabies in the 1999 Rugby World Cup.
Williams believes that although Rugby is competing with the other football codes for Aboriginal participants, the sport also has the ability to develop and foster talented Indigenous players with the global nature of the sport, making it an appealing option for potential elite athletes.
“Rugby is a global game and important to a person’s aspirations if they want to do more or be more. Sport and Rugby is a good way to focus that especially with being able to work overseas.”
Williams sees the importance of education and Rugby working together to support Indigenous Australians. For the past three years Williams has been involved in the Learn Earn Legend program, working with Indigenous year 11 and 12 students.
“A great connection with Rugby union can help foster the Learn Earn Learn Program and help give the indigenous kids experience they need to move on.
“It certainly is about doing it the right way and making sure because it’s difficult, those kids that have been placed in schools, who have just been plucked out, brought in and not transitioned in the right way."
“I think it’s really important that there are programs and support networks.”
“While there are good programs, I always feel that more can be done, getting it out to the wider community. Getting the community itself to be able to do it, being a part of competitions and travelling interstate; creating opportunities for coaches within the community is important. Bringing in outside help is important to a certain degree but I think it’s more so from a mentoring role on how to set it up and get it done.”
With one of the closest World Cups in years set to kick off in September, Williams believes the Wallabies can bring it home.
“The main task for them is getting out of the tough pool and then the Rugby will take care of itself.”