Dream Big Time camp provides opportunity of a lifetime for Indigenous talent

Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

“I believe wholeheartedly in this game and its potential power to give people direction and meaning and that’s what this is all about.”

That’s the platform underpinning the inaugural Dream Big Time program that takes a big next step this weekend.

The Dream Big Time program is providing the opportunity of a lifetime for more than a hundred Indigenous men and women from around Australia.

There will be 133 scouted players landing in Sydney on Friday for a three-day camp, from which two squads of 20 will be picked.

Among the group will be the remarkable duo of Rohan Armstrong and Joshua Davis, who were spotted when the tour ventured into the Alice Springs Correctional Centre.

The pair have raw talent but little else - neither even own a pair of joggers or any football kit to take to the Sydney camp.

Josh Davis (front row, fourth from right) is set to be part of the Dream Big Time camp. Photo: RUGBY.com.au For them, this could be a chance they never thought they’d have for a second chance in their lives.

When news filtered down that they would be invited to the camp, after two rounds of testing, the pair were in shock as much as anything when it came to the chance they were about to receive.

Davis and Armstrong aren’t the only ones who never thought they’d have this chance to turn their lives around.

Jarred Hodges is a former Sevens assistant and current Rugby Australia special projects manager who has led the program in its journey around the country and said the opportunity for Davis and Armstrong was exactly what Dream Big Time was created for.

“On both visits, we spent some time with them during those two visits and just in constant consultation with (sports development officer) Craig getting feedback of what they thought and following up post our visit,” he said.

“Josh was training all the time, once he knew he was a chance.

When we went back there the second time, we mentioned to Josh that we were looking at inviting him as long as he could get approved, all the boys just celebrated, got around him and it was amazing, bit of a teary moment and Josh was in disbelief.”

Many of the people involved this weekend have never been on a plane, let alone travelled to Sydney, and the opportunity is one that will be unrivalled in a number of ways.

Each player will have an individual journey from Davis and Armstrong in Alice to teenage speedster Hudson Berry.

Hudson Berry is attending the Dream Big Time camp. Photo: RUGBY.com.au/Stuart WalmsleyBerry is a Randwick colts player, set to line up in this weekend’s grand final against Sydney Uni,  also looking to make the most of his unlikely chance to push for Sevens honours.

The winger has plenty of pace - he has been a regular on the regional Gift scene in recent years - but rugby is a new endeavour for him after growing up playing league.

It was through one of his friends that Berry came down to the Dream Big Time testing and didn’t imagine he would make it to the next stage.

“I didn’t really know what to expect to be honest, never experienced treatment like that, just lucky to be there,” he said.

“It’s amazing. Sevens is something I’d like to do and I think for me it plays to my strengths and it suits me and to get that opportunity is amazing.”

The teenager is in his first year of medicine at UNSW but experiencing the Dream Big Time program and the thought of potentially pushing for a national Sevens spot has given him something else to strive for.

“I definitely have given it some thought, with these new opportunities coming up,” he said.

“Medicine’s something I’ve wanted to do since I was 10 years old but footy is something I’ve always done, it’s part of my family.

“If it came down to it, though, I know I would pick footy now - I can always come back to medicine, I can only play footy for so long.”

The student is active in the Indigenous community as well, working with the UNSW Nura Gili program to help provide more opportunities for Indigenous people to succeed.

So to be a part of the Dream Big Time camp is something he will cherish.

“As a general population, we are a bit disadvantaged and definitely have been in the past," he said.

“I’m lucky enough that I wasn’t really disadvantaged growing up but it’s a huge opportunity.

"It’s a really good initiative.”

The oldest of four children, Berry joked he could be the beginning of a line of his family members putting themselves in contention.

The Dream Big Time camp kicks off on Friday August 23, with two squads of 20 being selected out of the camp, with the view of playing at invitational Sevens tournaments, including even hopefully the Dubai Sevens.

The Dream Big Time tour went to a number of places in the country including Uluru. Photo: RUGBY.com.auBeyond the on-field element, though, there will be a focus on the importance of nutrition and the value of community leadership.

Those who are selected for the squads will be armed with the task of creating a Sevens team in their own communities to take to the Ella Sevens, an annual Indigenous competition, to put their leadership into practice.

“They will be given the task of going back into their community and organising touch rugby or organising a community team for Ella 7s," Hodges said.

Coming back from this camp will give these guys and girls a profile in their community and we want them to use that profile to build leaders which promote health and fitness.”

For Hodges, that element of the program is as important as whether one of these people becomes an Olympian one day.

“The programs have to be wholistic, they can’t be just about footy,” he said.

“We take for granted what’s at our disposal when it comes to even simple things around nutrition but a lot of these communities don’t have that choice.

So this is about having those conversations to ask what they do have around them and what they can do to lead a healthy life.

“We’re looking to really empower them in their community and give them ownership going forward.”

The Dream Big Time squads will be announced next month.