Lachie Young is one of six boys from a Wimmera family whose love of sport fits the Australian bush stereotype to the letter, writes Peter Hanlon at NDIS.
They grew up playing footy and cricket in a Minyip back yard, testing their home-spun skills in the local underage competition at weekends.
The most storied of the sporting Youngs, Clinton, played 137 games for Hawthorn and Collingwood including the Hawks’ 2008 premiership.
He remembers piling into the family car and heading off to training as a teenager, and seeing the devastation felt by his little brother Lachie, who has Down syndrome, at being told he couldn’t join him.
Last year the tables were turned in the most heartwarming fashion when Clinton, who’d returned home to play for Minyip-Murtoa in his first season out of the AFL, played at Horsham in front of a big crowd. After the main game the local all-abilities team – the wonderfully-named Wimmera Whippets – took the field.
“Everyone knew Lachie was playing, so a lot of Minyip-Murtoa people hung around to watch,” Clinton says. “In the first quarter he was in the goalsquare, kicked a pretty flukey goal and did a big celebration. That got the crowd going. It was pretty special to watch.”
The vehicle for this fulfilment is the Football Integration Development Association (FIDA), which from humble beginnings in 1991 has blossomed into a competition with 700 registered players spread over four divisions in Melbourne and which in recent years has spread its wings into country Victoria. Lachie Young’s experience is typical, as the veritable godfather of FIDA, Peter Ryan, observes.
“People go on about the self-esteem that’s associated with being able to play, but that’s because it’s true,” Ryan says. “I had a newspaper cutting from a mother who said it was the best day of her life because it was the first time her son had a game of footy. You get a lot of emotional responses from parents, saying how much it’s improved their lives.”
FIDA Football (Facebook)