Xavier's multicultural journey
Brad Xavier is an inspiration to young footballers around the country, especially as we celebrate Multicultural Round in the Peter Jackson VFL this weekend.
The 19-year-old didn’t play in the Under 18 Championships. He didn’t play in the TAC Cup. And he didn’t even play interleague. But after being involved in a number of AFL Victoria’s multicultural programs, the boy from Keilor found himself on Werribee’s VFL list at the start of the 2016 season.
Xavier, who is of Indian heritage, started his football development journey when he joined AFL Victoria’s Multicultural Program in 2010
In 2011 he was selected in the World Team for the NAB AFL U16 Championships, in a side that featured current AFL footballers Adam Saad and Aliir Aliir (Sydney).
Along his journey he has also participated in various pathway programs such as the Majak Daw squad, which aims to identify players of multicultural and indigenous backgrounds, ages of 15 to 18, and provide specialised training sessions focused on skill development.
Xavier said the program helped him get where he is today – ironically at the same club as the programs namesake through North Melbourne’s alignment with Werribee - and thinks the opportunities have made him a better player and person.
“Being involved in the program probably got my name through a little bit,” said Xavier.
“The Majak Daw squad was a good opportunity for me because it got me into my first preseason at the Western Jets.
“There’s only a couple of years you can get involved into these programs until senior footy kicks in, and then there’s not a lot of multicultural things you can really get into.
“I thought ‘I might as well make the most of this opportunity and hopefully it will make me a better person’ – and it did.
“I didn’t make the (final Western Jets) squad but it was a good experience and good to get some professional training while I was there.”
After failing to be selected for the final Western Jets squad, Xavier went back to his local club Keilor to play out his final two years of under 18’s football, before giving big time footy one last crack.
He got in contact with Werribee, completed a solid preseason with the club and ended up making the team at the start of the 2016 season.
Xavier said the fact that most players who make it to the AFL or VFL go through the TAC Cup and other development squads, made it an extremely special moment for him, as he wasn’t involved in those pathways.
He puts the smooth transition to VFL football all down to the different multicultural state programs, which provided him with an insight into the professional football environment at a club like Werribee.
Xavier, who has played two senior games as 23rd player and put in some extremely impressive performances in the development league, says he’s enjoying he’s footy and everything about the club.
“I’m loving it. It’s probably the most enjoyable time I’ve had playing footy.
“It’s mainly to do with the bunch of boys at the club. I enjoy the boys that I play with and I enjoy the coaches.
“It’s about the environment you’re in – everyone loves playing footy, but if you’re in the right environment with the right people, it just makes it so much better.”
Xavier shares the same passion he has for football with sharing the game of Australian Football to people from all walks of life. He can’t speak highly enough of AFL Victoria’s multicultural programs and all the different opportunities that have been created for people from different backgrounds.
Xavier’s unique pathway into VFL football has inspired him to help others share the same experience as him, now finding himself as a Peter Jackson VFL Multicultural Ambassador with the likes of teammate Josh Porter, Ahmed Saad (Coburg), Kenny Ong (Sandringham) , Michael Tang (Port Melbourne), James El Moussalli (Essendon), Jack Johnstone (Williamstown), Emmanual Jakwot and Cory Machaya (Casey Scorpions).
“I want to keep getting involved in multiculturalism in football and even start working with the AFL in the future. I’d like to keep trying to bring more multiculturalism into the game and making it more diverse.
“It’s all about giving opportunities to everyone from different backgrounds and getting them involved in the sport.
“It brings everyone together.”
Werribee Tigers take on Port Melbourne at North Port Oval on Sunday in the Channel 7 game from 11:30am, with Xavier to feature in the development league match at 2:30pm.
By James Szabo
Photo: Jonathan Di Maggio