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Port Adelaide players embrace Ladder

TO many, AFL players like Paddy Ryder and Lindsay Thomas are role models but a visit to a special accommodation facility for young people on Monday night gave the pair a chance to discuss their own role models.

Ryder and Thomas spent time at Ladder Port Adelaide Foyer with a group of young men who are either homeless or at risk of homelessness.

The facility was established in 2011 as a partnership between the Department for Families and Communities, St John’s Youth Services (SJYS) and Ladder, an independent not-for-profit organisation set up to help young people aged between 16 and 21 break the cycle of homelessness.

At the Foyer, young people are given support and mentoring to develop independent living skills, engage positively with local communities and maintain employment, training and/or education so they can take control of their lives, transition to independence and achieve their potential.

Ladder is also the official charity of the AFL Players’ Association

Ryder and Thomas took part in Men’s Yarn Space with a group of young men.

“Men's Yarn Space was created as part of SJYS Reconciliation Action Plan and the acknowledgement that all young men need a safe space to reflect on and share emotion,” said SJYS Service Manager Celeste Iannella.

“Entering its seventh week, sessions involve physical activity, a yarn and finish with the young men cooking and sharing a feed together. 

 “With the support of the partnership, Paddy Ryder and Lindsay Thomas joined this week’s Yarn Space on 'role models' sharing how they were influenced by their role model growing up and what it is like being a role model to others today.”

Thomas said he was passionate about helping young people and found he could relate to the young men who took part.

He outlined his journey from the Eyre Peninsula to being drafted by North Melbourne, and then returning to South Australia after 12 years to play with Port Adelaide.

“These boys have had a pretty tough upbringing so me and Pat just came down and spoke about our journey to where we are today,” he said.

“They were a good bunch of guys and we just shared our life story with them and they shared a bit with us and it was pretty cool.”

He said he hoped his story would give others hope that anything is possible if they worked hard enough.

“They’ve got their own little rooms and they’re pretty lucky to have this place and great mentors around to help them and as long as they do the right thing I’m confident everything will work out for them,” Thomas said.

 “We had similar upbringings so I think they can see that if they really put their minds to what they want to achieve, whether it’s sport or just general life, if they give it a hot crack then anything is possible.

“That’s what we shared and I think they responded pretty well.”

Thomas said the Foyer set-up was a great initiative that he and Ryder were only too happy to support.

Also present was former Port Adelaide player Paul Stewart who played 101 games for the club between 2006 and 2016 but is now the Regional Coordinator for Ladder in South Australia.

He helped organise for Ryder and Thomas to attend and said the experience was extremely beneficial for the young men who live at the facility.

“The young people here are amazing people but have just been struck with a bit of bad luck whether that be family issues or something else,” he said.

“Having good people come in from the outside, especially AFL Players who have their own story, and share their stories with them shows that everyone including AFL sports people also have their own struggles.

“It gives them an opportunity to ask questions, where not a lot of people get that opportunity with professional athletes.”

He said he hoped the Port Adelaide Football Club would continue to involve itself in the initiative.

“Our young people all have their own story and they are all incredible people that have just be unfortunate enough to become either disengaged from their families for various reasons or have come from overseas and had issues with schooling and housing.

“These are just a couple things but we just try to give them the best opportunity to succeed in what they want to do in life.

“(Player visits) are definitely something in our Ladder program I want to get happening a lot more often.

“Ladder run Health and Wellbeing sessions and Development programs for the Young people weekly so there are plenty of opportunities for players to come down.”

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