Dear members and supporters,

When the 2017 AFL fixture was first released, our administration team looked at this four-week block and said, ‘WOW, this is going to be interesting!’

Very exciting, a great opportunity for the club to present itself on the national stage, but more than just a little intimidating!

History-making in Shanghai one week, in front of perhaps the biggest ever AFL audience, then down to Kardinia Park to play Geelong in a stand-alone Thursday night fixture to kick off the Sir Doug Nicholls Indigenous Round, followed by another Thursday night blockbuster at home against a rejuvenated Hawks outfit!

Sounds simple, but when you add in the running of the tenth edition of our wonderful Santos Aboriginal Power Cup in the week leading up to tonight’s game, you start to get a sense of the task the club set itself in this most significant season.

The Shanghai experience has been widely reported on and clearly an overwhelming success from our point of view.

From the moment Darcy Byrne-Jones walked into the Camel Hotel to a rousing, standing ovation by the traveling Port Adelaide family, I knew we were going to be OK!

Everyone was having a ball!

Playing the first game in China was a difficult challenge - without doubt the most challenging task we have undertaken as a club in my time here, including transitioning to Adelaide Oval. But our on-field and off-field teams were magnificent… as was the support we received from our members and supporters here in Adelaide and overseas. It was a triumph for our club.

Where Shanghai was a bold step onto the international stage, this week’s Santos Aboriginal Power Cup returns our focus to the issue of closing the gap between the living standards experienced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and mainstream Australia.

In 2008, when Port Adelaide first embraced the challenge articulated by Monsignor Cappo’s groundbreaking report on Aboriginal disadvantage, the average attendance rate of Aboriginal children at school was around 52%.

In partnership with Santos, which has financially and wholeheartedly supported the development of the Aboriginal Power Cup since day one, we have seen the program grow from just six participating schools in 2008 to over 50 schools and 430 students in 2017. The average attendance rate of these students this year was 95%.

Our incredible director of Aboriginal Programs Paul Vandenbergh, and his crew, in conjunction with the equally passionate SAASTA team, now oversee the longest-running Aboriginal education-sport program in the Australian sports industry. They travel 60,000 kilometers per year to deliver messages of cultural identity, language, healthy lifestyle choices and the importance of staying in school and completing a solid level of education. Our programs now extend to helping place our graduates from the Aboriginal Power Cup into work or further education.

Through the club’s networks and with the help of Anglicare, over 80 students were successfully placed into tertiary education or workplace positions in the past 12 months.

This is an extraordinary result, and I would like thank Santos, Anglicare, and every organization who has supported our Powerful Futures program this year. Quite simply, your support is changing lives.

Our work in this area must continue. The harsh reality is that we still have a long way to go as a society when it comes to bridging the gap. There is still a 10-year gap in the life expectancy between an Aboriginal person and the broader Australian community.

70% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people still die of chronic disease.

The unemployment rate of Aboriginal people is 42% in our major cities. 65% in remote communities. Our national average is 6%.

The area that is improving is that more Aboriginal kids are completing Year 12 and generally staying at school longer. Our programs are contributing a small, but not insignificant, amount to this encouraging result. With Santos and our other dedicated partners in this space, we are making progress… but there is still much to do.

So when you see all the kids running about on the Adelaide Oval tonight and performing their cultural dance for you, take a moment to think about how hard they have worked to get there. We are incredibly proud of them.

And so to the Hawks.

What a dogfight this season has become!

Our boys were superbly professional in Shanghai - brave - but ultimately unsuccessful at Geelong, and will tonight go to war again with an old rival battling as we are to grab a toehold in the top eight.

I’m not going to fudge it…we need Adelaide Oval rocking tonight. Every advantage we can grab is meaningful.

It’s Thursday night, and we are on the national stage again…against a big-time player.

We need you there.

And let’s give our Aboriginal Power Cup kids the thrill of their life while we’re at it – first bounce of the cup finals is at 5.15pm!

See you at the footy!


More on