Jamie Maclaren of the Socceroos celebrates scoring the last goal during the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 and AFC Asian Cup China 2023 Preliminary Joint Qualification Round 2 match between the Australian Socceroos and Nepal at GIO Stadium on October 10, 2019 in Canberra, Australia. (Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)
Jamie Maclaren of the Socceroos celebrates scoring the last goal during the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 and AFC Asian Cup China 2023 Preliminary Joint Qualification Round 2 match between the Australian Socceroos and Nepal at GIO Stadium on October 10, 2019 in Canberra, Australia. (Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)

From the Grandstand: Round ball game a step ahead

IN RECENT weeks the NRL and the AFL have been falling over themselves to get on top when it comes to recommencing the season.

With new leadership, the rugby league boys (for once) got the jump on their southern opponents. The rugby union boys were more than happy to stay out of the headlines for once as they face up to some of the biggest issues yet.

However, it was the other football code that caught my attention for a very positive reason. I watched an interview with the Football Federation Australia chief executive James Johnson (now sir would that be Jimmy, Johnno or simply J. J.?) and he outlined what was involved in their "learn from home" program.

Just as parents are getting on top of the Grade 5 maths they have a new provider to consider. The FFA have put out a schools football workbook. It involves a "play at home" challenge and I for one, think it's a great idea. The aim and I quote is to, "Develop skills, behaviour and attitudes they need to be physically active for life". That says it all.

Children of all ages, no matter what code they are playing will benefit from such a program. Whether it be learning to be part of a team, showing respect to officials and opposition or simply facing up to the obesity issue of teenagers, this program can only have a positive impact.

Haven't the soccer people been doing some great things recently. Who can forget the work of local (Lismore) Craig Foster. The ex-Socceroo was chiefly responsible for bringing home that refugee player who was wrongfully detained overseas. Just recently he has gone on to organise a charity "Play for Lives". This centres around senior footballers of all codes putting together packages of assistance for those in need. He works through the Wayside Chapel in downtown Sydney and all Sydney clubs (all codes) have responded keenly.

Craig would be a worthy parliamentarian if he chose. All parties would be interested but in this climate, why would you bother?

It's sad in a way (but not surprising) that soccer has never really taken off in this country the way it was hoped. Remember Johnny Warren's famous catchcry of the 1970s of "I told you so" when he predicted it would become the number one code in the country. Never! Why? Aussies simply like the physical contact of the other codes. We love the collisions etc. not to mention the tackling.

We become interested in international games particularly, but we behold any player who takes a "dive" when dispossessed. Not our game. Who can forget Socceroo captain Lucas Neill for instance being penalised in the box for his tackle on an Italian player in the most successful World Cup we've competed in. We lost 1-0 (from that tackle) and Italy went on to win the bloody Cup.

Most codes have been kicking own goals of late but this is a great initiative from the round-ball guys.