Fremantle midfielder Bailey Banfield watched on with a tinge of jealousy as the inaugural Kimberley 9s tournament kicked off on Wednesday at Cable Beach in Broome.
The competition is a joint initiative of Fremantle’s Purple Hands Foundation and WA Police, which will see more than 300 primary and secondary students travel from across the Kimberley to take part in an AFL 9’s round robin carnival by Thursday’s end.
A Broome native, Banfield said he would have been thrilled to take part in an event like this when he was growing up.
“It's really exciting, we've got 300 kids coming down and they get a couple of days off school, they're coming from all over the Kimberley, so it’s already been lots of fun,” Banfield told ABC Kimberley.
“I know when I was in primary school, I would have loved to have a day like this to go down to the beach and play footy.”
Banfield said the event had a big focus on mental and physical wellbeing as well as helping local police forge stronger relationships with the kids throughout the region.
It also has the added link with Fremantle’s Next Generation Academy powered by Tyrepower, which has been working hard to grow the game of football throughout the Kimberley since 2016.
“It's a really big focus of our Purple Hands Foundation, which is a fairly new part of the Fremantle Dockers,” Banfield said.
“It's about building the connections with the community, these kids will come down now, they'll get to play with all their mates, meet some kids from other schools.
“You get the physical fitness and the benefits to mental health and wellbeing and being physically active.
“There's the added benefit with WA Police, who are really heavily involved in today's program. It's building the connections with them and that should have some lasting benefits, furthering a lot of the really good work that they're doing already.
“It’s about being able to make that more personal connection with some of these kids and being a friendly face and a positive influence on the community.”
The jam-packed event kicked off on Wednesday and will wrap up on Thursday afternoon.
“We’ve got three fields marked out down there on Cable Beach in front of the surf club,” Banfield said.
“The more people that come down the merrier, the kids all cycled through with six teams playing at any one time.”
As well as being able to enjoy the perfect weather in Broome, Banfield was thrilled to have the chance to visit his family.
“I try to get back every year for a couple of weeks,” Banfield said.
“I’ve got plenty of family up here. Mum and Dad are up here at the moment as well as my uncles, cousins and my Grandma as well.”