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Representing Australia

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We have had so much talent come out of this area in recent years, especially in the last 12 months. Jayden Aitchison is the latest champion, selected to represent Australia in Futsal this June.

So, what the heck is Futsal you ask? Futsal is basically soccer with 5 players and played on a smaller hard surface field. 90% of the time these are indoors.

Young Jayden will embark on a 2-week tour representing Australia leaving our shores on the June 26 bound for Blanes, Spain to compete in the 2019 National Futsal Championships. It’s an amazing feat for a 13-year-old Muswellbrook boy.

“I have always dreamed of representing Australia for soccer, but never would I have thought it would be so soon. This is a huge opening for my dream to become a pro soccer player. This is the chance. The one big chance that could change my life forever,” Jayden told us.

From all the team here @ The Coalface, Bueno yo (Good Luck)

If you can spare a few bucks to help this little champion reach his dream, he has a go fund me page set up for his representative tour

www.gofundme.com/jaydens-journey-to-spain

 

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Mentor for Mental Health

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Singleton Greyhounds Jake Hawkins (first grade coach) and Brad Schultz (senior club president).
Rugby League star Jake Hawkins was only a teenager when he landed a three-year contract with the Melbourne Storm. More than a decade on, he now balances his life as a mental health support worker with his duties as the Singleton Greyhounds first grade coach.

Jake Hawkins grew up in Manilla, near Tamworth, where his proud parents still live today. It was in the game’s Group 4 region where he would progress as a junior talent for the West Tamworth Lions as well as his Farrer Memorial Agricultural High School team.

Then came the opportunity of a lifetime in 2008.

“I was playing schoolboy footy and had offers from a few clubs but decided to take an offer from Melbourne which was a three-year deal straight off the bat,” Hawkins revealed.

“Those days, young kids didn’t have NRL deals into their contracts, so it was a big achievement to just get that.”

Hawkins would inspire the Storm to a Toyota Cup premiership (the NRL’s now ceased under-20 competition) the following year.

From there he slowly progressed onto the NRL squad where he would then spend two years as Cameron Smith’s understudy while training alongside the likes of Cooper Cronk, Billy Slater and Greg Inglis.

His experience at AAMI Park then enabled him to further his career with a stint at Cronulla before guiding local clubs Dapto (Illawarra RL) and Port Macquarie Sharks (Group 3) to respective premierships in 2016 and 2018.

He would also return with a new off field passion during his time in Melbourne, laying the foundations for his current role as a mental health worker today.

“During my time in Melbourne I completed a mentoring program with the club and worked with three Indigenous kids,” he reflected.

“I brought them to a few games and the change in them was something that drove me to love helping others. I then knew as soon as footy wasn’t my main focus I would do that within a heartbeat.”

Hawkins has now spent seven years in the industry, starting as a support worker before progressing as an OOHC (Out Of Home Case) respondent in Sydney.

His experience is now being utilised by Newcastle’s ‘Bellejoy Support’,an accredited NDIS provider.

“Mental health is really something that drives me and just a simple conversation can make such an impact on someone,” he said.

“Making a client smile and have a good day is all I go to work for.”

This year’s Bengalla Hunter Valley Group 21 Rugby League competition was cancelled on Sunday, June 14 due to this year’s coronavirus pandemic.

As a result, Hawkins and Singleton Greyhounds senior club president Brad Schultz have invested many hours into their club’s transition into this year’s Newcastle and Hunter Community Rugby League competition.

Now he hopes to return to the field while also maintaining his passion for his mental health work.

“At times covid-19 did affect our clients but it was our job to keep the clients happy and motivated enough through that time and I believe we did that,” he said.

“So, I started an Instagram page called ‘What Lies Beneath’ because I have had mates and fellow teammates attempt suicide (or be successful) at suicide.

“The statistics in men and suicide are not ok and this platform is my way of giving back and hopefully making a huge difference and change in those numbers.”

When looking for a local sporting figure who applies his energy on the field to his passion in his respective industry, we do not need to look further than Hawkins.

The proud spokesman will also be starting a podcast in the coming weeks.

If you’d like to hear more about Jake and his mental health work visit his Instagram page: https://www.instagram.com/what_lies_beneath_podcast/.

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Life After a Professional Athlete’s Career

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Kurt Gidley celebrates his try. Copyright © Renee McKay/Action Photographics.

Newcastle’s homegrown Kurt Gidley is best known for his brilliant career with the Newcastle Knights ending in 2017, leading the star to transition from full time professional sport into a Business Development Manager’s role with Protech Group.

Kurt Gidley grew up a Novocastrian boy, kicking off his first shot at footy in the under 7’s at Wests Rosella’s Newcastle who now own the Newcastle Knights.

His first professional opportunity came to play for the Knights was in the under 17’s S G Ball squad before making his professional debut in 2001. The now footy legend played there for the rest of his NRL career until 2015, going on to play for the Warrington Wolves in the Super League in the UK.

Gidley then retired at the end of 2017, stepping away from professional sport and footy and entering a post footy career business development role. When asked if he knew what direction he wanted to go into when he retired, he said nah not really. “When I was still playing footy, I was always probably going to go down the path of a strength and conditioning coach – I was always pretty fit, I enjoyed motivating and encouraging my teammates and driving accountability,” said Kurt.

Being in a captaincy role with the Knights and Warrington for a number of years, Kurt found he not only enjoyed leadership roles but wanted to take it further professionally in business.

“I was always thinking of going into a strength and conditioning position back at the Knights, but I needed a change and a new challenge by the time I finished playing my footy career and went into a Business Development Management (BDM) role with the Newcastle Knights before an opportunity at Protech arrived,” said Kurt.

Protech provides workforce solutions to the civil infrastructure, construction, rail, engineering, mining resources and power generation maintenance around the country. The mining sector in the Hunter Valley is a vital part of Protech Newcastle’s business success.  

With no previous experience in those industries and certainly stepping into the unknown, Kurt reflected on the things that he learnt in footy when it comes to perseverance, work ethic, a great attitude and willingness to learn. These traits have without a doubt helped him with his transition from a business development role at the Knights to a BDM role at Protech.

When asked about the transition, the former star said, “It was pretty hard to be honest – the transition from a long-term professional athlete into normal workforce hours, I suppose we have always been used to training schedules and routines leading into games, really unstructured compared to a Monday to Friday 40-hour week.”

“I was so used to training and playing whenever the coaching staff told us to. 7 days a week, morning, afternoon or night, public holidays, whatever. There was no such thing a sick leave or the thought of not turning up. We were totally committed to each other, the team, the goal.”

“Transitioning from that type of routine that we are all used to in professional sport into Monday to Friday 9-5, it’s a real challenge with longer days and without that high intensity competitive sport provides – it’s just different to what I was programmed to do for the previous 17 years,” Kurt added.

The decision to move into that Monday to Friday role was made easier with his wife Brooke and 3 young daughters Arabella, Macy and Hallie in mind, now able to enjoy relaxing on weekends and spending time with his family (and of course watching the footy whenever he gets the chance).

Also an ambassador for the Newcastle Knights, Kurt still works at home games, but has enjoyed transitioning away from just being in that sporting environment and learning a bit more around business and how it works.

It can be extremally overwhelming to try and work out what you want to do post career when you’re so focused on a professional sport. Kurt had some great advice for those currently looking at opportunities beyond their sporting career.

“It’s really about making the most of those relationships you meet through business when you’re a player, through sponsorships and through the clubs and different rep teams – they certainly help you when you retire and want to move into a career post footy.”

“I’ve recognised now that the relationships that I’ve built through my footy career and in Newcastle and the Hunter Valley are certainly helping out now with my career at Protech that’s for sure.”

“And you know, it’s not about using your name from my footy career, for me it’s about earning respect and credibility in a new industry and leveraging from those relationships I built with local businesses and people and turning them into genuine business opportunities.”

A Newcastle Knights fanatic myself, Kurt Gidley will always be a sporting legend to me. Now, I also see him as an inspiration in not only challenging himself by transitioning from sport, but using that experience to his full potential to become a brilliant business manager today.

If you’d like to hear more about what Kurt and the Protech Group are doing visit their website at https://www.protech.com.au.

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Now I’m Free Freefallin’

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Josh Mortel is 23 years old, Manager at Mortels Sheepskin Factory and regularly jumps out of planes 15,000ft off the groundfor fun. 

When it comes to pushing your mind and body to the limit, Josh Mortel is an expert. If he’s not at work making and selling high quality sheepskin and leather products, he’s looking for his next action sporting adventure. 

At the age of 16, Josh went skydiving for the first time whilst on a family trip to New Zealand. His sister and father signed up for a tandem skydive, and not wanting to be known as a ‘wuss’ as Josh puts it, he also signed up for the extreme experience. “After the tandem I didn’t think about skydiving much more,” said Josh.

“I thought what so many people think: “skydiving – tandem – done”. I didn’t actually know the depth that skydiving is as a whole.”

Josh has always been an action sport enthusiast, breakdancing at a high level from a young age and participating in parkour and various other extreme sports. “I was always pushing my physical and mental limits,” he said. 

“One day scrolling through my news feed I found a photo of an old friend, him in the sky upside down. At that moment I discovered that skydiving was a sport. I questioned him about it until I eventually sucked up my nerves and booked the AFF course for myself.”

Skydiving is the sport or activity of jumping from an aircraft and performing acrobatic manoeuvres in the air under free fall before landing by parachute. It is known as an ‘extreme sport’ as people jump from an aeroplane at around 10,000ft to 15,000ft in the air and fall to the ground at high speed.

The sport itself has so many levels to it, giving you the option to make it as extreme or as calm as you would like. Some forms of skydiving include solo flying to soak up the view (SOLO skydiving), flying flat on your belly with friends (FS), falling as fast as you can towards the ground (Speed-flying), wingsuit flying (a common favourite), parachute flying (Canopy Piloting), and flying vertically towards the ground in formation (Freeflying). 

To begin skydiving as a sport you need formal training, commonly referred to as “AFF” (Accelerated Free Fall) training. No one is allowed to skydive without this, with the exclusion of tandem skydiving. You can start this training without ever having done a tandem and with absolutely no experience. 

Once your training is complete (this can take anywhere from 1 week to 1 month depending on where you go, weather and money you are willing to spend) then you are free to train in any discipline you like the look of.

“Skydiving is one of the most mentally difficult things that a human can do… imagine standing inside a plane with the door open at 15,000ft then having to look out the door and JUMP,” said Josh.

“Once you step off the door, you are in a whole different planet. It’s 100% complete euphoria, the fear is now gone, and you are free. You are certainly not worried about the amount of toilet paper in your bathroom or what TV show is playing later that night. 40 seconds pass and now you deploy your parachute, once it is open you are now flying at a slow speed, safely towards the ground you’ve done it!”

“When your feet softly touch the ground and you are safe that’s when the emotion really hits, “Wow! I’ve just done that”, and all of a sudden everything in life sounds so much easier. I think to myself ‘I jump out of planes now; I am going to nail this week at work’.”

Josh emphasised the point that anyone can skydive. Skydiving gives you the opportunity to make friends for life from all kinds of backgrounds. “I’ve skydived with lawyers, tradies, marketing consultants, I.T Experts, artists and so much more,” he said. 

There’s no fitness level required, you can simply turn up to your booking and start learning. There’s also a large range of events that skydivers can get involved with including dedicated learning camps or ‘Boogies’ where skydivers get together to have fun in the sky. “The skydiving community is full of fantastic, like-minded people who just love life and everything about it,” said Josh.

“No one is shy of saying G’day and making you feel welcome from day one. I have never seen or heard of any better community in any walk of life. If you go to a drop zone, jumping or no jumping, you will be welcomed with open arms.”

If you’re looking for a thrill, new hobby or an opportunity to make new friends, head to your local drop zone and do a jump. It’s not only lots of fun, but there’s a high chance of your life being changed for the better. 

For more information head to www.APF.com.au 
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