Not every kid in junior footy circles can say their coach is a Sydney Swans star with 106 games beside his name.
But that is exactly the case for a host of QBE Sydney Swans Academy boys as they pursue their childhood dreams of one day running out for the Swans.
Sydney speedster Harry Cunningham is this year coaching Academy boys in the under-11s through to under-15s – and the 25-year-old hopes they’ll one day join him in a Swans guernsey.
But at the centre of Cunningham’s focus is the youngsters nailing the basics of footy.
“Basics in AFL footy these days stand out, so if you can execute your skills and do that under pressure it goes a long way in footy,” Cunningham told SwansTV.
“At their age I’m just telling them to enjoy themselves, work hard and do the basics really well. If you can do the basics over and over, and under pressure, it’ll do a lot for your game.
“It’s pretty important at that stage of their development to have someone help them out and grow them, and hopefully they can one day join me on the Sydney Swans list.”
Although Cunningham isn’t officially overseeing the girls’ age groups, the Wagga Wagga-born Swan enjoys offering them occasional pointers.
The Swans last year launched a Youth Girls Program which in 2019 has grown to under-12, under-13 and under-14 age groups.
The Academy will add another age group every year until it reaches an under-18s squad, and the Swans plan to have a team competing in the AFLW competition from season 2022.
Cunningham was full of praise for the opportunity the Youth Girls Program provided.
“It’s hugely important and special for not only the girls, who are training and striving for something, but the club as well that the Youth Girls Program is in place,” Cunningham said.
“We’re striving to get a women’s team in the near future, so for the girls to now have a platform to train and grow as players and people is very special. I can see they’re enjoying it along the way; they’re always smiling and are working very hard. It’s good the girls have that pathway to be able to lead into the AFLW competition in the near future.”
Cunningham signed with Sydney as a rookie ahead of season 2012 and hopes to don the red and white for many years to come.
But he says coaching kids post-footy is a genuine possibility.
“I can definitely see myself moving into that field post-footy, so to be able to work with (Academy General Manager) Chris Smith and the Academy, to be able to progress and to be able to build on my passion for coaching – it’s wonderful and something I look forward to.”