Dodd’s regret ignites passion for Indigenous Youth education

Proud Ngarrindjeri/Narrrunga/Kaurna man and former Adelaide United Captain, Travis Dodd, knows as well as anybody the power of football.

Proud Ngarrindjeri/Narrrunga/Kaurna man and former Adelaide United Captain, Travis Dodd, knows as well as anybody the power of football.

But he has also come to know the power of education.

After a successful career across Adelaide and with United between 2005 and 2011, Dodd tallied 41 goals in 183 games in all competitions to be the third-most prolific goal scorer in the Club’s history.

Since he called time on his playing career, Dodd has been a trailblazer for creating and promoting pathways into the sport for Indigenous youth through education and cultural development first – and then football.

The addition of the world game to South Australian Aboriginal Sports Training Academy (SAASTA) for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Students in Years 10, 11, and 12 was led by Dodd as an extension of the Department of Education’s pre-existing program that offered other sports.

Travis Dodd working as a pundit at Coopers Stadium.

However, Dodd notes the power of education as even more important for young people in addition to sport as an outlet, citing his own regrets not finishing Year 12.

“Football and sport create a vehicle to engage kids in further education, which is what SAASTA helps to provide and I’m really enjoying this ambassador role,” Dodd said.

“It’s great, on one hand, to say we’re getting more kids to play the game, but the reality is the most important part of it is that we are engaging kids to continue to go to school.

“They get a good education, and we can start talking to them about other things like mental health and wellbeing and all those things that are so important for kids at that age group.

“It’s something that I didn’t do; I left school when I was 16 for football and it was something I regretted, and it took me a long time to realise, but when I got to the back-end of my career I wish I had gone all the way through with my studies.”

Sunday’s first home game of 2022/23 against Perth Glory is also a celebration of Indigenous Football Week in partnership with the John Moriarty Foundation (JMF).

There will be a live Welcome to Country and representatives from Dodd’s SAASTA program will form a guard of honour for the Reds and Glory players as they enter the field.

Further, there will be players from his other passion project in South Australian Indigenous Football (SAIF), and for the first time SA will be competing in the First Nations Indigenous Football Cup in Brisbane next week.

This was all initiated by Dodd, who at 42, will be pulling on the boots once again in a further display of leadership and a sign of the quality human being, and player, that he is.

“I’m really looking forward to that and, more broadly post this tournament, we’re looking to go out into regional and metro communities to be able to deliver football programs to kids,” he said.

“It’s similar to what JMF is doing but we’re just looking to all contribute when we can and just promote this game to as many kids as we can across the country.”

Dodd also represents JMF on the Indigenous Football Australia Council alongside the likes of former Matildas Captain, Kate Gill, AFL legend, Adam Goodes, and former Socceroo and human rights activist, Craig Foster.

They make key decisions on expanding Indigenous Football in Australia, certainly ensuring no further regrets in his ever-growing experience.

Travis Dodd scored goals for fun while with the Reds.

He notes that Goodes could have been a soccer player if the pathways like SAASTA and the SAIF had been there, with growing opportunities to find that ‘generational talent’ for SA becoming more and more evident.

Dodd himself entered football like many wish it could be so easy; he was simply very good at the game.

He would “go with a mate from school” and walk to his first club – Saint Augustine’s Soccer Club – around the corner from his childhood Salisbury home for the next eight years before testing himself further at Adelaide City.

The boy from Salisbury would go on to Captain his State team in United from 2008 to 2011 and became the first to play 100 competitive games for the Club.

He was also the first Australian, let alone Aboriginal Australian, to score a hat-trick in the Asian Champion’s League, and played for the Socceroos twice, scoring once.

Looking back to the future that is Sunday and Dodd, who will be in attendance, is looking forward to a special occasion for Indigenous representation on a national stage.

“It’s great to be able to have recognition from the league to support what JMF has been doing.

“I mean, it’s been a lot of hard work that John has put in over the years to be able to expose kids to the game and provide educational outcomes, which has been fantastic.

“To raise awareness, not only within the game, but in Australia broadly because it’s going to be such a big week and match for United too is fantastic.”

United has partnered with the John Moriarty Foundation this Indigenous Football Week upon the Club’s Hindmarsh homecoming this weekend.

We commit to celebration inclusion, ensuring our game is culturally safe, and promoting opportunities for Aboriginal Australians in football and education.

To donate to the John Moriarty Foundation, click here.

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