Ugle-Hagan can help solve Dogs’ Indigenous shortage
Western Bulldogs hope the arrival of Jamarra Ugle-Hagan brings an influx Indigenous talent and shatters their perceived disconnect with Indigenous people.
The club's long search for an Indigenous player will end in triumphant fashion when it drafts Next Generation Academy star Ugle-Hagan on Wednesday night, most likely with the coveted No.1 pick.
The Dogs employed Brett Goodes as Indigenous Programs Manager in 2018 and he has completed a power of work creating a supportive framework, predominantly off-field, for players such as Ugle-Hagan.
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"It's a significant moment (drafting Ugle-Hagan) and I can't wait to watch him grow as a young man," Goodes said.
"In many ways his cultural connection, his background and his family history will be an amazing resource for the club."
The Dogs dedicated their 2019-2020 Indigenous jumper to Goodes but have not had an Indigenous player on their AFL or AFLW list since delisting Category B rookie Tristan Tweedie in 2017.
They have spent several years actively trying to break the drought, but struck out in trade pursuits of Jarman Impey (2017), Chad Wingard (2018) and Jack Martin (2019), and also missed out on drafting Kysaiah Pickett (Melbourne) last year.
Joel Hamling was the last Indigenous player to wear a Bulldog jumper, in the 2016 Grand Final, and the Dogs were the only club without an Indigenous player in 2020.
Richmond's Grand Final line-up boasted Shane Edwards, Daniel Rioli, Shai Bolton and Marlion Pickett.
"It's important we worked the last few years to ensure the club was in the best place possible for a young Indigenous coming in," Goodes said.
"That was our focus - through the Reconciliation Action Plan and through the AFL's initiative in the Next Generation Academy - to be part of the development of these young boys and girls.
"So that when they get there it's not a shock to the system and it's not having to deal with all these changes, which can be chaotic for most young people and magnified coming from a minority background.
"Jamarra's been part of the program for a number of years now, so he'll slip straight in."
The Bulldogs signed Wingard's close mate Jackson Trengove as a free agent shortly before the 2018 trade period and were confident they would also land the dual All-Australian.
But Wingard's realisation that the Bulldogs had no Indigenous players helped him settle on Hawthorn, where he joined Shaun Burgoyne and Impey.
"It would've been great to have guys like Wingard, Impey and Martin already at the club, the transition for Jamarra would be so much smoother," Goodes said.
"But Jamarra is the type of kid who is really well-supported and he's got family in Melbourne as well as back home in Warrnambool.
"Having young Jamarra in the door now hopefully we can build on that," said Goodes, who left Whitten Oval last year.
Ugle-Hagan could help rewrite history at a club that has rarely been blessed with Indigenous greats.
Jarrod Harbrow (70 games), Koby Stevens, Josh Hill and Liam Jones (all 66), Koby Stevens (63), Hamling (23) and Goodes (22) were serviceable this century, while 200-game star Lindsay Gilbee discovered he had Indigenous roots this year.
Nicky Winmar enjoyed a 1999 cameo at the Dogs, but you have to go back to Michael 'Magic' McLean (95 games) in the 1980s for the club's last recognised Indigenous star.
Goodes said Indigenous board member Belinda Duarte was an "amazing resource" for the Dogs as mercurial left-footer Ugle-Hagan will help turn the wheel.
"When I left the club my big efforts were to make sure there was a supportive framework in place for the people at the club to know what they needed to do to support a young indigenous man or woman coming in to play AFL," he said.
"That support is mainly off-field and who you can utilise. The on-field stuff takes care of itself."
Originally published as Ugle-Hagan can help solve Dogs' Indigenous shortage