Pinjarra’s ‘footy factory’ producing the goods both on and off the field

If you’re looking for the reason behind the Pinjarra Tigers’ success over the recent Peel Football and Netball League seasons, then look no further than the connection they’ve built with their local high school.

Eleven years ago Pinjarra Senior High School phys ed teacher Anthony Pittman launched the Pinjarra Football Academy (PFA) as a way to engage with his often-times troubled students.

As part of their curriculum, the PFA gave students in years 8-10 the chance to garner some specialised training along with playing inter-school matches and jetting off on footy-based trips to Melbourne.

Pittman’s program struck up a relationship with the town’s local footy club, and since then it’s been nothing but positive results for the school, the Tigers and most importantly, the young men involved.

“We found ourselves struggling to connect with students and really struggling to get them to school, so we came up with the PFA as a way to reward good behaviour and it really resonated with the kids,” Pittman said.

“The connection between the club and the school became an important part of it. Most of the students were already playing juniors at Pinjarra and the academy was a way for them to get a look at senior footy.”

So, what are the results?

The success of the PFA speaks for itself.

Since its inception in 2007, a total 194 students have graduated from the program, with nine going on to win league premierships with the Tigers.

It’s produced seven state representatives, a handful of Peel Thunder players and one AFL premiership player in Kamdyn McIntosh, who won footy’s biggest prize with Richmond last season.

But more importantly, it’s the off-field stats that make the PFA a success.

Fourteen of its graduates have gone on to be student councillors across years 11 and 12, three of which became head boy and a further two were awarded dux of the school.

The Tigers' connection with the Pinjarra Senior High School has led to some stunning results. Photo: Marta Pascual Juanola.

The Tigers' connection with the Pinjarra Senior High School has led to some stunning results. Photo: Marta Pascual Juanola.

A vision for the future

Pittman has since departed from his post teaching sport at Pinjarra Senior High, leaving the academy in the hands of fellow phys ed teachers Paul Galloway, Robert Beswick and Brennan Gillam, who all happen to be long-standing players at the footy club.

The trio share Pittman’s vision for success both on and off the field, and are carrying on his work with the program.

“As teachers, the relationship between the PFA and the football club allows us to observe our boys and help guide them through the different stages of development as footballers and as young men,” Galloway said.

“As players, we see how strong our club remains with so many young players wanting to be a part of the club.

“The program is about being better. Not just as a school or a footy club, but as a community.”