Josh Hill coached the Hill squad in the Dreamtime at the G curtain raiser. (PHOTO CREDIT: Tim Murdoch)
Josh Hill has played over 170 AFL games. He’s kicked 226 goals at the elite level.
He’s played on the grandest stage of all, the 2015 AFL Grand Final. There’s been 10 finals all up, as well as eight Indigenous Round games.
The 29-year-old rates the lead-up to Saturday, June 2 as “up there with all of those achievements”.
As the AFL celebrated Sir Doug Nicholls Round, the first-year Northern Blue — who will play his 50th VFL game this Sunday — had an active role in nurturing the next generation of indigenous talent.
Alongside former Essendon player Courtenay Dempsey, the ‘Hill squad’ ran out prior to the Bombers and Tigers clash at the MCG.
Hill coached the squad flanked by Andrew Krakouer and Hayden Rickard, with 50 of the best players aged between 18 and 24 strutting their stuff at the home of football.
“It was a great honour, to have a team named after me and coach these young guys as they ran out in a curtain raiser before Dreamtime at the ‘G,” Hill said.
“Being the senior coach with the support of Andrew and Hayden, we helped the boys with mindset and focuses which a player would go through.
“As well as that was helping them build their leadership skills and being young role models in their families.
“I loved seeing them embrace the occasion and soak up the whole week, they had some amazing opportunities and experiences which they loved.”
Some of those experiences included a training session at the Essendon Football Club, a meeting with some of Richmond’s premiership players, a tour of the Channel 7 network and historical teachings of the Aboriginal culture.
Capping that all off for the youngsters was a war cry, firstly at Essendon and then in Federation Square. As Hill recounted, it drew a crowd and the youngsters “lapped it up”.
“Seeing them practice the war cry and the witnessing them doing it in front of a crowd of people… It was one of the major highlights,” Hill said.
“It’s definitely something I’ll cherish.”
The whole process marked a significant occasion for Hill, as he hopes to make the transition from player to coach.
After producing his best individual performance of the year earlier that afternoon against Geelong, Hill said it was a challenge shifting his mindset from player to coach of the squad.
“It was a big change-up from being a player to then coaching: individually, it was challenging at first,” Hill said.
“Being looked at as a coach, you’re someone who people look to for answers: it’s a step I need to take to being respected as a coach.
“More than that, it’s a chance to help share my knowledge with younger players anywhere and whenever I can.”
While the lead-up to Dreamtime was his first in the capacity, Hill hoped that it wouldn’t be his last.
As someone who played in eight of the last nine Sir Doug Nicholls Rounds, the former Bulldog and Eagle is keen to expand on his involvement in coming years.
“I’m definitely hoping to be involved much more, with whatever opportunities open up,” Hill said.
“Any involvement with coaching or indigenous programs, I want to help and be a part of as much as I can.”
Hill and the Northern Blues will return to action this Sunday, when they head to the Swinburne Centre (Punt Road Oval) to take on Richmond from 12pm.