If you told Harry Himmelberg five years ago he would be one of the up-and-coming stars of the AFL he would have laughed.
Growing up in country NSW, he thought he had limited opportunities to follow his dream of becoming an elite sportsman.
However today, that’s exactly what he is – and the popular GWS Giant said he has the opportunities offered to him by his Catholic school education to thank for his incredible success.
Standing at nearly 200cm, the lanky forward from Wagga Wagga took part in the NSW Catholic Schools Sports Services (NSWCCC) program which enables students – no matter where they live or are schooled to have the opportunity to represent their sport at a state and national level – and be watched by talent scouts across the country.
For Harry, growing up out of the city meant he still had the same opportunities offered as the city kids and showcased in front of AFL recruiters who recognised his future talent.
“Sometimes I can’t believe what has happened and that I am playing for the GWS Giants, if you had of told me that when I had started high school I would have laughed,” the 22-year-old told Connect.
“Growing up in a rural area does make it difficult when you are deciding on a career as you don’t have the same opportunities you get growing up in the city …. or so I thought.
“The NSWCCC program holds a lot of weight and is hugely respected not just by talent scouts in the AFL but in all sports.
“I can’t thank them enough as well as the Giants for having faith in me.”
And faith is something Harry holds very dear to him. A former student of Mater Dei Primary and High School, he says it is something which has enabled him to have a very special relationship with his family and in particular his grandparents.
“I guess when you are growing up it can be hard to find something you have in common with your grandparents purely because of the age difference,” he said.
“Our faith provided us with a very special bond. We would all go to Mass together every Sunday and experience our faith together.
“It’s the one thing you can share with someone no matter how old they are.
“In a way my faith – and therefore my involvement with NSWCCC – is the reason for where I am today.”
Established in the mid-‘90s, the NSWCCC was the response to the NSW Government’s call for all students to have access to state and national sport representation.
Today, it provides opportunities in 22 sports for 112,835 Catholic school students to participate at school, interschool, diocesan, state, and national levels.
NSWCSSS Executive Officer Kym Skerritt said they quite simply offered students the chance to be Catholic through sport.
She said they were very proud of the success achieved to date, both on and off the sporting field.
“Many Catholic students have gone on to represent Australia at the Olympic Games, Paralympic Games and World Championships identified by our association,” she said.
“We have assisted families that may have been financially struggling to meet costs as well as those students in isolated rural areas.
“And to be honest, it’s not only the gold medals that we measure our success on. It is the friendships we see develop, the acceptance of the difference in individuals and the pure joy of participating in physical activity.
“The success of this program is based on the enthusiasm and professionalism of the teachers in Catholic schools.
“School sport is changing, and we look forward to embracing those changes and continue to give our students opportunities and experiences where they can use their God-given talents.”
* Be in the running to win a family pass to the GWS GIANTS v Gold Coast Suns clash at Spotless Stadium on June 9! Email your name and phone number to this address: [email protected]