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Friday, October 20 2017 @ 05:39 PM ACDT

“Diamonds of the Dust” on loan from Tiwi Bombers to Diamond Creek

AustraliaThe Tiwi Islands off the coast of Darwin in the Northern Territory are famed for the Tiwi Bombers Football Club, whose number includes many first rate Indigenous players. However it is not just the men who are skilled with the football, as the Tiwi Bombers have long had a Youth Girls side to develop the female talent too. On the back of this, two of the Tiwi Islands female players, Gladys Puruntatameri and J-Lee Puautjimi, have been “loaned” to Melbourne’s Diamond Creek Football Club, in the southern state of Victoria, to train and play in Australia’s top women’s football league: the VWFL.

This unusual player transfer is part of the Tapalinga (Shining Star) Award, a leadership program created by Diamond Creek WFC and the Northern Territory based Starwin Management. As well as being allowed to play in the VWFL for up to five games this season, the award also includes three visits to Melbourne. The first excursion was from April 4-15 and included playing two games of football for the Creekers, visits to three AFL clubs, tickets to an AFL match and entry into a Melbourne International Comedy Festival show.

Starwin Management spokeswoman Karina Gray said the award was created to identify young leaders from the local community. “It has been hugely successful so far,” she added. “Everywhere we go we meet the most fantastic people. We hope that the girls can learn from the Melbourne visits and take something back to the Tiwi Island community.”

A large part of this cultural exchange will most certainly be an insight into what makes the Victorian state team the undefeatable and inspirational leader of women’s football that it is. Puruntatameri’s first impressions were that the Melbourne style was different to the way the women’s game was played back in the Tiwi Islands. She also said the VWFL team’s training was harder and at a much higher level than what she was used to. No doubt the NT Thunder will be making notes on the pair’s experiences in preparation for this year’s Women’s National Championships in June.

So far the “Diamonds of the Dust” have enjoyed their time in Melbourne, though Puautjimi admitted to being a bit homesick. However, the cool Autumn temperatures in Melbourne have so far done little to put the pair off their football, with Puautjimi scoring the opening goal in Diamond Creek’s Round 1 game against VWFL powerhouse team Darebin Falcons, which was streamed live from Coburg Oval on the VWFL’s YouTube channel. Puruntatameri also got a goal in the final quarter, but the Creekers unfortunately went on to lose the game 5.2(32) to 11.10(76).

In Round 2, Puautjimi scored a goal against St Kilda Sharks, and the Creekers went on to win the game by 9.8(62) to 5.5(35).

Whilst in they are visiting Melbourne, the two players stay with a host family – none other than Diamond Creek’s coach Grant Barden. Barden had a hand in establishing the award, and was inspired when his two sons went to play with the Tiwi Bombers last year.

The Tiwi pair will next visit Melbourne later in May, where they will play one game for the Creekers and will have the opportunity to participate in The Long Walk, a charity event inspired by Essendon FC’s legendary Indigenous player Michael Long, who walked over 650 km from Melbourne to Parliament House in Canberra. They will also be invited to attend Dreamtime at the G, the annual Round 9 match between Essendon and Richmond which is the highlight of AFL Indigenous Round.

The July visit will include playing two matches for the Creekers and participation in Melbourne’s NAIDOC Week (National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee) activities.

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