The indigenous community of Maningrida almost defines the term “remote”. It sits on the estuary of the Liverpool River in Arnhem Land, right where it flows into the Arafura Sea. The nearest town of size is Jabiru, “a coupla hundred clicks [kilometres] away” according to one local. Darwin, the nearest capital city, is 400 kilometres away to the west. Like so many other remote communities throughout the “Top End” of Australia, that remoteness can be both its charm and its curse.
When Bernie Price, Regional Development Manager for AFLNT in Maningrida, arrived there after 6 years as a plumber in Yarrawonga, Victoria, he admits to a “slight career change” which has introduced him to an entirely different culture and lifestyle. But it also gave him the chance to interact with indigenous culture and combine that with his love of Australian Rules football.
His role commenced in July 2012 when funding from FaHCSIA (Australian Government Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs) and the ABA (Aboriginal Benefit Account) provided the opportunity for similar positions to be created in the indigenous communities of Gapuwiyak, Lajamanu, Ngukurr and Hermannsburg, as well as Maningrida. This was an expansion of the existing AFLNT program which commenced in Wadeye in 2007 and extended to Galiwinku and Groote Eyelandt in 2009.
Opportunities for junior talent throughout the remote areas of the Northern Territory to follow Australian Rules football pathways have been enhanced, as outlined in this media release from AFLNT.
“AFL Northern Territory’s Remote Projects Department have joined forces with Northern Territory Football League clubs to create and improve talent opportunities available for remote players across the NT.
“The NTFL Partnership Program was initiated with great cooperation from our NTFL Clubs to further develop and fast track the progression of our remote players into our talent pathways,” said AFLNT Indigenous Programs Manager Kevin Bruce.
Each of AFLNT’s nine remote projects where full-time staff are located have been linked with an NTFL team to further foster and develop opportunities. “So far, a total of 38 players from all over the Territory have participated in the program, where they not only play for an NTFL club, but spend 10 days supervised in Darwin learning life skills and participating in all training and recovery sessions that the club has,” advised Bruce.
Head Coach Kevin Sheedy will visit Elcho Island off the coast of Arnhem Land in the Northern Territory tomorrow to launch a new partnership between the Giantsand the Galiwin'ku community. Sheedy, a passionate advocate of Indigenous Australia, will meet members of the community and attend a local football match.
Galiwin'ku, about 520 kilometres from Darwin, is the largest community on Elcho Island and the second largest Aboriginal community in the Northern Territory with a population of 2290 people. It was the inspiration for the song 'My Island Home', originally performed by the Warumpi Band, and later also performed by Christine Anu. It is also home to the blind Aboriginal folk singer Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu.
For a bit of fun take a look at the Youtube video put together by two Australian girls kicking the footy around the world. A similar idea has been mooted before as a promo video for the International Cup with players from each country kicking the footy around the world, but is yet to happen.
Do you remember your first Aussie Rules footy match? I remember mine like it was last week. I was running out onto the ground in my Clayton footy jumper. I was so proud. The club wore Collingwood colours (and being an Essendon supporter, I still have involuntary tremors…even today). It was 1972, I felt ten feet tall and….
Hold on a moment! That statement is not correct. Not even close. Why? Because my selection to wear the purple and gold of the Clayton South Primary School footy team pre-dated club football in black and white by a good twelve months. In fact, I still remember my dad suggesting that if I did well enough in the school team, he would let me play in the local league the following year.
I’m quite sure that many readers of this article might also look back into their pasts and find a connection to school footy at some point. The more I think of it, my school days were responsible for some of my greatest footy moments. My first recorded “speccy” attempt was one. I missed the ball and slid quite gracelessly off the back of my opponent step ladder, winding myself. But it was possibly the highest I ever flew. The captain of my high school team in the late seventies was a certain Chris Mew, who would later become an integral part of one of the greatest Hawthorn squads in history through the 80’s and 90’s. In the same team, however, was one kid who went on to play reserves for Essendon and South Melbourne, and another whose older brother was a part of the inaugural Sydney Swans team in 1982. Through school footy I managed to meet some pretty fine players. Actually, in some ways, school footy in my Victorian upbringing was a bit like a “best of” team, with a cross section of some of the finest local talent attending the same school.
There is a fairly widely held knowledge that Australian Rules football can be traced back to as early as the 1860’s in the south east corner of Queensland, most particularly Brisbane. It has taken far longer, however, for the game to break into many northern markets.
Even though there were sporadic outbreaks in places like the Atherton Tablelands and Thursday Island, they were generally linked to the stationing of servicemen in those areas and rarely survived beyond the war years, unless absorbed into other competitions. It was not until the 1950’s that competitions began in Townsville (1955), Cairns (1956) and Mount Isa (1957).
But in 1969 there was much correspondence sent between Mackay and Victoria. In a situation which must almost echo the storyline of the movie, The Shawshank Redemption, where Tim Robbins’s character writes to the authorities so often that they give in and send him money for library books, the Australian National Football Council (precursor to the AFL Commission) gave in and sent fifty dollars to Mackay to help pay for stationary to allow the paperwork to go ahead for the creation of another centre of Australian Rules football in North Queensland. Fifty bucks to get started!
The city of Townsville, located 1300 kilometres north of the Queensland state capital of Brisbane, is not generally considered to be a major player in Australian Rules football. In fact, this city of approximately 190,000 people has other features and pursuits which have forced the national game into the background.
Ask most people who are familiar with the northern city what they know of the place and the list is likely to include the Lavarack Military Barracks and RAAF Base, James Cook University, the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, Castle Hill, Magnetic Island or the North Queensland Cowboys national Rugby League team. Australian Rules football still remains a small niche market, supported by some, but largely anonymous to the remainder of the population.
But 2013 could see that profile change radically as Townsville will become one of the key hubs of Australian Rules football in the country, if only for a short time.
Townsville’s Festival of Footy will run from February to April, featuring some of the best local, state, national and international Aussie Rules in the country at that time.
A little over six months ago a small Australian Rules football club in northern Australia had an idea.
In a deliberate bid to turn around negative perceptions of their club, they looked at social media, specifically Facebook, to begin contacting clubs as possible “friends”. But like anything enjoyable, one or two friends became nine or ten. Before long, the club had hatched an idea of having a group of “Brother Clubs”.
So the term “Brother Club” was bandied about, but many people did not really know what it meant. Some clubs jumped at the chance and became “brothers”. Other clubs, being a little more sceptical, held off in case it was some brand new “scheme” which would ultimately result in a risk to money or image. Both fair points given what is out there on “the net”.
But the “Brother Club” idea is not new and is not a threat. For the simplest comparison, consider the world wide concept of sister cities, where cities around the world come together for geographical, cultural, social or economic reasons to be friends for the small price of a lovely plaque and maybe a small civic event to celebrate it. From there, those cities decide whether they do anything else.
Young Tyrese Bounghi, from Gordonvale State School in North Queensland, probably has to pinch himself every now and then. A week ago he was just another normal 12 year old boy going to school and playing footy.
But last Saturday he wore a football jumper donated by the Vietnam Swans Australian Rules Football Club based in Saigon. Now he is about to become the pride and joy of his home towns of Yarrabah and Gordonvale as a new face of international Aussie Rules football.
Last Saturday saw an International Day in Yarrabah, a small indigenous community east of Cairns, which was organised by local club Pyramid Power Junior AFL Club. At this event, kids from the community were asked to come down, have a kick and wear the donated jumpers from a number of international clubs. These included the Manchester Mosquitoes (England), Reading Kangaroos (England), Dublin Demons (Ireland), Orange County Bombers (California, USA), Baulkham Hills Hawks (Sydney, NSW) and the Vietnam Swans. Photos of the boys were sent around the world, and the shot of Tyrese was seen by the Swannies, prompting the club to request an interview with him to encourage a cultural exchange and further the “Brother Club” concept developed by Pyramid Power.
The AFL is pleased to announce Australia Post AFL Multicultural Ambassador Bachar Houli has been named an inaugural winner of the Award for Muslim and non-Muslim Understanding.
In a partnership between the University of South Australia’s Centre for Muslim and non-Muslim Understanding and the Australia Day Council, the award was established to highlight the efforts of people around the nation who are contributing to social harmony and community cohesion.
As the first devout Muslim to play AFL, Richmond defender Bachar Houli has become a leading influence for many young Australian Muslims.
AFL National Community Engagement Manager Jason Mifsud said Bachar Houli is committed to strengthening cultural awareness and has shown he is a great community leader.