Word seeping out of Darwin suggests that a Hawthorn and, AFL and Northern Territory legend might be making a comeback…if not this weekend, maybe soon after.
Seems an inevitability, but Cyril Rioli might once again weave his magic on the football field when he possibly lines up for the Tiwi Bombers tomorrow in their NTFL Premier League match against St Marys. Only months after being announced as an assistant coach for the Bombers, the club’s winless start to the season has given rise to a possible Rioli revival.
Before his stellar career with Hawthorn, Rioli was a Tiwi Bombers junior. It has been a long journey since then, and is now coming full circle. Rioli is expected to don the #44 jumper for the Bombers
The 2019 season is over for the five key Northern and Central Queensland football leagues. Winners might still be partying; others might still be planning, building and devising ways to bring down the Goliaths with a slingshot next season. Here is an overview of those premiership results.
The Port Douglas Crocs have made it five flags in six seasons as their dynasty continues to grow. Already they are looking to challenge the perennially successful Cairns Saints as the league’s most successful club – a few flags to go yet, but they are well on their way. Their 34-point win over South Cairns Cutters was done the hard way. Trailing at three-quarter time, they unleashed a seven goal to one blitz to take the flag. Cutters were able to take out the reserve grade premiership whilst the North Cairns Tigers club, having endured a horrid season, saw light when their women’s team took the flag.
Seniors - Port Douglas Crocs 15 9 99 d South Cairns Cutters 9 11 65
Reserves – South Cairns Cutters 12 11 83 d Manunda Hawks 8 5 53
Women’s – North Cairns Tigers 4 11 35 d Cairns Saints 2 6 18
An audacious question from the Essendon Football Club during the second day of Trade Week could see Collingwood's cult hero, Mason Cox, change his American Pie stripes for a Bomber sash. News today from AFL House revealed that Essendon had asked the question of Collingwood as to whether a deal could be cut involving a future draft pick.
Essendon is on the hunt for tall forward players to replace the likely departure of their own hero, Joe Daniher, who may be on his way to the Sydney Swans. Essendon has a shortage of ruckmen and faces losing their best key forward in Daniher. It seems logical that Cox be asked about as he has played both roles in his 58-game (71 goal) career with the Pies.
The move isn't being wholly embraced by Bomber fans, though that won't be in the minds of Essendon recruiters.
In reality, it is probably too early to claim a resurgence after a single round of football. Nevetheless, after the opening NTFL Round on the weekend, three teams signalled that they are seeking bigger and better things out of the 2019/20 season. Whilst the Nightcliff Tigers started well in their bid to defend its premiership title, St Mary’s, wanderers and the Darwin Buffaloes all took steps to rectify last season.
In the season opener, the Darwin Buffaloes trounced the Tiwi Bombers. After finishing fifth last season with just eight wins (and only twice reaching 100 points in a match) the Darwin Buffaloes limped to the end of the season with successive hidings from Waratah. The Tiwi Bombers reached the Preliminary Final. So, their 113-point caning of the Bombers was as much an upset as a statement.
In just a little over two weeks’ time, the new NTFL season will get under way. The weekend of 5th and 6th October will see the eight Premier League teams back in action along with all other men’s, women’s and junior competitions.
It is arguably the most exciting time of the year for all fans as the beginning of a new season, where all teams start again at ground zero, and fans of all clubs can have their dreams and hopes for the next flag, next finals appearance, next win.
The opening round leaps straight into where last year’s story ended. The Grand Final replay between the Nightcliff Tigers and Southern Districts Crocs helps open the season as part of a TIO Stadium double-header on the Saturday night. The season opens with two of last season’s other finalists clashing with the Darwin Buffaloes up against the Tiwi Bombers.
The Cairns City Lions will play finals in 2019. To anyone outside of Cairns, that phrase could be met with little interest. However, in the Far North Queensland city, with a big local following of Australian Rules football, a return to finals football for the Lions is nothing short of remarkable.
Coach Aaron Davey, himself best known as a star player for the Melbourne Demons over 178 games between 2004 and 2013 for 174 goals and four International Rules games for Australia, has arrived at a club on the brink of extinction and saved it.
Admittedly, he hasn’t done it on his own. He has had the buy-in of the club committee, players, supporters and local community, scattered largely over the Cairns’ Northern Beaches and especially Holloways Beach where the club is based. It has been a genuine club effort to stare defeat in the face and laugh at it.
The kids came from everywhere, seemingly. From Gladstone to the south of Rockhampton, north to the Torres Strait and scattered inland towns and cities, school teams descended on the Barrier Reef Arena at Harrup Park in Mackay, North Queensland. It was a showcase of school talent – the North Queensland championships of the Queensland Schools Cup.
Queensland footy continues to grow – at grass roots and the highest level. The Brisbane Lions’ win over Geelong this weekend saw them go to the top of the AFL ladder with a round to go before finals. The Gold Coast Suns have had a horrid season, yet they boast four Cairns players in Jack Bowes, Jarrod Harbrow, Jacob Heron and Caleb Graham.
Next season, the AFLW will feature Cairns’ women Elisha King (North Melbourne) and Kitara Farrar-Whap (Gold Coast).
However, the championships played last week in Mackay featured the future beyond those players already mentioned. Amongst the teams of primary and secondary aged students who took the fields last Tuesday were the next breed – the next Jack Bowes or the next Elisha King.
It’s late July, which means it’s crunch time for footy teams all across Australia. As for the growing handful of American expats playing local footy in Melbourne and beyond, it’s also a chance to cement a spot in a side heading into the postseason.
As mentioned previously here on WFN, the number of Americans having a go has greatly increased, particularly in the women’s game. The Western Bulldogs recently made history by signing Dani Marshall from the Arizona Lady Hawks, making her the first US player to make it onto an AFLW list. Marshall, a versatile athlete, had a recent audition with the Bulldogs’ VFLW side in between a stint at Aberfeldie in the Essendon District Football League.
Meanwhile, the Darebin Falcons women’s team has gained a new American: Valerie Barber-Axthelm, who arrived in June. Ever since the 2017 International Cup, the former Seattle Grizzly had long hoped to pursue footy opportunities in Australia, and when her husband got approved for a visa to study for his PhD at the University of Melbourne, she decided to have a crack. A hard-working defender, Barber-Axthelm has been able to carve out a niche for the Falcons’ D1 side, which is currently standing at second on the ladder with a 9-2 record.
Legendary former Hawthorn superstar, Cyril Rioli, will return to the game in an assistant coaching role for the Tiwi Bombers in the Northern Territory Football League (NTFL). After his seemingly sudden retirement from the highest level of footy during the 2018 season.
Since then there has been wide speculation as to whether Rioli would return to Hawthorn, return to footy in Darwin or simply remain retired and use his experience behind the scenes. The Tiwi Bombers are delighted that Rioli has chosen to link with the club that hails from his home islands – the Tiwi Islands – north of Darwin.
Rioli, who remained on the islands until he was eight years old, moved to Darwin and then by age 14 was boarding at Scotch College in Melbourne until being drafted by Hawthorn in 2008. Since then, a legend grew – four premierships, a Norm Smith medal, three All-Australian selections, 189 games and 275 goals (some the most memorable in AFL history).
The following story by Hamish McLachlan, printed in the NT News this week, highlights the incredibly difficult journey of indigenous footballers, as recently as just 25 years ago.
In fact, in my own position coaching here in Cairns, North Queensland, I can say with certainty that the racism highlighted by former St Kilda star and media personality Gilbert McAdam, still exists amongst sections of communities. This story is important reading for the focus it brings to a topic that is too often treated with lip service, and at worst, ignored.
I was listening to David Letterman and Barack Obama talking about racism recently. Letterman said, “We can define racism. But we can’t explain it”.
The former US President responded with something like, “People come up with all sorts of reasons to try and put themselves over others, but biologically, there is no reality to racism — we made it up — but over time it manifests itself in very concrete ways and becomes a social reality, with very real impacts”.