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Why it’s time to get serious about the AFL team in the Northern Territory

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I was crazy about sports, but my heroes played football in Darwin – people like St. Mary’s champion goalkeeper Brian Stanislav, the late, the great Jerry Frank, Nathan Buckley (my favorite player when I was young) and defender Russell Jeffrey (which has taught me a lot and is my personal favorite), some of these names are familiar to AFL fans, some less so.

AFL NT chairman Sean Bowden, Michael McLean and Latisha Jeffrey pose for a portrait on the shore in Darwin, Northern Territory.Credit:Crystal Wright

My dad was Captain Palmerston’s prime minister in 1980-81 when they were North Darwin, and then in my career I played against Nakiya Kakadu and Brendan Parfit’s father before I joined Katak. I was lucky enough to play all my junior and senior feet with Aaron Davy, the man who invented the role of forward, his brother Alvin Davy and Trent Hentchel, who was on his way to becoming a star in the AFL before injuring his knee.

In Cats I played two flags and lived with Brad Ottens (a man I refer to as a family) who grew up on a livestock station near Catherine, one of many non-native stars such as Nathan Buckley, Sam Walsh (yes, we will demand him since he played junior football in Darwin), and Joel Bowden, who learned the art in the Top End.

They know what a game of feet in the north is, adapting to the heat and humidity, like most of us territorials need to adapt to the cold if we are expected to make a career out of playing in the south.

We all know the rich football culture and the role it plays in shaping communities in the area.

Many of our children in the Land crave some dream, but the dream is too far away. Dream on TV. The dream must be in our backyard to increase the number of Cyril Riolis making a career in the AFL.

The Territorial Club would be an unconventional model in a unique part of the world, a team and organization that provides a fresh look at a game that screams with excitement and something else.

It would unite the aborigines and the inhabitants of the island of Torres Strait and the non-natives and would give the youth of their city what they should strive for.

Many of our children in the Land crave some dream, but the dream is too far away. Dream on TV. The dream must be in our backyard to increase the number of Cyril Riolis making a career in the AFL.

How much did Cyril Riolis miss over the years because the dream felt too far away?

Holding the game on our doorstep for more than two rounds a season will also expand the opportunity for more players to come out of communities outside Darwin, the Tivi Islands and Alice Springs.

Liam Jura of Yeundumu is not the only talented footballer to live in the community, and the chances of people from remote communities making a career in football only increase when the team is based in the North West.

Liam Jura celebrates the goal in 2011.

Liam Jura celebrates the goal in 2011.Credit:Pat Rock

Such can be a team and a club, a force for positive change in society and an opportunity to improve connections between people of different backgrounds from across the country.

Living, working and playing football on the Territory may not be for everyone, but a calm but competitive approach in the region would be a bonus for playing at risk of creating clubs that don’t have clear faces.

Hunting and fishing are always happening, and everywhere there are picturesque landscapes that combined with a football career would be appealing to many.

My eyes blurred at the thought of eating Chinese at Happy Gardens, drinking Paul’s Iced Coffee or one of Mary’s lax (Darwin’s people know what I’m talking about) as former Melbourneans could go to Pellegrini’s Espresso Bar or hike to Vic Market.

Business is vital as mining companies and defense forces are huge in the area, and proximity to Asian markets is an advantage that will only grow.

A Bastion report published in the middle of last year set out a realistic business case for the team and said the economic benefit to the area could be up to $ 559 million.

NT Sports Minister Kate Warden, a member of the task force, recently told ABC that the team could attract sponsors who want to make a social impact.

But the social side of the foot in the Territory is undeniable and can make a huge difference if part of the money is poured into programs designed to support people from Alice Springs to the Tivi Islands.

And it would realize the AFL’s ambitions to become the number one sport in the country, a game that unites people.

Here is my best Northern Territory team (of the players in my life). I challenge anyone to create a Tasmanian team that could defeat this group from the Northern Territory.

Matthew Stokes is a man from Larakia who has played 200 games with Geelong and Esendan. He played in Geelong’s premier teams in 2007 and 2011.

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