Today I would like to use my time to congratulate the APY Thunder and the Yuendumu football teams.
These two teams contested the Inaugural Desert Spirit Cup Grand Final, which was held on Sunday at the MCG before the Collingwood versus Port Power football match. Both teams put on a great display for a huge crowd, and South Australia’s APY Thunder ran out eventual winners on the day.
Incidentally, the APY players wore a modified Port Power away strip, so it was good to see at least one team wearing that guernsey show some fight last Sunday!
In all seriousness, Port is to be commended for supporting the Desert Spirit Cup. Both Port Power and Adelaide hosted APY and MT/Yalata players two weeks ago during the AFL’s Indigenous Round, and I congratulate both South Australian AFL clubs for their involvement.
I am sure that members saw TV footage of the young indigenous footballers spending time with role models such as Bunji McLeod, Graham Johncock and the Burgoyne brothers at both West Lakes and Alberton.
APY Thunder, a combined APY/Maralinga Tjarutja side, was selected following the annual Indigenous Lands Challenge Cup, played at AAMI Stadium during the Indigenous Round. Players chosen represented teams including Penong, Ceduna, Yalata and South Augusta. Their opponents, Yuendumu, hail from the Northern Territory.
The Desert Spirit Cup is a joint project between the governments of the Northern Territory, South Australia and Victoria, the Port Adelaide and Collingwood football clubs, together with support from the Australian Football League and the Melbourne Cricket Club.
The teams have played each other annually in Adelaide for the past four years, but this was the first time they have faced each other at the spiritual home of football and in front of such a large crowd. I will share with members a match report which came from the Northern Territory News yesterday and which states:
Yuendumu’s moment in the spotlight will make up for whatever pain the APY Thunder inflicted on the Magpies at the MCG on Sunday. The South Australian side, made up of players from the APY lands and Maralinga Tjarutja, announced themselves to the football world, winning the inaugural Desert Spirit Cup 14.16…to 8.5…Brett Badger, one of the leading minds behind the game, said the experience would live on in the memory of all involved.
‘The main part of the trip is about leadership, is about mentoring and having these guys come into contact with broader Australia and making partnerships and making friends,’ he said. ‘It is an absolute privilege to play at the MCG. And for those guys out there to be enjoying their football then turn around and see themselves on the big screen is just amazing.’
In a topsy-turvy opening term Yuendumu appeared to fare the best in front of the Collingwood home crowd, interested in watching their remote northern cousins in full flight, kicking truly while the Thunder managed just five behinds early in proceedings. The Pies kicked five goals in the first 12 minutes of the quarter to establish a 14-point lead, and what appeared to be dominance of the match.
Thunder, however, worked its way back into the contest kicking four of its own in the final six minutes to regain the lead and momentum at the half. The second half was tough going for the Magpies as Thunder’s superior fitness began to shine through, kicking seven goals to one to win the first Desert Spirit Cup.
I must congratulate Aboriginal affairs minister Jay Weatherill and the government for helping to organise this match. In opposition we are here to hold the government to account and criticise things we do not agree with, but on this occasion I say, ‘Well done’.
Initiatives such as these are of tremendous value to these young indigenous men. The chance to broaden their horizons, travel and have new positive experiences is a wonderful thing.
I know it also means a lot to their communities. There will be a real sense of pride in what these young men have achieved and, hopefully, we saw some future community leaders out there having a kick on Sunday. I enjoyed reading Thunder player Justin Shilling’s comments, which show what a rare and great opportunity this was for players. He states:
“The ovals we play on are just dust bowls. We play on dirt, not grass.”
I am certain that playing on the hallowed turf of the MCG in front of 60,000 people would have been an experience these young men like Justin will never forget!
Lastly, while I am making a football-related contribution, I congratulate the Adelaide Football Club on gaining its third NAB Rising Star nomination in the first 10 rounds of the 2009 season, with Taylor Walker’s nomination this week. It is no secret that the club has had few nominations since the inception of this award, so, to see three in just 10 rounds is a terrific achievement and the club should be justly proud.