The Rirratjingu Football Program will begin in earnest with a much vaunted Darwin Buffaloes versus Wanderers NTFL Preseason fixture at Yirrkala Oval today 30 September. The game follows the success of the inaugural Rirratjingu Football Program during the 2015/16 NTFL Season. The program adopted Gatapanga as a group name which translates from Yolngu Matha as water buffalo. Djarrak Football Club remain the feeder club for the RFP and players have positioned themselves to push for selection in the second version of the program that has a wider approach in developing the person before the player.
Yirrkala locals and wider Gove AFL supporters will be able to witness Djarrak players turnout for the Darwin Buffaloes and Nguykal Football Club members don the Wanderers Guernsey as they look to replicate the RFP with a similar pathway for their playing group.
The match will be the first contested between NTFL Clubs on the Gove Peninsula and is the brainchild of Rirratjingu Aboriginal Corporation CEO Stuart MacLean. "With a mandate from the board to improve the culture of Djarrak Football Club, the success of our pilot Rirratjingu Football Program during last NTFL season has seen a vast number of improvements in our playing group over the past 12 months. A holistic approach of improving our people before the player outcome follows our heavy commitment to our social programs of which the No More Campaign delivered a show of strength in Yirrkala Community this week. He added "Key stakeholders have driven this agenda over the past year and the original core of RAC, Djarrak FC and Darwin FC with a program delivery from the discontinued Healthy Lifestyle Program at Miwatj Health demonstrated the benefits of a shared workload."
Todays Premier League Preseason game will be preceded by a historic Womens fixture between the Darwin Buffettes and counterparts from Wanderers FC competing for the ALPA Cup. Local based players from the Gove Womens League will have the opportunity to test themselves against some of the best athletes the Womens NTFL has to offer. With the debut of the AFL Womens League early next year, this match takes on extra significance for a local based player that dreams of taking the next step on the newly formed pathway to becoming a professional. RAC and Arnhem Land Progress Association (ALPA) are the main drivers of the womens event.
Head of Football Operations for Rirratjingu Football Program Hayden Rickard believes todays festival of football demonstrates the success of the RFP. "Our program can feel a sense of pride today. There is no better indication of success than having your set up sought out to be replicated as we have seen from the new Nguykal and Wanderers partnership. Without our hard work in driving the vision of the RAC board, we wouldn't have this event at the home of football for our area, Yirrkala Oval. The ramifications of a few organisations brave enough to jump into the unknown of which we had last year now means we see pathways open for both men and women. RFP has changed the landscape of football in our region".
When pressed to highlight some of the Yirrkala based Gatapanga to look Rickard spoke highly of the following RFP members. "Djarrak FC Player of the Year Michael 'Longy' Maymuru has been absolutely fantastic this season and is poised to unleash a masterclass of contested possession with his clean skills at ground level and uncanny ability to be 'Johnny on the spot' oozing x-factor. Joint Rookie of the Year winner Justin Burarrwanga will get a taste of a higher paced game and continue his development. He would do well to model himself on Tim Eldridge with the Buffaloes and Thunder player regularly running his slight frame to the point of exhaustion each week. He also mentioned Carlos Gurruwiwi. "Carlos is ready made for Premier League. His football habits are suited to NTFL. He has a great build, uses his height well and reads the play. He looks for others in better position but has the skills to take the game on when needed".
Local based former AFL players Cameron Stokes and Nathan Djerrkura and will turn out for Darwin Buffaloes and Wanders respectively.
A number of organisations have had a hand in making todays games possible. The Mens match will contest the inaugural 'Rirratjingu Cup' with the NT Government a major financial contributor. Rirratjingu Aboriginal Corporation and ALPA continue to support AFL for men and women at club and community level. Miwatj Health Aboriginal Corporation continue to support events that promote healthy lifestyle behaviour.
The Womens game starts at 4:30pm followed by the much anticipated Darwin Buffaloes vs Wanderers FC at 6:30pm. Spectators are reminded this is an alcohol free event. Post game entertainment is available at the Roy Marika Stage.