The Rirratjingu Football Programs Darwin based NTFL commitments have ended with a final's loss in Premier League where a topsy turvy last quarter saw the Southern Districts Crocs break Darwin Buffaloes hearts in another first week of final's exit replicating the 2015/16 NTFL outcome. Djarrak Football Club Assistant Coach Cameron Stokes led the Buffaloes in the absence of regular skipper Phillip Wills through injury.
This season was the second version of the program and an overview of two season long experiences in Darwin points to an improved capacity to develop and add opportunites for participants on and off the field. This season the program had its first junior player in BJ Mununggurr travel and play Under 14's. Mununggurr is a student at Yirrkala School and a member of the Clontarf Academy.
Under 18 players Billy Wanambi and Lee Mununggurr both played age grade and progressed to through Division 1 and Mununggurr debuted in Premier League with three appearances. A total of 12 players played 42 Division 1 games and 6 players contributed to 28 Premier League games.
Players that showed real improvement over the course of the program included Justin Talal, Tyrone Dhagapan and Lee Mununggurr. Dale Dhamarrandji joined the program and will ply his trade with Djarrak Football Club in 2017. He stepped into a mentoring role along with Stokes.
The program is not just a development tool for players and the pathway for coaching has opened with Stokes and Steven Raymond currently completing their Level 2 AFL Coach certification. With fewer numbers that a full team set up caters for, both coaches have had the opportunity to really work closely with a smaller group and refine and add to the skill sets of participants. Djarrak Football Club manager Danny Beadman has also been a regular contributor to the program in its second NTFL campaign.
Program Head Coach Hayden Rickard is currently compiling a season review and attention will quickly turn to the Gove AFL Competition with a start date of late April expected to be tabled by Clubs at the coming local meeting. A number of partnerships are being brokered that will ensure a healthy player base for the club and internal competition for playing spots. Key announcements will be made in the coming weeks.
Rickard had an eye to the future when asked about the programs activities in 2016/17. He said "It was a really good NTFL campaign for our group. We got some games into guys that are starting to develop nicely and we expect to see the rewards in our local competition. We have had our first Junior player travel to Darwin now, next season would be ideal to introduce a female pathway. That would indicate a real growth framework in my perspective".
The program thanks Rirratjingu Aboriginal Corporation for allowing the participants to experience football at a higher level and for the social support put in place to grow as individuals.