Djarrak Football Club through the success of the Rirratjingu Football Program will this season welcome players from the Groote Eylandt Football League in order to support the growth of Australian Football on Groote Eylandt and to strengthen relationships to the Gove AFL. Members of Anindilyakwa Services Aboriginal Corporation and the Groote Eylandt based AFLNT Remote Development Manager visited Rirratjingu Aboriginal Corporation in March to view the Rirratjingu Football Program and assess whether a similar functioning program using Australian Football as vehicle to effect social change would be possible based in their region.
Fortunately for Djarrak Football Club, power brokers on Groote Eylandt have deemed a relationship where local Groote Eylandt Football League games are played on a fortnightly basis and an opportunity for Groote Eylandt based players to play in a Djarrak Football Club guernsey on alternate weeks will ensure the regrowth of AFL for Groote Eylandt. The Groote Eylandt Football League open Round 1 this Saturday with Groote Eylandt Cats taking on Groote Eylandt Hawks at Umbakumba from 2:30pm.
Next week, Djarrak Football Club will have the opportunity to select up to 5 players from Groote Eylandt to join the Brown and Gold Army for Gove AFL Round 4 action. Talent is not the overarching selection tool for these players. The Groote Eylandt based RDM Joel Ikupu has stated Learning or Earning and getting the off-field behaviour right prioritise the selection for inclusion in a Djarrak playing spot. This is similar to the selection process for Yirrkala based players involved in the Darwin Buffaloes NTFL sides that Rirratjingu Football Program support during the wet season.
The relationship for 2017 has been made possible through a number of key supporters providing administrative, financial and in-kind support to allow this program to occur. South 32, Anindilyakwa Services Aboriginal Corporation, AFLNT and GEBIE have all pooled resources to ensure that a tangible pathway for players getting it right on and off the field have an opportunity to play football at a higher level.
Djarrak Football Club Senior Coach Hayden Rickard visited Groote Eylandt earlier this year to present the success of the Rirratjingu Football Program to community stakeholders and also to meet football players and share and promote the benefits of Djarrak Football Club hosting this concept program. He said "Our Program and Club are extremely proud that we are in a position to host players from Groote Eylandt. If our hosting of players is able to grow and improve the quality of football on Groote Eylandt then we will be thrilled. I was fortunate enough to facilitate a training session with Joel Ikupu whilst on Groote, and the excitement generated by the carrot of playing in the Gove AFL was absolutely electric".
AFLNT RDM Joel Ikupu was excited when asked what the new program can do in terms of growing Australian Football on Groote Eylandt. He remarked "Its definitely going to create talent pathways for the youth and senior players here, its healthy lifestyles and promoting and engaging in activities, and its increasing work attendance and retention at even this early stage".