Djarrak Football Club supporters celebrated finals glory with both the Womens and Mens teams winning their respective Grand Finals in fine conditions at Yirrkala Oval on Saturday. The club won the first Gove AFL Premiership contested in 1975 and the Womens team wrote themselves into the history books by winning the first Gove AFLW Premiership by virtue of a dominant display of accountable football to beat a tough Gopu Football Club by 9.11 65 - 5.9 39.
The Womens team made the decider the hard way after losing the Qualifying Final to Gopu FC two weeks ago and then navigating past a young Nguykal FC team in the Preliminary Final to give themselves a shot at history. Coaches Corey Atkinson and Timothy Blake had the ladies well prepared with accuracy and retaining possession key themes during the build up. Team Manager Araluen Maymuru organised a team bonding session prior to the game and this along with the tactical preparation ensured a dominant opening.
In front of a healthy crowd of over 1000 spectators,the team started well and Gopu FC found themselves chasing early. It was a clinical opening stanza and Ruckman and eventual Best on Ground winner Ashanti Garrawurra dominated the stoppages and gave first use of the footy to her midfield. The most improved facet of the Djarrak sides play was the reaction time from free kicks and moving to dangerous spots and the coaching division can take pride in working on this area over the past month. Key defender Nicki O'Hara battled through a foot injury to stand the defensive zone in stead across all four quarters.
The free flowing game was a celebration of the growth of the Gove AFLW this year in particular and all four clubs have had support from their mens programs and coaching staff throughout. Pundits have forecast further growth next year and the Rirratjingu Football Program have plans to invest in the youth aged girls with participation in the Darwin Buffaloes feeder program as the first female participants in the third year of operation.
15 year old Djarrak FC captain Kaya Mununggurr raised the trophy amongst a sea of brown and gold players and supporters to cap off a fantastic first season and claim the honours for the team and the club. The youngster has been a revelation this year and Djarrak FC Senior Coach Hayden Rickard has a high opinion of her. He said "Just a great young kid. Really doing well at school and its no coincidence that the football season has really helped with her personal development. She is in the Stars Foundation Program at Yirrkala School and I expect her to prosper in a more structured Darwin Buffaloes Youth Girls Program".
The first structured Gove AFL Womens Premiership has had national coverage with The Age running a photo and results. ABC News TV covered the win nationally on Monday morning with a number of photos shown on their sports broadcast. Liz Cruse from AFLNT covered both finals and there has been extensive social media on their platforms particularly the Michael Long Learning and Leadership Centre Facebook page.
In the mens final that started at 3:30pm the Djarrak FC side faced a late onslaught with a desperate Gopu FC taking the lead with 5 minutes to remain. Matthew Campbell, named Best on Ground, claimed a late intercept from the defensive zone to repel a Gopu raid and the following passage of play into the Djarrak forward line allowed the Brown and Gold Army to raise the pressure. Lee Mununggurr played the role of the hero as he calmly slotted a angled shot to take the final score to a 11.6 72 - 9.12 66 victory.
Senior Coach Hayden Rickard was more relieved than elated with the result. He said "What a result. A huge day for the club really. So proud of our women to get the job done and then for our men to respond to the pressure in last quarter, just happy for everyone who worked so hard. Our pre-game talked about embracing the pressure. Matty Campbell saved us down back when (Cameron Stokes) Stokesy broke down. He settled us really in that hectic last 5 minutes. He added "It probably shows how important Stokesy is to our system. I thought Luke Bath was immense for us again and went to another level - he exemplifies what a two-way player is all about. Winston Yunupingu down back and Joel Ikupu probably delivered his best performance in our colours".
Djarrak FC took ascendency in the third quarter where they made best use of the wind. It looked like they were marching comfortably to the clubs seventh flag but a brave Gopu FC were keen to deliver to their own script. There was no give in the contested ball throughout and the umpires controlled the match with aplomb letting both sides know early that late or off the ball incidents would be punished. Djarrak settled into the game first and found their key target Bernie Price at will. Captain Djayminy Marika was a handful for the defence despite still being troubled by his hamstring.
Raven Marika and Ralph Dhamarrandji caused havoc when they got loose and Dhamarrandji in particular had a key moment with 3 minutes to go that saw him regain possession after a 30m running effort. Lee Mununggurr, Justin Talal and Billy Wanambi came of age and the development from the Rirratjingu Football Program continues to foster growth. The defensive zone worked extremely hard and their constant pressure forced Gopu into blazing shots at goal and resulting in 12 behinds from pressure acts.
"I'm thrilled for the Rirratjingu Football Program and the club. When you set out your stall to live by 'Better People People Make Better Players' and you improve the culture as part of a club rebuild, its just a sense of pride in the wonderful contributions of our people. You spend yourself in a worthy cause and then these rewards come so early into the piece. I'm surrounded by some great up and coming coaches in Steven Raymond, Cameron Stokes, Bernie Price and Matthew Campbell. Rickard remarked. "Our playing group with Dale Dhamarrandji closing on the end of his apprenticeship, Justin Talal a new father and in his traineeship - the list goes on. Our schoolgirls and boys improving their school attendance - football can be a powerful vehicle when you set it up with the right focus areas".
The Djarrak Football Club is sponsored by The Rirratjingu Aboriginal Corporation.
DJARRAK FC MENS BEST: 5 Matthew Campbell, 4 Luke Bath, 3 Winston Yunupingu, 2 Joel Ikupu, 1 Lee Mununggurr
Media content in this report kindly supplied by AFLNT, the peak body for Australian Football in the Northern Territory.