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Tiwi team debuts in NTFL -

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Tiwi team debuts in NTFL

Reporter: Murray Mclaughlin

KERRY O'BRIEN: Very complex topic, that one, and obviously there'll be a lot more on it. While
footballers everywhere else across the country have well and truly hung up their boots, in the Top
End, the footy season is getting started. Saturday's opening round of the Northern Territory
Football League (NTFL) featured a notable debut, the first appearance of a team representing the
Tiwi Islands north of Darwin. Since Australian Rules was introduced more than 60 years ago, the
Tiwis have become synonymous with a brand of sparkling football that has produced some of the
biggest names in the AFL. But they've never had their own team, until now. Murray McLoughlin
reports from Melbourne.

MURRAY MCLOUGHLIN: Overwhelmingly, the crowd sympathies ran with the visitors from Tiwi Islands at
Mararra Stadium in Darwin on Saturday afternoon. The Tiwi Bombers, playing their first match in the
Northern Territory's Aussie Rules competition, won by 34 points against the league's strongest
team, St Mary's. Labor Cabinet minister Marion Scrymgour, herself a Tiwi islander, summed up the

MARION SCRYMGOUR: Absolutely fantastic, I don't think the crowds in Darwin have seen this style of
football for a long time. And if you look at the crowd, this has certainly brought the crowd back
to NT football and it is just fantastic. Makes me proud.


THOMAS SIMON: When you're weak, when you think you can't kick that goal or make that tackle, you
think back. What would this mob do?

MURRAY MCLOUGHLIN: The night before the inaugural match, captain Thomas Simon drew inspiration for
his team from a tour of the Tiwi museum at Niuiu, the administrative centre on Bathurst Island. Out
of the Tiwi population of just 2,500, 500 boys and girls, men and women, one fifth of the
population, play football regularly. And Tiwi players like Maurice Rioli and Michael Long have gone
on to win the AFL's highest honours.

THOMAS SIMON: It's in our blood, the first thing these kids do when they start walking is they want
to kick a football, they want to be like their dad. They want to be like their grandfathers.

MURRAY MCLOUGHLIN: The Catholic Church and Australian Rules Football are the two formative
influences on modern Tiwi culture. And it was the Church which brought footy to the islands during
the Second World War.

THOMAS SIMON: It's what brought us together, it's what made us stop fighting each other. It just
created a lot of opportunities.

MURRAY MCLOUGHLIN: That legacy was honoured on Saturday. Brother John Pye introduced the game when
he arrived on the islands in 1941. Now aged 99, he was acknowledged by each of the Tiwi players
before the match.

THOMAS SIMON: We thank Brother Pye for bringing football to our people.

MURRAY MCLOUGHLIN: The Tiwis' opposition on Saturday was St Mary's, the NTFL team which has most
drawn Tiwi Islands players since its founding in the early 1950s. So Saturday's contest gave rise
to serious conflicts of interest.

BISHOP TED COLLINS: I've been waiting for years for the Tiwis to get in but I'm also the patron of
St Mary's for the last 20 years, so I've got divided loyalties.

CYRIL RIOLI, FORMER TIWI PLAYER: It makes me proud to see my son and grandson playing together, and
also there's a grandson on the St Mary's side.

MURRAY MCLOUGHLIN: The Tiwi bombers' slogan is 'Tiwi for Life', a recognition of the high suicide
rate among young men, which has blighted the islands in recent years. The entry of a Tiwi Islands
team into the Darwin competition is being used to promote good health and arrest suicide.

THOMAS SIMON: This time last year we had close to 20 attempted suicides, four of them being
successful. This time last year was a pretty sad time for both islands in the Tiwis.

MURRAY MCLOUGHLIN: Four months solid training, four nights a week, went into Saturday's match.
Among the squad, young men who've been able to use the experience to lift themselves out of danger.
Team administrator, Brian Clancy.

BRIAN CLANCY: There's a couple of kids in particular have been at risk for quite a few years and
these are kids who we've been worried about, but they've been training and they don't smoke now.
They look terrific. They stand up straight. None of this head down, and the red eyes, the glassy
eyes, just that look of depression. They've got life, energy back into them. It's amazing.

MURRAY MCLOUGHLIN: Given the reputation of the St Mary's opposition, Saturday's victory augurs well
for the Tiwi Bombers.

THOMAS SIMON: It brought tears to my eyes, mate, when I heard that first siren and just pretty
awesome. Awesome.

GREG ORSTO, TIWI BOMBERS COACH: We've waited a long time. I've certainly waited 20 years for this
to happen.

MURRAY MCLOUGHLIN: The Tiwi Bombers are playing in only the first seven matches this season. The
AFL (NT) will then assess whether they'll compete in the full season next year. Saturday's result
staked an early claim to that.

TONY FRAWLEY, AFL CHIEF EXECUTIVE, NT: They play a beautiful style of football, exciting brand of
football. I think probably 80 per cent of the support here today would have been for the Tiwi team.
People appreciate their skills and the way they play and the fact that it's an all Aboriginal
team's just historical in itself as well.

KERRY O'BRIEN: Murray McLoughlin. That's the program for tonight. We'll be back at the same time
tomorrow. For now goodnight.