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Thursday, 14 February 2008
Page: 473

Mr HALE (12:39 PM) —May I join the long list of people who have congratulated you, Madam Deputy Speaker Burke. I was not going to, because I have seen you shrug every time you hear it, but I will take the opportunity. Congratulations on your appointment.

Today I rise to speak about an AFL team from the Northern Territory which is to play in a southern football competition in 2009. While the details of this team are still to be finalised, it is a fantastic step forward for people in the Northern Territory and, in particular, its footballers. It has been a dream of former administrators of the football leagues up there, and one man in particular deserves special mention, a guy by the name of Darryl Window. Darryl has been very passionate in pushing for this to occur.

By coincidence more than by design, this week is the 20th anniversary of the AFL bicentennial carnival, which was first held in Adelaide in 1988. At this carnival the Northern Territory was crowned division 2 champions. That team was coached by John Taylor, who coached at the St Marys Football Club in Darwin. His coaching record was impeccable, with 11 premierships to his credit in his 13 seasons as coach. Legends of Australian Rules football such as Maurice Rioli, Michael McLean and Michael Long played in that team, and the team went through undefeated at the bicentennial carnival. Twenty years on and the side now looks as if it will be playing in a major southern competition in the winter of 2009.

One really good side of this is that the netball side has been involved as well. In Victorian country areas and in New South Wales in particular there is a close association between football and netball, and this has become the reality with this side. There has been dual sponsorship, with funding going towards the netball to give young ladies an opportunity of playing at a higher level.

Due to the tyranny of distance, we need this sort of opportunity for people in the north of Australia. It is not only about football; it is about community and lifestyle. One of the rules they have for the team, which I think is fantastic, is that you have to be either working or studying; you cannot live the life of a footballer who gets to sleep in all day and party all night. I think there are some benefits to that. It encourages young players to look at their life outside football and have some employment or study opportunities to fall back on. The CEO of the Northern Territory Football League, Tony Frawley, and AFL ambassador Michael Long have been instrumental in lobbying businesses as well as the Territory and federal governments to make this team a reality, and I would like to put on record their contribution.

Anyone that has been watching on TV the football being played up in Darwin at the moment and televised around Australia through the ABC would have seen the Tiwi Bombers run around. They are a fantastic side, and I think that this side will play a very similar style of football, so I do look forward to reporting to the Main Committee how the side is going.

For players up there it is certainly a difficult pathway to the AFL, and I think that this will enhance opportunities for players who are not part of the draft process to play AFL football. A lot of times we need players to go interstate, and second-tier clubs are often not set up adequately to cope with players coming down. A lot of our Indigenous players struggle with that. This will give our locally based players in Darwin and Alice Springs the opportunity to stay in the Territory with the support of their friends and family and play at a second-tier level with the hope of stepping up to the AFL. The other benefit of this is that Alice Springs will be heavily involved, and there will be traineeships and employment opportunities in Alice Springs for people involved with the team. So I will report back to the Main Committee once they start playing next year.