THE inaugural all-Indigenous football match between those connected with two Aboriginal reserves — Moonahcullah and Cummeragunja — is expected to become an annual event, such was its success.
About 650 people turned out for the historic sports day at the Mathoura Recreation Reserve on Sunday, July 2, which marked the start of local NAIDOC Week celebrations.
Junior footballers took to the field earlier in the day, followed by a senior netball match and then the main event, the senior football match.
One of the star attractions was former Essendon player and now Rumbalara playing-coach Nathan Lovett-Murray, who represented Cummeragunja.
Footballers came from places including Melbourne, Deniliquin, Echuca, Moama, Shepparton, Swan Hill, Mathoura, and even as far as the Gippsland area to take part, and the ages of the senior players ranged from mid-teens to mid-50s. And there was no denying some of the silky footy skills on show.
The senior match was played in great spirit, and although it was considered a ‘friendly’ the scores were still recorded — Moonahcullah finished in front, 13.10 to 9.9.
The match was also played as a tribute to the Moonahcullah and Cummeragunja football teams that were active in the 1920s and 1930s, while the day was coordinated by Yarkuwa Indigenous Knowledge Centre in Deniliquin.
Despite the sub-zero temperature start to the morning, spectators enjoyed warm winter sunshine throughout the day.
Yarkuwa’s Tracy Hamilton said it was a successful day, with figures showing about 650 people attended.
‘‘We’re hoping we can make it a yearly event,’’ she said.
‘‘This was the first time it had ever been done and it falls nicely into the football season and in time for NAIDOC week.
‘‘It was a great day, with so many people enjoying themselves.
‘‘We had a lot of support from the community with a lot of people coming along.’’ This included Indigenous and non-Indigenous community members.
‘‘We also had a lot of people ringing the office (on Monday) still looking for the special merchandise we had created for the day.’’
Special jumpers were created specifically for Sunday’s event, with the senior guernseys emblazoned with the names of their respective reserve’s original footballers.
An opening smoking ceremony performed by Mooahcullah’s Uncle Leo Briggs and Cummeragunja’s Uncle Col Walker started off proceedings.
Yarkuwa was originally hoping for a crowd of about 400 for the game based on interest during the organisation process, but said that interest grew intensely last week.
Some of the spectators came from as far as Gippsland and Wagga to see the historic match.
All people who entered through the gate were given a ticket to receive a free meal and drink, which was well received.