Sport

Warma team to showcase indigenous talent

By Fraser Walker-Pearce

CLUB rivalries have been set aside for at least the weekend while the Warma Football Club travel to Ballarat in search of glory.

The Warma Turtles consist of some of the best indigenous footballers in the region, including AFL talent in Echuca co-coach and former Carlton player Andrew Walker and former North Melbourne player Djaran Whyman.

Players from as far away as Rumbalara, Deniliquin and Picola have joined the team, which heads out to Ballarat’s Mars Stadium for the Victorian Aboriginal Community Services Association Limited (VACSAL) Senior Football and Netball Carnival, on the hunt for the team’s first flag in nine years.

But the journey will not be an easy one — Warma will come up against some of Victoria’s leading indigenous football teams.

Starting tomorrow, the Turtles face the Mallee Tigers and the Fitzroy Stars, some of the strongest teams in the competition — and that’s two of their five games on the first day.

Fortunately, game lengths are shortened for these games, to two 15-minute halves.

If they qualify for the finals on day two, a semi-final and grand final (consisting of four 15-minute quarters) awaits the Turtles.

Warma captain Djaran Whyman told the Riv his team could not wait to get started in the hopes of reclaiming the cup they haven’t won since 2010.

‘‘In Victoria it’s the largest gathering of Aboriginal people in one place — it’s like a modern day corroboree,’’ Whyman said.

‘‘Of late we’ve been sending teams down to compete. An Echuca team first won nearly 25 years ago and we’ve been sending teams ever since.

‘‘We’ve had a recent run where we completed a hat-trick in 2010 and then we lost the grand final last year,’’ he said.

Setting aside the differences of their club sides was the easy part, Whyman said, and the players have banded together well.

‘‘Most of the year we’ve been good and we have a great community of indigenous boys that come up here to play, so we’ve had a good strong side of late.

‘‘We have Farran at Echuca United and a few from Deni too, so we have a strong mix and also we have a few that play up here but live down in Melbourne who we meet up with.

‘‘So there’s a good spread of footballers from around Victoria here. We also have the coach of Numurkah here too, so there’s always a good bit of banter here between the Murray league guys, but it’s all fun,’’ he said.

And with a good mix of former-AFL talent mixed in with the class of the local players, Whyman said he’s confident this could be Warma’s year.

‘‘I think Andrew (Walker) last played for us in 2001 when we went to Albury so it’s good to have him in the side and good for the younger boys to see how he plays and if they’re aspiring to play next level footy they have him to look up to,’’ he said.