Pride flows deep

By Andrew Johnston

LONG before Tom Wills wrote down the rules of what is now Australian football, the first Australians engaged in the game of Marngrook.

A ball made of a possum skin, punt kicked around a field with as many players involved as possible.

Few could have imagined nearly 200 years after the first recordings of the game, a national sport born out of this pastime would be played on the land of the Yorta Yorta people.

And none would have thought a team would have become as good at it as Kyabram.

On Saturday, the Echuca Football and Netball Club will take to the field of Victoria Park in celebration of indigenous culture as part of the Archie Walker Indigenous Round, named in honour of the grandfather of Echuca co-coach Andrew Walker.

The Murray Bombers will once again wear a special indigenous guernsey, designed by Yorta Yorta artist Clive Atkinson.

Walker said more time had been spent on the design for its second season.

‘‘We’ve had more of an opportunity to work with the artist this year,’’ he said.

‘‘Clive has done an incredible design for us this season, it was fantastic getting to sit down with him and working through the process with him.’’

The design of the guernsey features three fish, representing the Goulburn, Campaspe and Murray Rivers which meet in Echuca.

All grades of football will wear the special edition guernsey.

In the build up to the senior match, Uncle Col Walker will perform a traditional smoking ceremony and Welcome to Country, followed by a performance of traditional dancing, with the ceremony beginning at 2.20pm and the game starting at 2.40pm.

Local singer Benny Walker will also be performing before and during half time of the match.

Already a special day for the Echuca Football and Netball Club, the task awaiting the senior footballers is the biggest of their season — a rematch with the mighty Kyabram.

The Bombers juggernaut, in the midst of their 76-1 run, hasn’t dropped a game to Echuca since 2011.

When the two sides met in round four, it was Kyabram again to the tune of 61 points.

Echuca is easily the second best side in the competition in 2019, sitting at 13-1, but still looking to get past the mighty red and black army.

‘‘It's massive for our club,’’ Walker said. ‘‘Kyabram have been the pinnacle of the GV (Goulburn Valley League) for the past four or five years. We are all striving to be like Kyabram.

‘‘We’ve rebuilt this football club in the past two years towards being a contender, and we feel things have clicked a lot faster this year, our structures are going really well.

‘‘We believe if we can get things right on the day it is going to be a fantastic game of football and a real spectacle for everyone watching.’’

Post match, 12 of the Echuca guernseys will be available for auction.