Friday 05 June 2020, 03:02

Rare spotlight for Top End as football returns Down Under

  • Community football returns this weekend in Australia

  • First match features an all-indigenous side

  • A-League to resume in July

It may have seemed an interminable wait to kick-off the 2020 football season in Australia, but finally the time has come for hundreds of thousands of participants in the nation’s most popular grassroots sport.

The coming weeks will see dormant fields filled again by round-ball devotees cheered on by spectators, albeit with physical distancing guidelines in place.

Australia’s Northern Territory is renowned for its unique natural features such as the world heritage listed Kakadu National Park or the iconic Uluru, but this time it is football’s turn for a share of the spotlight.

And the very first match to take place seems particularly poignant with the NT Yappas, the first all indigenous team to play in the Darwin league, taking on reigning champions Hellenic Athletic on Friday evening (5 June).

Striker Marcey Gurruwiwi says her team is ready to debut in the Darwin Premier League, despite only being founded four years ago.

“The girls are happy and excited to be able to play in the top competition,” she said. “We can’t wait to win at least one or two games in the season.”

Gurruwiwi added she is not only playing for herself but is instead representing her entire community. “I represent my community while feeling comfortable playing with a group of sisters. I’m bringing my family to play.”

Hellenic captain Leonora Kilmartin said football’s return couldn’t come soon enough. “We’ve been waiting for a while now,” she said. “We were devastated when the season got called off so returning is pretty exciting, even with the restrictions and new rules in place.”

Despite the Northern Territory’s remoteness five players from the region have represented the Matildas, including two-time FIFA Women’s World Cup™ defender Sarah Cooper.

The second match of the evening will open the Northern Territory Men’s Premier League season as Mindil Aces FC take on former FFA Cup representatives Hellenic Athletic.

The matches can be watched on a variety of Football Federation Australia’s social media channels.

The A-League will resume its season next month, with the W-League commencing annually in November.