Tuesday, 20 March 2012 19:52



Michael Long in his heyday.


Australian Rules football has been in the news this week (as it always is), but with an emphasis on aboriginal players, issues of racism, and some more heartening news, especially concerning Michael Long, winner of the 1993 Norm Smith medal, as did Maurice Rioli in 1983.

Amos Aikman, writing in The Australian on March 19th, page one, notes: The tiny population has produced some of the game’s greats (and mentions the medals of Maurice Rioli and Michael Long)... The grand final, culmination of the Tiwi Islands Football League, brings up to 3000 extra visitors to a group of communities with a total population barely half that number’.

He then goes on to mention Brother Pye MSC, a reminder of the mission on Bathurst Island, and a reminder of those Tiwi Islanders who went to school at St John’s College, Darwin,

‘Since Australian Rules was first introduced to the islands by missionary John Pye in 1941, it has fostered one of the highest participation rates in Australia.’

But, the media this week featured longer term plans.  Martin Flanagan and other journalists reported on the proposed academy with reference to Rioli and Long at St John’s and with reference to a six team competition organised at Wadeye.

‘Michael Long, the man who changed Australian football forever on the issue of race, has added his voice to those calling for the AFL to appoint an indigenous commissioner, saying he is prepared to put his hand up for the job.

It can also be revealed that a $15 million centre aimed at equipping indigenous youths from remote communities with the skills to make it in the AFL - to be called the Michael Long Academy - is expected to open in Darwin next year.


Michael Long and Tony Frawley

The Michael Long Academy will boast the same sort of elite facilities as those enjoyed by AFL clubs. It will be staffed by indigenous men who will act in the role of mentors and have accommodation for 70 young indigenous people, male and female.

The academy will include educational programs and stress the importance of participants taking up leadership roles within their communities. "Not everyone who passes through the academy will become an AFL footballer," Long said. "But hopefully they will become good citizens."

The brainchild of Long and AFL-NT CEO Tony Frawley, the academy has taken four years of intense lobbying by both men.

Among those backing the project are government bodies, the AFL and Charles Darwin University. A similar program has been established by St John's Catholic College in Darwin, the alma mater of four Norm Smith medallists, including Maurice Rioli and Long.

AFL-NT has been responsible for a number of good news stories in recent years. The Tiwi Bombers, founded in response to a suicide epidemic among young males on the Tiwi islands in the early 2000s, have proved a great success. More recently, AFL-NT organised a six-team competition in the troubled indigenous community of Wadeye, with a representative side, the Wadeye Magic, joining the NTFL.

AFL-NT has offered to take its programs into Yuendumu, Jurrah's home community. To date, the police and the NT government have prevented it from doing so.’