This weekend, Round 10 of the TIO NTFL season, will help commemorate 100 years since the Great Air Race was first run and completed.
On the 10 December 1919, Ross and Keith Smith and their crew landed at Fannie Bay Airfield, becoming winners of the Great Air Race from England to Australia. The idea of the competition was to be the first to make the flight in less than 30 days with the Smith brothers and crew completing it in 135 flying hours over 28 days.
Upon landing in Darwin in their Vickers Vimy G-EAOU twin-engine plane they were instantly mobbed by almost the entire city's population of just under 1,500 people. They won the £10,000 prize and received enormous local, national and international acclaim.
Historians have recorded that at the time of the event, a football game between Waratah and Wanderers was unfolding and both teams were put on notice for their game on 8 December 1919 that the arrival of the planes as part of the Great Air Race may impact on the game, with one of Waratah’s best players – Hudson Fysh – a key player in the event.
Lieutenant Fysh was the official who arranged the construction of the original runway at Ross Smith Avenue that the Smith brothers landed on and was instrumental in the early mapping out of the course. He was also the first person to greet the four airmen when they landed.
The extraordinary event was the forerunner to the international air travel that is so common today and it opened new trade channels for international mail and freight.
In 1919, with aviation in its infancy, excitement gripped the world and encapsulated the imagination of the Australian people.
To help prepare for the official celebrations next week (see below for more details), AFL Northern Territory (AFLNT) has teamed up with the Northern Territory Government (NTG) for Round 10 of the NTFL, with fans given plenty of opportunities to learn about the occasion and also win unique experiences.
At Gardens Oval on Sunday the same two clubs as 100 years ago; Waratah and Wanderers will play for Men's Premier League points, and as part of the commemorations, Parap Primary School will take part in a half-time game showcasing their school houses – all of which are named after the original aviators of the Great Air Race winners (Smith, Bennett, Shiers) as well as Hudson Fysh.
Anyone who attends games at TIO Stadium on Saturday or Gardens Oval on Sunday can go in the running to win seats on a special Celebration flight around Darwin next Tuesday.
In addition, one lucky person at Gardens Oval will win a prize to meet the adventurer, Michael Smith, who is currently recreating the famous journey from London to Darwin.
AFLNT Manager of Commercial Operations Peter Bailey, who has worked closely with the NTG for the special round, provided more detail on the upcoming events.
"AFLNT is proud to partner with the Northern Territory Government to bring awareness to such a historic achievement as witnessed 100 years ago in the Great Air Race.
"While some things, like the NT's love for footy, are a constant and never change, there were and remain to be events occurring all around us that advance society. The historic Gardens Oval has born witness to a great many spectacles, but this accomplishment in aviation history would have to be one of the most significant for Darwin.
"While we can't recreate the exact happenings of a century ago, those events mean that it's only a quick 20-minute flight to the Tiwi Islands these days, so you can always head over there to catch the Bombers playing the Darwin Buffaloes. Or come along to TIO Stadium on Saturday for your chance to win a seat on the Official Celebration Flight around Darwin.
“There will also be an update on the big screen from Michael Smith who is flying the Southern Sun aircraft recreating that famous journey from 100 years ago. And finally, on Sunday, head to Gardens Oval for a special commemoration between the two teams Waratah and Wanderers who played their own part in the original Great Air Race 100 years ago.
"We encourage everyone to get along to the footy and be a part of history,” he said.
TIO Stadium (Saturday)
- An update on the big screen from adventurer, Michael Smith who is recreating that famous journey from 100 years ago.
- One person will win two (2) seats on the Official Great Air Race Celebration flight hosted by Alliance Airlines next Tuesday. To enter people should take a photo at TIO Stadium and upload to Facebook or Instagram using the two hashtags #greatairrace #NTFLtruecolours. Entries will close off at quarter-time of the 7pm Men’s Premier League game between Southern Districts and Nightcliff (approximately 7:20pm) with a random winner drawn and announced during half time.
- Coin toss by Chief Minister – Hon Michael Gunner
- Half time kids game with students from Parap Primary School in their four school houses named after the winning pilots of the Great Air Race (Smith, Bennett, Shiers) as well as Hudson Fysh.
- One person will win two (2) seats on the Official Great Air Race Celebration flight hosted by Alliance Airlines next Tuesday. To enter people should take a photo/selfie at Gardens Oval on Sunday and upload to Facebook or Instagram using the two hashtags #greatairrace #NTFLtruecolours. Entries will close off at quarter-time of the Men’s Premier League game between Waratah and Wanderers (approximately 4:20pm) with a random winner drawn and announced during half time.
- One person will win a prize for two (2) people to have an exclusive meet and greet with the 2019 pilot, Michael Smith. To enter people should take a photo/selfie at Gardens Oval on Sunday and upload to Facebook or Instagram using the two hashtags #greatairrace #NTFLtruecolours. Entries will close off at quarter-time of the Men’s Premier League game between Waratah and Wanderers (approximately 4:20pm) with a random winner drawn and announced during half time.
Other Great Air Race community events
- Aviators’ Commemoration at Ross Smith Memorial – 8:30am - 10:00am on Tuesday 10 December. See: https://ntmajorevents.com.au/great-air-race/aviators-commemoration/
- Ceremonial Landing – 3:45pm on Tuesday 10 December. Adventurer Michael Smith is scheduled to land at Darwin International Airport at as he concludes his Great Air Race commemorative flight from London. See: https://ntmajorevents.com.au/great-air-race/ceremonial-landing/