Territory footy fans can rejoice, the AFL is headed back to the NT with two blockbuster games set to celebrate Sir Doug Nicholls Round in Darwin.
The NT’s newest team, the Gold Coast SUNS will get the opportunity to open their four-year partnership with the Top End, in what is sure to be a fast-paced, inspired encounter judging by their recent form. The date and time for this game will be confirmed next week.
On Saturday 22 August (7:15pm ACST), footy fans will be offered a once in a lifetime opportunity, with the traditional 'Dreamtime' game between Essendon and Richmond making its way to TIO Stadium for the first time since the concept started in 2005.
AFLNT will continue to work with the AFL and Melbourne Football Club to feature a game in Alice Springs.
While the opposition team to play the SUNS is yet to be named, there will be reduced capacity for their game as well as the ‘Dreamtime in Darwin’ game due to COVID-19.
AFLNT will communicate ticket on-sale dates for the games next week but it is expected that grandstand access, general admission and limited corporate hospitality options will be available for purchase.
AFLNT is working with the NT Health and the NT’s Chief Health Officer to finalise crowd arrangements and will advertise the confirmed capacity closer to the on-sale dates. Fans who wish to attend the games will need to adhere to all health and safety advice as directed by AFLNT or officials.
Season 2020 marks the fourteenth year the AFL has celebrated the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and their contribution to Australian Football and is the fifth year the dedicated round has been named in honour of Sir Doug Nicholls.
Sir Doug Nicholls was born on Cummeragunja mission in New South Wales in 1906. He played football for Fitzroy before becoming a Pastor and pioneer for reconciliation in Australia. He then went on to become the first Indigenous person to be Knighted and hold the position of Governor of South Australia.
This year’s round, while continuing to celebrate Sir Doug Nicholls, will also recognise Australian Football Legend Syd Jackson’s contribution to the game and the community.
Playing 136 games for the Carlton Football Club from 1969 - 1976, the dual-premiership player has worked tirelessly to create opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, including supporting the Blues Foundation with the Syd Jackson Program named in his honour. The program seeks to improve the health and wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander diverse communities.
AFLNT CEO, Stuart Totham said; “This is fantastic news with Darwin footy fans able to enjoy two games in Round 13.
"A huge thank you to the NT Government, AFL and the clubs for showing such strong support and determination to bring games here for season 2020.
"We are really looking forward to seeing the exciting Gold Coast team in action in the first game of our four-year relationship. The commitment the SUNS have shown to Darwin is already having a positive impact on the development of our young talent.
"Their dedication to the wider community is about more than just football so we look forward to building on that when they're here.
"To have the once in a lifetime opportunity to host the Dreamtime game at TIO Stadium is terrific for all the passionate sportspeople of the NT.
"We haven't forgotten about Alice Springs, we are working hard on securing a game for our Central Australian footy-mad fans and hope to announce something shortly.
"The team at AFLNT will now work hard with all stakeholders to ensure these games are delivered safely and as professionally as we have in the past.”
AFL General Manager of Social Policy and Inclusion, Tanya Hosch, said this year’s Dreamtime game will be a special moment for the communities across the Top End to come together and celebrate their love for football, while also recognising the immense journey the AFL has undertaken since the introduction of the Discrimination and Racial and Religious Vilification Act in 1995.
“Sir Doug Nicholls Round creates a platform to profile players who have changed the game’s history and faced racism and discrimination to fight for equality and recognition, such as Carlton Champion and Wongatha man, Syd Jackson, our 2020 Sir Doug Nicholls Round honouree.
“2020 marks the 25th anniversary of the Discrimination and Racial and Religious Vilification Act which was introduced in 1995.
“This act signalled that racial and religious vilification would no longer be tolerated in Australian Football. We continue to prioritise an inclusive environment for all people within the industry and focus on identifying strategies targeted at the prevention of vilification before it occurs.
“Unfortunately racism has not been eradicated across the country, but with the leadership and dedication of our playing group, past and present, community leaders and industry leaders, we’re able to collectively work towards a future with no racism in our game,” said Hosch.
AFL General Manager of Broadcasting and Clubs, Travis Auld, has outlined the significance of the 2020 Toyota AFL Sir Doug Nicholls Round to the AFL.
“This is the fifth year the dedicated round has been named in honour of Sir Doug Nicholls, an icon of Australian football and someone who represents the exceptional values of the game.
“The Sir Doug Nicholls Round is a hugely significant round in the season, and as part of this round we’re really excited about the opportunity to play both the Dreamtime Game and the first ever Gold Coast home game in Darwin.
“I’d also like to thank the Northern Territory Government and the Seven Network for their support in allowing us to bring the Dreamtime Game to Darwin,” said Auld.
AFL is partnering with the NT Government through Northern Territory Major Events Company (NTMEC) to bring the Dreamtime game to Darwin.
NTMEC CEO Tim Watsford said the game was a natural fit for the Territory;
“The Territory has produced many of the game’s greatest Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander players, including family dynasties that have seen grandfather, father, and even son playing in the AFL. The game is a way of life up here. Everywhere, from the Top End to the Red Centre, and out to our most remote communities, you will see kids kicking a footy around.
“We couldn’t be prouder to partner with AFL to bring one of the most meaningful and memorable fixtures of the season to Darwin,” said Watsford.
Gold Coast SUNS CEO, Mark Evans said:
“The SUNS have always said we want our four-year NT partnership to be about more than just an AFL game – we want it to be great for the Territory and help grow local footy,” he said.
“We are pleased to have helped secure our first Darwin game and the Dreamtime in Darwin clash in Round 13. It’s a true win-win and a great result.
“Both games will showcase the beautiful Territory to a national audience whilst also allowing thousands of locals to enjoy two quality games of AFL live.”
Mr Evans said the SUNS are looking forward to bringing an exciting, hard-running brand of footy to Darwin in Round 13.
He said the SUNS’ exact fixture details (including the opponent) will be announced soon.
“We have a talented young list that is playing good footy and includes four Rising Star nominations this season,” he said.
“Locals will enjoy watching our established stars and emerging players - including Ben King, Izak Rankine, Noah Anderson, Jack Lukosius, Jack Bowes, Connor Budarick and Ben Ainsworth – live in Darwin.”
Mr Evans said Darwin is a key area of the SUNS Talent Academy Zone and the club wanted to foster and develop elite football pathways in the NT.
“We brought in our first Territory AFL player in Malcolm Rosas Jnr this year and we hope to recruit more – we are committed to investing in the region,” he said.