The MCG of the Desert debut


After four years, the community of Santa Teresa located 80kms from Alice Springs saw the launch of their re-grassed oval yesterday, Thursday 3 June 2021.

Melbourne Football Club, in conjunction with AFL Northern Territory (AFLNT), Northern Territory Government and Melbourne Cricket Club first launched the project to grass the red dirt oval back in 2017, at the request of the Atyenhenge Atherre Aboriginal Corporation (AAAC). 

While the oval was originally set to be launched in 2020, the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic saw the sowing of the grass delayed and subsequently the launch of the oval pushed back until 2021. 

This week’s launch, first set to coincide with Melbourne’s Round 12 match with Brisbane which was originally fixtured in Alice Springs, was the first time a game of football was officially played on the newly grassed oval. 

Two teams, made up of players from the Central Australian Football League (CAFL) Ltyentye Apurte Football Club took to the field, with the Under 18’s team donning Demons playing kits for the occasion. The Under 18’s team played the Community’s Senior side. 

Head of AFLNT Stuart Totham said he’s thrilled to see the Melbourne FC partnership grow and deliver great community benefits. 

“Although the AFL match between Melbourne Demons and Brisbane Lions is not going ahead tonight, it’s great to see the Dee’s engaging with the Alice Springs community and surrounds,” 

“The re-grassing of the Santa Teresa oval will enable the region to host various footy activities such carnivals, clinics while encouraging growth of our game in that region. 

“I want to thank the Melbourne Football Club for their continued commitment to footy in Central Australia and the AFL for its support through the Facilities Development Fund.” 

Melbourne Football Club CEO Gary Pert said the community of Santa Teresa and the oval project are incredibly close to the heart of our football club.

“Since the concept of grassing the oval was first proposed to us, the club has worked incredibly hard to help make this dream a reality for the people of Santa Teresa,” 

“Yesterday’s launch was an amazing celebration for the community and a fitting acknowledgement of many years of hard work and determination that has seen this project brought to life.

“While COVID-19 has impacted our ability to be in Santa Teresa for the occasion, everyone involved with Melbourne has been filled with immense pride and excitement seeing all the photos and videos coming in from the event and the joy it has brought to so many in the community. 

“The oval really is the centre piece of the community and a place that fosters connection and purpose for people in Santa Teresa. As a football club we feel humbled to have played a role in making this project happen and blessed to be part of the Santa Teresa community. 

“I would like to make special mention of Melbourne’s internal project working party, particularly Jimmie Martin, whose immense passion and commitment to this project have been the key driver in turning the Santa Teresa Oval green. 

“I would also like to thank all those who generously donated to the project via the Red and Blue Foundation, as well as the Northern Territory Government, MCC Foundation, AFLNT and all the other stakeholders who have helped make the dreams of the Santa Teresa community come true.”

CEO of Atyenhenge Atherre Aboriginal Corporation (AAAC) & Santa Teresa Enterprises Limited, Ellie Kamara said the impact of the oval on the community is phenomenal. 

“The idea to grass the oval in Santa Teresa was born from a random, wishful remark and the Melbourne Football Club has turned our crazy idea into a reality,” said Kamara.

“Our relationship started out via Santa Teresa’s support of the club’s Cultural Immersion Program and has grown into a true friendship and partnership that has seen our very own MCG of the Desert brought to life. 

“We look forward to the new horizons that the oval will bring to our community and are so thrilled that our children and sports men and women will have a facility to rival any small town in Australia.”

The complete oval features goalposts delivered from the hallowed turf of the Melbourne Cricket Ground and brand-new lights, funded by the Central Land Council. 

The long-term sustainability of the project is also taken care of with future grants already secured and necessary maintenance equipment donated to the community to ensure it can maintain the oval’s upkeep on an ongoing basis.

Competition news