Round 13 – Essendon v Richmond: Dreamtime Made In Darwin



I started running my own one man international food trading business about 18 years ago and worked long hours in the initial 3 or 4 years to get things established. I still had two of my four kids at school and there were risks a plenty if things went wrong.

That things went well from the start and the business was going to survive beyond five years, none the less meant it was at times quite hard to get away for a holiday for any more than a week at a time. The peaks and troughs meant the quiet time tended to be during the winter-spring, so the obvious thing was to try and head north somewhere and if possible combine a business meeting or ‘market research’ into a trip.

The mainstay of my business was, and still is, with a very large supermarket group based in Sydney. They don’t need a free ad so I won’t name them, but it is not difficult to guess which one. That just means that when my footy team, the Tigers, is playing in Sydney I can readily arrange a meeting and combine several days either side of a weekend and have six days away or similar.

My wife and I regularly visit the Art Gallery of NSW taking in the Archibald when the timing is right. One year my best mate won the Sulman award (for the best subject painting, genre painting or mural project), that is presented and displayed at the same time as the Archi and the Wynne prizes, and so were able to view that it in all its glory a month or two after he won it.


Axis of Elvis


So it became a habit to look at the fixture immediately it was published, and circle the interstate games to see if they could be worked into itineraries. The Tiges played games all over the place, both locations in Tassie so off we went. The regular fixtures in Perth firstly at Subi then at Optus, in Adelaide at West Lakes then the Adelaide Oval, in Queensland in Brisbane and on the Gold Coast where I have siblings always draw us to games. We have been to games at all these venues. The Tigers sold home games to Darwin and Cairns and not having been to either spot, they became must attend games. Mind you after Karmichael Hunt kicked that goal after the siren I started to wonder why!

Attending these games was always an adventure. For the games in Cairns, I booked flights early in the piece, one year flying in/out of Cairns, hiring a campervan and driving north for a few days visiting Port Douglas and on into the Daintree. Another year we flew into Mackay, hired a campervan and drove north to Cairns for the footy and home from there. Darwin was a similar set of adventures visiting the great national parks on respective trips.

We have been to games at every ground where AFL matches have been played with the exception of Ballarat and Shanghai. TIO Traeger Park in Alice Springs holds special memories. My little business has supported RecLink for many years and at one point sponsored a team in the central Australian competition, travelling some 500km every fortnight to play in Alice or the ground at Yulara (at Uluru). As an aside, the setting of the Yulara ground is just fabulous – surrounded by gum trees, with a slight embankment and a grassed surface that seems totally out of context. I had the honour of singing the national anthem at the RecLink grand final match played in Alice and as ‘punishment’ ran the boundary for a game thereafter, then a game at Yulara a couple of days later.

At all the venues I’ve attended, with a couple of recent exceptions (Perth and Adelaide Oval), I’ve always gone onto the ground to try and get a feel for the surface. I’ve tried to get an understanding of what the variables might have been during a game. In this regard, I heard Brett Deledio say on ABC radio the other night the surface at Optus in Perth is as hard as rock and a ‘killer’ on the legs. Observing games played in Cairns I noticed that when players took off on a run, bouncing the ball was problematic as the ball didn’t rebound as it readily does at the `G for example. When I went onto the ground after the game, I found the grass to be like a broad leaf couch and it was thick and spongy. With kick-to-kick taking place, I was able to bounce a footy about and of course that was it, one had to push the ball hard into the ground and semi-stoop to get it on the rebound, as it didn’t come back to you like at most grounds.

Right now though, what I wouldn’t give to be able to attend a game of footy! The Dreamtime match has proven to be a stroke of genius. Last year saw Sydney added to the highlights, with a Stack of intimidation in the midst of the opening ceremony and I’d like to see more of the indigenous players involved. Whether spontaneous or rehearsed, that was such great theatre!

This year’s game in Darwin will be something else again. What a wonderful idea to host the game up there and what a treat it would be to attend. I hope it is packed to the rafters with Riolis and Tipungwutis and tribes of all sorts from the Tiwis. I also hope there is a curtain raiser, made up of teams of local indigenous kids – both boys and girls. It would be great if they played bare foot on that lush grass, a luxury to most of them, but oh what joy it would bring to watch ‘em play like they have the ball on a string!

I can’t wait for the Dreamtime Made In Darwin!


TIO Darwin



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About Ken Wilson

Left footer, golfer, runner, well travelled, sometime writer, volunteer, live arts/music lover, self employed, school drop out and Tiger tragic.


  1. One of the unexpected joys of this weird season is that it’s enabled the staging of this game in Darwin. It’ll be a genuine occasion in the midst of a season of vanilla games played for TV.

  2. Totally agree Stainless!

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