In the Sheds: Royboys’ turkey run unites distant clubs

By Paul Daffey

The AFL’s Indigenous Round this weekend will promote unity through sport. For an example of such unity, look no further than the link formed by two clubs on opposite sides of the country, from opposite sides of the demographic coin. Warnum is a West Australian Aboriginal community that was once known as Turkey Creek. Its footy club, the Eagles, plays in the East Kimberly Football League. Fitzroy is a Melbourne inner-city community that was once known for its rare birds in the arts world. Its footy club, the Roys, used to play in the AFL but this season has thrown up a version that plays in D1-section of the Victorian Amateur Football Association. The two clubs’ paths crossed on the eve of the season when the Warnum Eagles realised that their order of new jumpers would not turn up before the opening round. Fitzroy officials heard about their plight and organised what you might call a turkey run.

THE link is Megan Buckley, who is the Warnum community’s arts centre co-ordinator. Buckley’s son Sam is the coach of the Fitzroy reserves. After Megan had explained the Eagles’ jumper shortage to her son, Fitzroy officials moved into action. Royboys secretary Bill Atherton organised a shipment of Fitzroy jumpers to Warnum, which is 160 kilometres south of Kununurra, near the Northern Territory border, and the jumpers arrived two hours before the first game. Young Eagles players pulled out the jumpers and were puzzled. Some commented that the jumpers looked like bright versions of the Brisbane strip. The guernseys were duly worn during the opening-round win over the Waringirri Crows, after which Eagles president Richard Thomas found a video of a late 1980s game between Fitzroy and West Coast. He played the video to show the Eagles that Fitzroy wasn’t always a club from the lower reaches of the Victorian Amateurs. “Mickey Conlan was playing,” he said.

THOMAS, who works as a Centrelink agent in Warnum, said that most Warnum footballers barrack for West Coast or Fremantle. He himself barracks for Richmond. “I’ve barracked for them for 39 years,” he said. “I liked Kevin Bartlett—he was my idol. I used to say to the boys, ‘If you see me in the forward line with the ball, don’t bother asking me to pass’.” Thomas, 45, is the tubby player at the far left of the photo, the last one in a Fitzroy jumper. He’s not playing this season but he said he might return next year if he can get himself fit. The burliest player is Cecil Mosquito, a forward with keen goal sense. Mosquito’s nephew, 16-year-old Timothy Mosquito, is one of the Eagles’ star players. After blitzing in the opening two rounds, young Mosquito took up a scholarship to go to boarding school down south. “He’s fast,” said Thomas.

TIMOTHY Mosquito’s venture down south means he’ll miss the Kimberley region’s under-19 carnival in Fitzroy Crossing next weekend. Four AFL clubs have planned to go to the carnival, which will include teams from throughout the Kimberley region. Two players who are now on AFL rookie lists, Carl Peterson (ex-Richmond, now Hawthorn) and Liam Bedford (ex-Geelong, now West Coast) got their starts in footy on Kimberley soil. Lesley “Dingo” Bedford, Liam’s father, is still an umpire in the East Kimberley competition.

PART of the reason the Warnum Eagles had no jumpers before this season is that their players swapped with rivals from the Halls Creek Hawks after losing last year’s grand final. (Another reason is that the players continued wearing them during the off-season and they just wore out.) The Eagles and the Hawks last Friday played a grand final rematch under lights in Halls Creek. The Hawks won to retain their position at the top of the ladder. The competition changed last year in that Ringer Soak, a community from the desert region south of Kununurra, replaced Timber Creek. Ringer Soak is famous as the community where a Halls Creek policeman chanced across a late 1980s Land Cruiser with 23 passengers, 16 inside and seven on the roof.

CLOSER to home, Melbourne Aboriginal club Fitzroy Stars enjoyed their biggest day since returning last year in the second division of the Northern Football League. After struggling for consistency last season, the Stars showed premiership credentials on Saturday by defeating Macleod, the runner-up of the past three years, by 35 points at Collingwood’s Victoria Park. Stars president Troy Austin said the fans almost raised the roof of the Sherrin stand when midfielder Kaelun Brown kicked sealed the victory. “You would have sworn there were 5000 people there,” he said. The Stars coach is Alan Brown, Kaelun’s father. The assistant coaches are Les “Lelly” Bamblett (ex-Melbourne and Bulldogs) and Alan Thorpe (Sydney and Bulldogs). Bamblett’s son, Lelly junior, was named among the best players, as was former Richmond player Lionel Proctor. The Stars were missing Athol Jetta, Leroy’s father; Athol last week gained a clearance to Western Region league club Albanvale.

COUNTRY Victoria’s Aboriginal club, Rumbalara, was thrashed by Murray league rival Barooga on Saturday. Rumbalara last year played finals but this year half the team are teenagers. The club’s captain, Josh Wanganeen, a second cousin of Gavin Wanganeen, is one of the oldest players at 23. Rumbalara’s best on Saturday included Josh Atkinson, a brother of Essendon’s Jarrod, and their cousins Jamie and Jason Atkinson.

DAVID Callow is a 50-year-old Melbourne photographer who makes regular visits to Aboriginal communities in Central Australia. His work is featuring over the next month in an exhibition at the Monash Art Galley on the corner of Ferntree Gully and Gells roads. One photo at the exhibition is of Geoffrey Wallace from Titjikala, just east of Alice Springs. Callow said Wallace’s football was so worn that it looked “bloated like a fish in the sun”.

In the Sheds appears in The Age every Wednesday.


  1. Pamela Sherpa says

    Paul,I’m amazed at how you keep track of so many leagues, players and places and remember who is connected to who.I have enough trouble connecting all my own relatives! Love the Mosquito name.

  2. pauldaffey says

    Hi Pamela, As it happens, my fellow Nac editor John Harms yesterday told me that he met young Timothy Mosquito last year at a function in Melbourne. “Top nickname,” John said to Tim. “It’s my real name,” Tim said to John. John did the right thing and buzzed off.

  3. haiku bob says

    good to hear the stars have a win.
    a few of those boys were my ‘clients’ back in my social work days.
    that’s when i wasn’t drinking with them at squizzy taylors!

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