On a red dirt pitch with only a few patches of green, the Bidyadanga Emus donned their football boots on the team pitch for the first time in two seasons.
Restrictions on access to remote Indigenous communities, imposed at the start of the pandemic to limit the spread of COVID-19, were lifted last week.
The easing of the travel ban means that sporting and cultural activities can return to normal in communities, as visitors can now enter for non-essential reasons – and one of them is football.
‘It feels good’
At a ceremony to mark the start of the match, elder Angelina Nanudie was delighted to celebrate the return of football to Karajarri country in Bidyadanga, about two hours drive south of Broome.
“I welcome the Cable Beach crowd to play in my country,” she said.
“It’s our first home game after COVID… it feels good.”
In the Kimberley – an area where Aussie Rules football is often equated with religion – the ability to host home games again has breathed new life into communities that were largely closed to the world.
Women’s coach Michael Martin said the return to home games had brought the whole community together after a long period of uncertainty.
“It’s just given people a chance to forget about it all [COVID-19] and come support their team and have fun.
“It’s also an opportunity for men and women to represent their communities.”
The new normal
The restrictions, which were imposed by the state government, had required visitors to obtain police approvals to enter more than 200 communities between the Goldfields and the Kimberleys.
Although state-level restrictions have eased, individual communities can still choose to enforce their own restrictions on who can enter and why.
Cable Beach Greenbacks’ Mick Albert said his side were happy to make the last-minute trip from Broome as West Kimberley Football League sides returned to pre-pandemic fixtures.
“We still didn’t know if we were going to play.
“We had to check who had cars and who had spaces available and do RAT tests as well.”
More than a game
Community nurse Latham Rogers took the initiative to pick up community elders and bring them to the oval to make sure they didn’t miss the big game.
It’s something he’s been doing for eight years, but he says Saturday’s game had a special meaning.
“Often the old ones didn’t have the opportunity to come down to watch the games and stayed at home.”
Mr. Rogers prepared plates of fresh, healthy food and served tea and coffee to seniors throughout the game.
“Whether it’s BBQ, sandwiches, fresh fruit, pastries, we provide it all here,” he said.
“It’s part of our goodwill towards the community.
heart and soul
Elder Joseph Munroe, who once played for the Bidyadanga men’s team, enjoyed a sandwich while watching the game from a folding chair under the shade of a tree.
“It’s a nice feeling to watch them play…really proud.”
Mr Munroe was delighted to be back to cheer from the sidelines at home after so many away games he was unable to attend during the pandemic.
“It was really difficult for us not to travel to Broome, to stay here in Bidyi, I was waiting for this COVID-19 to go away to watch them play here on their ground and in Broome,” he said. he declares.