A NUMBER of Shoalhaven top footballers have just returned from New Zealand, where they created history as part of the inaugural clash of cultures trans-Tasman football series tour.
Wreck Bay trio Lewis Archibald (Yuin Sharks), Tyrone Nye-Williams (Roseby Sharks) and Anthony Roberts (Yuin Sharks) were part of the Australian indigenous representative men’s football team, while Wreck Bay duo Summer Dann (South Coast Jummalungs) and Alanah McLeod (Yuin Sharks), Erowal Bay’s Ricki Reid (Roseby Park) and Nowra’s Nekaya Carpenter (Rosebay Park) lined up in the women’s team.
All seven athletes, along with Shoalhaven’s Mark Johnston (women’s coach) and Bernie McLeod (men’s manager) had the honour of representing Indigenous Australians against the New Zealand Maori’s in a Test match – implemented following a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between First Nation people of Australia and New Zealand Maori.
“When we arrived in Auckland, we didn’t really know what to expect,” McLeod, who is also the National Indigenous Football Championships director, said.
“We were first invited to stay in a traditional marae, a house where Maori’s used to live – to experience their culture first hand.
“The marae was no bigger than half a basketball court but it slept all 67 of us, which was a great honour and privilege – as this tour was all about sharing cultures, building relationships and showing respect.”
Both the men’s and women’s sides played two trial matches prior to their Test match against the Maori – with the men defeating a Fijian opponent 6-1 and Chilian opponent 6-2, while the women lost their first trial 1-nil before drawing 2-all in their second, which were both against New Zealand rivals.
“Going into the Test, the men looked really sharp but on the Saturday of the game, it was extremely hot conditions,” McLeod said.
“You could tell that the Maori were fresher, having not played two trial matches beforehand – which led to the men losing 3-2.
“The women didn’t fair any better, losing 5-nil.”
While disappointed not to have won the matches, McLeod acknowledged that this tour had a bigger importance.
“Overall, it was great to give the Indigenous athletes here in Australia a chance to play at a national level against international opposition,” he said.
“Furthermore, this tour got all of our athletes to appreciate different cultures.
“A large part of that is why Jason Sharp, who works for the Red Cross in the Shoalhaven, came on the tour.
“In between meals, he would offered our athletes cultural awareness workshops, emphasising the important of cultural heritage and identity.
“It’s crucial our athletes understand the importance of the work of our forefathers such as Charlie Perkins.
“In the same vein, they need to appreciate cultures, such as the Maoris.
“As a whole, it was fantastic event, which everyone thoroughly enjoyed.”
Following the tour, which has already laid plans for a return fixture in January 2019, a number of players including Shoalhaven’s Lewis Archibald were offered contracts to play in the New Zealand Football Championship.
In other news, the date for this year’s National Indigenous Football Championships (NIFC) at Nowra’s Ison Park has been confirmed, running from October 31 to November 2.