Austin Wonaeamirri in action for Melbourne
|Full name||Austin Wonaeamirri|
|Date of birth||2 October 1988|
|Place of birth||Milikapiti, Melville Island, Northern Territory|
|Original team||St Marys Football Club (NTFL)|
|Draft||19th overall, 2007 AFL Rookie Draft
|Height/Weight||176 cm / 80 kg|
1 Playing statistics correct to end of 2011 season.
Austin Wonaeamirri (born 2 October 1988) is a professional Australian rules football player of indigenous (Tiwi) origin. He previously played for the Melbourne Football Club in the Australian Football League (AFL).
Wonaeamirri was born and grew up on the Tiwi Islands in the remote community of Snake Bay and Milikapiti, on Melville Island. He began playing football at the age of six and as a junior, he played in the Tiwi Islands Football League. He lost his mother at the age of 12 and was brought up by his father, Matthew.
He was named in the inaugural list of the Tiwi Bombers, as one of their youngest stars. He was a solid contributor for the Bombers during the record thrashing of Rumbalara Football Club in their historic encounter at the Melbourne Cricket Ground as a curtainraiser to the "Dreamtime at the 'G" match between the Essendon Bombers and Richmond Tigers.
After being overlooked in the 2006 AFL Draft, Wonaeamirri moved to Adelaide in South Australia to play in the SANFL for the Norwood Football Club to increase his chances of being drafted from a more competitive league.
After a solid season with Norwood, he nominated for the AFL Draft later that year.
After strong performances in the 2007 AFL National Under 18 Championships for the Northern Territory where he was voted the Territory's best player at the tournament, he attracted the interest of talent scouts.
The small crumbing forward was tipped by some to be selected in the national draft with his pace and ability to apply forward line pressure, run down opponents, ballwinning ability and skills on both sides of the body being a feature of his game. Some were critical of him being slightly overweight for an AFL footballer, while his short stature may have put some clubs off. Others likened him to the Davey brothers, and in particular, the shorter but speedy Essendon Football Club star Alwyn Davey, the brother of Melbourne's forward-cum-midfielder Aaron Davey. Despite these things the Melbourne Demons picked him up in the 2007 Rookie draft.
He joined Aaron Davey and Matthew Whelan as current Melbourne Demons players from Darwin.
An injury to Jack Grimes which put him on the long term injury list paved the way for Wonaeamirri to debut in round 3, 2008 against Geelong. With eight kicks and four tackles, the short forward did enough to earn him a spot and play consecutive matches in the next few games. In his second game against North Melbourne, he was impressive, kicking two goals. Against the Brisbane Lions at the Brisbane Cricket Ground, Wonaeamirri also starred with three goals.
The breakthrough for Wonaeamirri was his four goals in the stirring round 7 come-from-behind victory against the Fremantle at the Melbourne Cricket Ground. One of his goals was at a critical point in the game, helping his team steal the lead for the first time in the game and for good. His final quarter produced a total of three goals, when the game was still in the balance. With his enthusiastic celebrations he established himself as a cult figure, with many nicknaming him "Aussie" and "Wonna". He picked up an AFL Rising Star Award nomination for his outstanding performance against the Dockers. He would ultimately receive one vote to finish tenth for the award.
In just his first season with Melbourne, he finished second in the club goalkicking for the year behind Brad Miller.
In the off-season, Wonaeamirri returned to Bathurst Island for the first time since the AFL season where he was held with celebrity status.
In 2009, Wonaeamirri chose to change from guernsey number 39 to 33, a number previously worn by indigenous idols Jeff Farmer and Byron Pickett. He lost weight and was selected for the Indigenous All-Stars to play against the Adelaide Crows, where he kicked two goals and was named among the best for the side.
Wonaeamirri had a poor 2011 season, partially due to his father's death in May, which derailed his pre-season. He took time off and returned home to the Tiwi Islands before returning to Melbourne midway through the season and managing to play five matches. At season's end, new coach Mark Neeld decided to delist Wonaeamirri.
Austin Wonaeamirri likes to return to his home in Tiwi Islands as much as possible. In his free time, he enjoys talking to locals in the community, seeing friends and making stews. But it is his passion for hunting sea turtles including Flatback Turtle that has inspired his nickname Austin "Turtle" Wonaeamirri within football circles. Coach Dean Bailey raised concerns about Austin's passion for turtle meat which dietitians have said has a high fat content.
- "33 Austin Wonaeamirri". Melbourne Football Club. Retrieved 31 October 2011.
- Epstein, Jackie (4 May 2008). "Aussie gives Dees a reason to smile". Herald Sun. Retrieved 31 October 2011.
- Harris, Amelia (5 April 2008). "Austin Wonaeamirri to make senior debut". Herald Sun. Retrieved 31 October 2011.
- MELBOURNEfc Magazine. December 2008. p. 13.
- AFL Record. Round 9, 2008. p. 9.
- "Demon Austin Wonaeamirri picks up Rising Star nomination". Herald Sun. Australian Associated Press. 6 May 2008. Retrieved 31 October 2011.
- Robinson, Mark (6 February 2009). "The running man, Austin Wonaeamirri". Herald Sun. Retrieved 31 October 2011.
- Windley, Matt (31 October 2011). "Dees delist Austin Wonaeamirri". Herald Sun. Retrieved 31 October 2011.
- Gleeson, Michael (5 May 2008). "Heat of historic battle turns boy into a man". The Age. Retrieved 31 October 2011.
- Austin Wonaeamirri's statistics from AFL Tables