Australian rules football in the Northern Territory
|Australian rules football in the Northern Territory|
|Governing body||AFL Northern Territory|
|Representative team||Northern Territory|
|First played||February 1916, Darwin|
|Registered players||16,710 (total)
|Single match||17,500 (2002). (AFL pre-season practice) Aboriginal All-Stars vs Carlton. (Marrara Oval, Darwin)|
Australian Football in the Northern Territory has a history dating back to the 1910s and is the most popular sport in the territory, particularly with indigenous Australian communities in Darwin, Alice Springs and the Tiwi Islands.
7% of all Northern Territorians in 2007 participated in Australian Football, the highest participation in Australia (and second worldwide only to Australian Football in Nauru). The sport also produces more professional Australian Footballers per capita in the Australian Football League than any other state or territory.
The Northern Territory is home to several representative teams, most notably the Aboriginal All-Stars, but also the Northern Territory Thunder, the Northern Territory Football Club (that plays in the QAFL) and now in the NEAFL, an elite competition on the Eastern seaboard of Australia. Also the Flying Boomerangs represent Australia internationally and the Northern territory has a strong local competition, the Northern Territory Football League.
- 1 History
- 2 Representative Sides
- 3 Participation
- 4 Audience
- 5 Major Australian Rules Events in the Northern Territory
- 6 Great Northern Territory Footballers
- 7 Leagues
- 8 Principal venues
- 9 See also
- 10 References
- 11 External links
The first recorded match of Australian Football in Darwin was played in February 1916 on Darwin Town Oval.
The Northern Territory Football League chose to play in the Northern Territory's 'wet season', primarily due to hard playing surfaces during the 'dry season'. Most other leagues in Australia operate during the winter, but since the Territory does not have a winter, it is played at different times. The Wanderers Football Club were the founding members of the league in 1916.
John Pye and Andy Howley introduced Australian rules football to the Tiwi Islands in 1941, which grew to become the most popular sport on the islands. The Tiwi Islands Football League is a strong competition which feeds players into the NTFL. Skills of the TIFL players are widely celebrated. The TIFL Grand Final is the largest event on the island and a major tourist drawcard.
In 1991, Marrara Stadium was increased in capacity, and became the new home for the NTFL and AFL matches.
In 1991, Darwin hosted the first Arafura Games, the first international competition to include the sport of Australian Rules, and local teams have competed against nations from around the world. The city has hosted the games since.
Although the Territory would love to have a local team in the national competition, a small population and the lack of potential sponsorship means it is unlikely (but not impossible) that a team will be admitted to the Australian Football League at this time.
In 2007, a representative side began in earnest a campaign to join a major league, the SANFL, WAFL or QAFL with the new team split between Alice Springs and Darwin. A decision was reached in late 2008, with the Northern Territory Football Club, known as the Thunder, formed to field a team in the Queensland competition from the 2009 season onwards.
The Northern Territory was represented in early Interstate matches in Australian rules football, before being incorporated into the QLD/NT and then Allies representative sides.
At Under 16 and Under 18 level, the territory fields teams in the national championships.
The Aboriginal All-Stars, a team composed of indigenous Australian players mostly from the AFL and all over the country, are based in Darwin. Darwin is also home of the Flying Boomerangs, the junior indigenous side, who play an annual series against South Africa.
In 2007, there were 3,300 senior players and a total of 16,710 participants in the Northern Territory. The state has an overall participation rate in the sport per capita of 7%, making it the highest in the country. 
Major Australian Rules Events in the Northern Territory
- Northern Territory Football League Grand Final
- Tiwi Islands Football League Grand Final
- Arafura Games (quadrennial)
- Australian Football League Premiership Season (Bulldogs 'home' games)
Great Northern Territory Footballers
Over the years, the Northern Territory has produced an amazing array of talent for elite leagues such as the Australian Football League and South Australian National Football League, including many indigenous Australian players. Greats include Maurice Rioli, Michael Long, Daryl White, Ronnie Burns, David Kantilla, Dean Rioli and Nathan Buckley.
Notable NT Players in the AFL
For a list of clubs in each league, see List of Australian rules football clubs in Northern Territory
Darwin metropolitan leagues
- Central Australian Football League
- Barkley & District Football League
- Katherine District Football League
- Gove Australian Football League
- Tiwi Islands Football League
- AFL Northern Territory
- Australian Football League