After a quick COVID-19 pivot which saw Dreamtime at the G become Dreamtime in Perth, the annual Essendon-Richmond clash was held in the Western Australian capital for the first time in its 16-year history and was a triumph for the Tigers.
Before the game, footy fans walked across the Matagarup Bridge for the Long Walk alongside Essendon great Michael Long and other Indigenous past players, including Gavin Wanganeen and Des Headland.
Headland, now chair of the Indigenous Players Alliance, said he was thrilled to have the Dreamtime game in Perth for the first time.
“It’s unbelievable, you can see with the crowd here how much it means to everyone in WA and here in Perth,” he told the National Indigenous Times.
“It was great to see so many people turn up … (it’s) absolutely jam-packed.”
Essendon and Richmond went head-to-head at Optus Stadium in front of a sold-out crowd, with an exceptional performance from Nyoongar man Shai Bolton, who managed to kick three goals for the Tigers — two of which were in the final quarter.
While the Bombers attempted a comeback in the third quarter, the Tigers proved too ferocious and soon came out in front again.
Medical sub Daniel Rioli sealed the deal on the night, kicking a goal in the last two minutes to put the Tigers on top with a 39-point win.
While Long admits it was a bit of a scramble to get the Long Walk ready for Perth, he says he’s seen “a great response from Western Australia”.
“Bringing it here to Nyoongar Country, as I said at the Long Walk … the most players that have come from WA (are) Nyoongar players in the last 20 years. That’s amazing,” he said.
“Why not bring (the Dreamtime game) here when they’re the biggest contingent in the last 20 years, there are some great players that have come from here.”
Long pointed to this year’s Sir Doug Nicholls round honoree, Syd Jackson, as an example of WA’s incredible Indigenous exports to the VFL and AFL.
“We can recognise our champions here, (like) Uncle Syd this year.”
Long says he’s spoken to AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan about the possibility of touring the Dreamtime game around Australia. It was played in Darwin last year amid COVID.
“No doubt it’s extended conversations about what this game means to Aboriginal people, (and) all people … I think we might have started something. First time here and the locals have loved it.”
By Hannah Cross