Spectators at the 2020 AFL Dreamtime game in Darwin.

AFL in discussions to move AFLW Dreamtime game from Melbourne to Darwin from 2024

The AFL is in advanced talks with the Richmond Tigers and Essendon Bombers to permanently relocate the AFL Women’s (AFLW) Dreamtime match between the clubs from Melbourne to Darwin.

Key points:

The AFLW Dreamtime game could become a permanent fixture in Darwin
AFL NT is hopeful the game could come to the city as soon as the 2024 season
Richmond and Essendon have confirmed they are in talks with the AFL about the move

The Dreamtime match, first played as an AFL fixture on the MCG in 2007, is the centrepiece of the AFL and AFLW’s Indigenous Round.

The AFL match has grown to become an iconic night in Australian sport and, as a spectacle attracting crowds at to 80,000 people and huge TV audiences, the country’s largest communal celebration of Aboriginal culture and sporting achievement.

Both Richmond and Essendon have confirmed to the ABC the clubs are in discussions with the AFL to make Darwin and the Northern Territory, where both men’s and women’s Aussie Rules participation rates are the highest in the country, the home of the Dreamtime match for the AFLW.

Both Richmond and Essendon have strong ties to Indigenous football in the NT.(Getty Images: Darrian Traynor)

Northern Territory Sport Minister Kate Worden also confirmed the government was in talks with the clubs. She said the NT government supported the idea in principle.

“It’s very pleasing … [and] sends a strong message about the cultural significance of the game and the importance of the Northern Territory to both clubs and our contribution to the game over many years,” she said.

“The Territory Labor Government has always been supportive of bringing men’s and women’s AFL matches to the territory.

“With all events, they come with a cost and we need to consider this as part of the budgetary process.”

The push to bring the game to the Northern Territory follows the success of the AFL Dreamtime match in Darwin in 2020, which was rescheduled away from the MCG due to COVID, and the introduction of the Dreamtime match to the AFLW in 2022.

Spectators at the 2020 AFL Dreamtime game in Darwin.

Spectators at the 2020 AFL Dreamtime game in Darwin.(Suppplied: AFL Media)

AFL Northern Territory chairman Sean Bowden told the ABC there was a chance the game could come Darwin as soon as the 2024 AFLW season and become a permanent fixture in the tropical city.

“In 2020 you saw the eyes of the nation on Darwin when we did the men’s Dreamtime game and it was a sensational spectacle. The women’s Dreamtime game will be just as sensational,” he said.

“It’s now a matter for the two clubs to talk with the AFL.

“AFL Northern Territory will support this wholeheartedly … and as the fixture is put together we can start to see whether it really is feasible and I’m very every hopeful that it is.”

Spectators at the 2020 Dreamtime game in Darwin.

The 2020 Dreamtime game in Darwin was beloved by locals.(Supplied: AFL Media)

AFL Northern Territory is eyeing off a Dreamtime fixture for the end of August or early September.

It is also looking beyond the Dreamtime match and pushing to showcase multiple AFLW matches over the league’s Indigenous Round in the future.

“Hopefully this will develop into a Dreamtime round, where not just Richmond and Essendon but the other clubs will come, and they will participate in a magnificent round of women’s football in the Northern Territory,” Mr Bowden said.

Sean Bowden looking at a camera in a studio.

AFL NT chairman Sean Bowden is optimistic the game could come to Darwin in 2024.(ABC News: Michael Franchi)

The push gathered further momentum last week when AFL legend Kevin Sheedy, who was instrumental in establishing the men’s Dreamtime game, travelled to Darwin and progressed the idea with administrators.

“The Dreamtime game is to honour Aboriginal people of Australia, it’s quite simple,” Mr Sheedy told the ABC.

Kevin Sheedy receives a certificate commemorating his Legend status in front of a giant screen showing his face.

Kevin Sheedy received Legend status at an AFL Hall of Fame ceremony in 2018.(AAP Image/Joe Castro)

“To me [moving the game to Darwin] would be an absolute lay-down misère. It should happen … it’s not a question, just make it happen.

“I hope that ladies and women and the children of Darwin love it. I think it is a beautiful opportunity for the women to get on the stage … [and] be absolute superstar champions.”

Richmond Tigers vice-captain Sarah Hosking told the ABC players were firmly behind the prospect of moving the game north.

“In my opinion it’s a no-brainer to do it … it would be incredible because you’ve got such a huge representation of Indigenous people,” she said.

 Richmond vice-captain Sarah Hosking playing in the AFLW 2023 Dreamtime game.

Richmond vice-captain Sarah Hosking playing in the AFLW 2023 Dreamtime game.(Supplied: Richmond Tigers)

“We’ve now been two years into our Indigenous Round journey in the AFLW and I’d love to have that game played in Darwin, and I know my teammates would love that as well.

“Make the decision, and make it to happen in Darwin. Look at what you can do for the younger generation.

“It’s not just about football and what we get to play, it’s that broader perspective and really embracing our Indigenous culture as Australia and as a whole and really opening up that learning experience too, and I think football is a great avenue to do that.”



Author: Russell White