The ADF men’s and women’s Australian football teams could not make it three on the trot when they took on the Northern Territory’s Police, Fire and Emergency Services teams in the annual Anzac Shield charity games in Darwin.
CAPTION: Players from the men’s ADF and NT PFES teams vie for the ball during the ANZAC Shield charity AFL match at TIO Stadium, Darwin, NT. Story by Major Dan Mazurek. Photo by Signalman Kobi Rankin.
Both games were close, with the women going down by four points after a strong, big-marking start, and the men losing by 11 points despite a late surge to overcome a sluggish start.
The games weren’t just about the scores on the board, however, since Anzac Shield is more about community and camaraderie – military personnel, first responders and NT public sharing a day of sport and laughs that kicked off with an Anzac service featuring a flypast by two ARH Tigers from Army’s 1st Aviation Regiment.
Event organiser and ADF half forward Captain Hayden Duczec said the event had grown from humble beginnings.
“The idea started out on the back of a napkin, while a bunch of us were having drinks watching a game,” Captain Duczek said.
“The idea spiralled from there – we started getting sponsors, a huge amount of spectators and a whole community of support.”
Entry to Anzac Shield was by gold coin donation with all proceeds going to Legacy.
AFL NT was also a key supporter, providing the use of the stadium, referees, time keepers and admin staff, as well as donating a portion of food and beverage sales.
Anzac Shield is one of the first major community events that welcomes the newly arrived United States Marine Corps Rotational Force-Darwin (MRF-D) each year. The Marines were out supporting the game in force.
MRF-D Commander Colonel Brendan Sullivan is new to Aussie rules but nonetheless had a great time.
“It’s incredible to be out at the footy,” he said.
“You talk about cultural immersion – well you don’t get much more immersed than this. I’m excited to be here.”
Colonel Sullivan wasn’t the only Marine adapting to seeing “football” played on an oval.
“There’s a lot of legs,” Corporal Joe McNally, a member of the new MRF-D rotation, said.
“It’s way different than the rectangular football us Americans are used to.
“In American football, the whistle blows and things stop.
“Whistle blows here, everything keeps going – things are happening.”
Director General Future Land Warfare and chair of ADF AFL Brigadier James Davis travelled from Canberra for the matches.
“Anzac week is primarily about remembering, recognising and commemorating, but it’s also a little bit about gratitude, and so we express our gratitude for what we have, for those who have gone before us, by playing our national game,” Brigadier Davis said.