The Essendon Football Club has appointed Dean Rioli to the Essendon Board. Rioli, a Tiwi man, played 100 games for the Bombers, is the Club’s first Indigenous board member.

Rioli will also chair Essendon’s National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Advisory Council as part of a renewed focus to enhance Essendon’s connection with Indigenous Australians across the country. The Advisory Council will include representatives from all states and territories.

Essendon President David Barham welcomed Rioli’s appointment to the Board.

“Dean Rioli brings great football and professional experience to the Essendon Board, and we’re delighted to have him as the first-ever Indigenous Board member,” Barham said.

“One of the key recommendations of the external review, was the appointment of an Indigenous director. We have acted immediately on that, and we are absolutely delighted to have someone of Dean’s calibre join our board.

“Dean will help us reset our club so that we again become a destination for all young Indigenous talent around the county. We want more Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and players to be connected to the Essendon Football Club and the role of the Advisory Council will be to drive this across Australia.”

“He is a great role model, as well as being one of our past great players. This is a great step forward for our club,” Barham said.


Rioli, who played 100 games for the Bombers between 1999 and 2006 after being recruited from South Fremantle in the 1998 AFL Rookie Draft, said he is a very “proud and passionate” Essendon supporter who is honoured to join the Board.

“I’m very much about community and people,” Rioli said.

“We’ve got so many diverse people with wide experiences on the Board and I want to focus on the people at the club – members, supporters, players, coaches and staff. It’s about making sure Essendon is front of mind for footy fans in the community and for them to be proud to be Essendon fans and members.’’

Rioli will fill the vacant position left by former president Paul Brasher. It is an elected position and Rioli will stand at the 2024 AGM.

“The current board is so aligned. It’s been a challenging period for the club and after meeting all board members individually I’m really excited for the direction of the club. The review completed provides a roadmap for Essendon to return to the top and implementing the recommendations will be exciting for the whole club," Rioli said.

“I’m very excited to see where the club can head and get stuck into the review and the areas we can improve the club as a whole."


Rioli said he was honoured to be the first Indigenous board member at Essendon.

“The Essendon Football Club has been huge for Aboriginal people and players who have played here. I remember when Michael Long first joined Essendon and that was the reason I supported Essendon.

“Having quality Indigenous footballers at the footy club is great but we need to get out to the community and show there is a real pathway to football. It is important for Aboriginal communities to touch the footy club and feel a deep connection to its history and its future.”

“The focus of the Advisory Committee is about getting people from different parts of Australia to provide insights on how the footy club can make an impact in their local communities. Essendon is a national club, and we need to make sure we’re engaging all Australians.”

Rioli is the current Head Coach of the Moonee Valley Women’s team and played a key role in Essendon selecting Amelia Radford with pick 62 in the 2022 NAB AFLW Draft.