A loyal Bombers fan from Bathurst Island. (Photo: Essendon FC)

Essendon has added another chapter to its long-standing connection with the Tiwi Bombers.

The Dons’ VFL and VFLW programs joined forces with eight Tiwi players to take on two NTFL representative sides in late January, providing an exciting chance for Essendon football to return to the Northern Territory.

Arriving in Darwin to an intimate lakeside Welcome to Country and an AusKick clinic at TIO Stadium, both Bombers’ programs were able to get around the young fans and show them a trick or two.


Club great Dean Rioli made appearances at the VFL side’s induction meeting and the VFLW pre-game address, giving a passionate reminder of the Bombers’ connections with Indigenous communities and their impact in shaping the club.

Both sides gave great accounts of themselves in the two practice matches against more experienced and match-fit opposition, taking away plenty of positives in their return home to Melbourne.

CEO Craig Vozzo, who attended both matches on the visit, was impressed with the signs shown by both programs in their hit-outs.

“Whilst the results didn’t go our way, we were really pleased with the efforts of both of our young teams against quality NT opposition,” Vozzo said.


Capping off the trip, a group of key club figures including Vozzo, AFLW Senior Coach Natalie Wood and Co-Captains Bonnie Toogood and Steph Cain headed a special day in the Tiwi Islands.

On Bathurst Island, the group had an opportunity to meet with integral elders in the community who are helping pave the way for young talents through the Tiwi Bombers program, as well as assisting with the overall education for their students.

Experiencing cultural activities such as welcome dances, songs, and a tour of the Patakijiyali Museum documenting the island’s history, the club was able to learn more about an area of the nation that has produced some of its most important people such as Michael Long.

Travelling the island gifting Essendon merchandise and spending time with the locals, the players and staff were welcomed with open arms by young and old alike in an inspiring showcase for football’s impact on small communities.

Vozzo said the day was a particular highlight for the club’s community space as it continues to build strong relationships in the Northern Territory.

“It was a wonderful opportunity for our travel party who got to travel across to Bathurst Island and share some great experiences with the beautiful Tiwi people,” Vozzo said.

“The Club has strong and long-standing connection to the NT, Tiwi Islands and Tiwi Bombers and we will seek to keep building that connection moving forward.”