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Tiwi NGA goes from strength to strength

BTV: Tiwi Bombers | Next Generation Academy Academies Manager Harmit Singh and Tiwi Bombers Captain Patrick Heenan talk through the NGA on the Tiwi Islands.

A trio of exciting prospects from the Tiwi Islands are set to board at school in Victoria in a sign of the growing strength of Essendon’s Next Generation Academies.

Stanley Tipiloura, Tyson Tipuamantamerri and Brayden Rioli – the younger brother of Richmond premiership player, Daniel – are expected to start boarding next year at St Patrick’s College in Ballarat as they continue to pursue their dream of playing in the AFL.

Essendon has primary access to talent in the Tiwi Islands, as well as West Arnhem Land and the northwestern corridor of Melbourne, and club Academies Manager Harmit Singh said there is an exciting crop of players pushing through the system.  

“Across both schools at Tiwi College and Xavier College we’ve got about 200-300 (children) that we engage with,” Singh said during a recent trip to Tiwi.

“From that we’ve got about five kids that have progressed into some more accelerated development opportunities through our James Hird Academy.

“A couple of those are looking to board at St Patrick’s College in Ballarat next year and we’ve been fortunate enough to have some of those kids enter the elite pathway programs playing for NT at the National Championships at under-15 and under-16 level, which has been exciting.”

While Essendon’s commitment to develop the endless talent in the region is substantial, Singh stressed that the club’s relationship with the Tiwi community stretches far beyond football.

“There is a lot of talent and it’s about providing opportunities and having them understand that we’re here to support them and their families,” he said.

“Hopefully we can see some of those kids get through as AFL players, but I think the club has made a really strong commitment to just helping kids try and get through school and use football as that vehicle to promote some really good social outcomes.”

Tiwi Bombers captain Patrick Heenan agreed and said the club’s active work in the community through the NGA and its support of his club has helped make significant changes on the islands.

“To be a part of the academy, it’s a great pathway for the young guys coming through,” Heenan said.

“I wish it was there when I was younger, but it’s definitely a great opportunity for everyone involved. It’s really great for everyone to be a part of and it also gives a pathway for those that want to play footy in Darwin.

“It also takes them off the problems that we face in the community; alcohol, drugs and all that.

“I think it was mainly to take suicide away from the community, which was really bad in the early 2000s. To have Tiwi Bombers in the community, it’s great for everyone involved.”

Three senior AFL Bombers took time out of their break to join Singh and other staff on the trip, and he said their engagement with the local community is an important show of faith and commitment.

“It’s the players’ off-season, so to have Michael Hurley, Ben McNiece and Mason Redman here has been outstanding,” Singh said.

“It stems from the top with (CEO) Xavier Campbell and his commitment to the academies and actually getting his hands dirty, coming out and getting involved, it’s been fantastic and I know that everyone really enjoys having us up.”

Click on the links below to see and hear more about the Bombers’ journey north:

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