For the last few years, the residents of Ltyentye Apurte – or Santa Teresa – have dreamed of creating the MCG of bush footy.
- Santa Teresa’s oval has been officially reopened after work to fully grass the oval was completed
- It’s been dubbed the MCG of the Desert, with goalposts from the MCG donated to the community
- The Melbourne Demons, Melbourne Cricket Club, AFL NT and NT Government were all involved the project
After years of work the field of dreams has finally become a reality, with the official reopening this week.
“It’s been a long time coming, and the community is so proud and excited,” Atyenhenge-atherre Aboriginal Corporation (AAAC) chair Annalise Young said.
The community has been patiently (and literally) watching the grass grow, itching to finally get on the field.
“We’ve been very careful trying to keep everybody off the oval to let the grass grow,” AAAC chief executive Ellie Kamara said.
No-one bites the dust
This oasis of footy has come a long way from its dusty beginning to become Central Australia’s answer to the MCG.
The name’s not just for show either — the new goalposts were donated by the Melbourne Cricket Club (MCC) from the MCG.
The Melbourne Demons Football Club, the MCC, AFL NT, and the NT Government were all involved in the effort to grass the oval.
Ms Kamara said the project came about from more of a throwaway remark than a real suggestion.
“My predecessor just suggested to the IT manager at Melbourne Football Club, ‘if you wanted to do something good, what about grassing the oval?'” she said.
It’ll get used as much as the MCG too, with local footy clubs hoping it’ll give them a leg up.
“We do really good footy in town,” Ltyentye Apurte Football Club manager Phillip Alice said.
Melbourne Football Club has developed a close relationship with Ltyentye Apurte over the last several years, and members were set to be the guests of honour at the opening.
But the visit, along with Friday night’s AFL game in Alice Springs, were both cancelled.
“It’s very unfortunate that we can’t play this year,” chief executive Gary Pert said.
“Our indigenous players love putting our on our Indigenous design jumper, which was designed by one of the artists at Santa Teresa.
‘It’s been extraordinary’
Ms Kamara said it was sad the team could not be there, but said the club had done plenty of work behind the scenes leading up to the day, and beyond.
“It’s been extraordinary, the financial support and practical support to get the oval to the state that it’s in today,” she said.
She says it’ll take plenty of work to keep the oval in tip-top condition, but expert help is at hand.
“We still need a lot of water, and it’ll be constant with the weed blowing in from outside and the bindiis and everything,” she said.
“Melbourne Football Club and Melbourne Cricket Club are helping with that — their groundsman are hands on with our fellas that are doing the maintenance here.”