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Follow the Tiwi Bombers footy team through their first season in the Northern Territory’s big league as they strive to fulfil the dreams of their grandfathers.

 

 

Synopsis
Episode Breakdown
Characters
Film Crew Credits
Directors Statement
TIWI Footy
Credits
Acknowledgments

 

 

 

 

 

 

Synopsis

 

This series follows Australia’s first all-black football team through their first season in the big league. After more than 30 years of running their own competition in a remote island community off the coast of Darwin, the Tiwi Bombers set out to prove that their fast intuitive style of football can beat the long established teams of the NTFL. We discover early that Australian Rules Football is like a religion on the islands where every child, male and female, learns the basic skills of the game before they learn to speak. With the best Tiwi players being drafted into the regional and national competitions, the islands have earned a reputation for supplying highly skilled, unorthodox players like Maurice and Dean Rioli and Michael Long.

 

From the outset there is opposition from the other clubs as their top Tiwi players are signed to the Bombers. It looks like a Tiwi dream team will come together to annihilate the established clubs. As the season starts the crowds go wild for the Bombers who’ve brought a spark of electricity into the game. After a long winning streak through the first half of the season the Bombers appear to be unbeatable. But there are unseen dangers lurking behind their apparent success. The young players’ commitment to steer clear of drugs and alcohol is severely tested. Riding high on success they lose their resolve and attendance at training drops. Their winning streak comes to an end and they now struggle to maintain their place in the top four teams.

 

The club are now soul-searching for a solution.  The tropical rains have begun and the dirt roads that connect the communities have turned to mud. Getting the team together to train is more difficult than ever. The players and their mentors look to the past and the strength of their tribal ancestors for inspiration. The team leaders focus the younger players on the idea that they have inherited this opportunity from the decades of struggle by their fathers and grandfathers to achieve a team of their own in the big league.  The history of the islands includes the establishment of a mission home for half-cast children taken from their Aboriginal families on the mainland and brought up as orphans by the Catholic Church. Many members of the “stolen generations” have gone on to become some of the greatest players Australian Football has ever seen.

 

The team makes a last ditch effort to make it into the finals series. After loosing their first finals game the entire history of Tiwi football comes down to one game. The pressure is unbearable, the weather couldn’t be worse. Training is almost impossible.
The highly emotional climax to this journey is unavoidable. The cost of their inexperience and lack of discipline is crushing for the players and the club but the message for young and old in the Tiwi community is to get back up and fight another day. We leave the Bombers running on to the field for the first game of their second season with the shine of hope in their eyes once more.

 

ABC TV Broadcast dates

 

Episode # 1 - Sun 22 Mar 1.30pm ABC 1 | Mon 23 Mar 5pm ABC 2 | Fri 27 Mar 6pm ABC 1

Episode # 2 - Sun 29 Mar 1.30pm ABC 1 | Mon 30 Mar 5pm ABC 2 | Fri 03 Apr 6pm ABC 1

Episode # 3 - Sun 05 Apr 1.30pm ABC 1 | Mon 06 Apr 5pm ABC 2 | Fri 10 Apr 6pm ABC 1

 

 

Episode Breakdown

 

 

Episode 1

At the beginning of the first episode we see the Tiwi Bombers football team limbering up for a sudden death playoff for a place in the Northern Territory Football League Grand Final. What’s at stake is the history making honour of being the first team to enter a grand final in their first season in the competition. The excitement is palpable. The sense of a climactic moment looms.

Suddenly we are back at the start of the season six months earlier. We discover that the Tiwi Islands, a group of three tiny Aboriginal communities spread across two islands off the coast of Darwin, are a prolific producer of top grade footballers but after running a vibrant local competition for over 30 years they have never been able to field a side in the NTFL, until now.

Their admission to the competition is not without controversy as many of the established Darwin clubs are bristling at having some of their top players poached to play for the Tiwi side. There is also dissent amongst the Tiwi ranks from stalwarts loyal to the St Mary’s team, which was established just after World War Two specifically to cater for Tiwi players. St Mary’s who have dominated the Darwin competition for many years become the number one rival of the Tiwi dream team.

It’s a cliché in Melbourne that Australian Rules Football is like a religion but on the Tiwi Islands where every child learns the basic skills of the game before they learn to speak, it is a religion. It’s incorporated into traditional dance and song and is ingrained in the Tiwi way of life.

Early on we find out that drugs and alcohol are considered as the major threat to the teams history making objective. The preseason pep talks include an all day workshop on drug and alcohol management and at the end of the day the players pledge themselves to abstinence from drugs and strict limits on their drinking.

We meet the two co-captains of the team, Thomas Simon our narrator and Edward Darcy. The pair have been friends since childhood and are inseparable throughout the series. Both gifted players they are charged with setting an example for the younger players in the squad. As the season starts the crowds go wild for the Bombers who’ve brought a spark of electricity into the game.

ABC TV Broadcast dates

Episode # 1 - Sun 22 Mar 1.30pm ABC 1 | Mon 23 Mar 5pm ABC 2 | Fri 27 Mar 6pm ABC 1

 

Episode 2

After losing their first match of the season to arch rivals St Mary’s the Tiwi Bombers bounced back with a long winning streak through the first half of the season to the point where they appear to be unbeatable. But there are unseen dangers lurking behind their apparent success. The young players’ commitment to steer clear of drugs and alcohol is severely tested. They are surrounded by constant alcohol abuse in their communities and their peers are engulfed in a stoned haze of marijuana use. Riding high on success they lose their resolve and attendance at training drops. Their winning streak comes to an end and they now struggle to maintain their place in the top four teams.

 

We learn about the many obstacles that face the fledgling side as they plough into their first season in the big league. For a start the squad is made up of players from three different communities separated by hundreds of kilometres of dirt roads that in the wet season turn to mud and become impassable. Although the club is backed by some serious sponsorship, most of it goes on airfares getting the players into Darwin every weekend to play. They have also hired in two “talls” from Queensland (tall players to compete in the ruck for the high balls). These players are based in Darwin and fly out to the Islands once a week to train with the squad.

 

There is also a smouldering resentment about the Bombers among the other clubs who have lost some of their best players to the Tiwi side. One critic likens support from Melbourne’s Essendon Football Club as a “modern day franchise”. As we approach mid-season the press and the crowds are becoming highly critical of the Bombers and the players and club officials a feeling the lack of support. The Bombers are losing their grip and it starts to show on the scoreboard. The club are now soul-searching for a solution.  The tropical rains have begun and the dirt roads that connect the communities have turned to mud. Getting the team together to train is more difficult than ever.

 

The Tiwi Islands have previously had one of the highest youth suicide rates in the world. Thomas Simon gives a harrowing account of having to deal with three suicide deaths in a single night. As he and Edward rake over the causes of depression and hopelessness amongst Tiwi youth they point to a way out through sharing emotions with family and friends giving those around you the chance to help you out of trouble.


Here we find that Thomas also has a musical side and plays in a band and writes songs to inspire the younger members of the community to be strong and build on the heritage of their ancestors. His band B2M (which stands for Bathurst to Melville – the two Tiwi islands) won Best New Talent at the 2008 Indigenous Music Awards.

We hear about the history of the islands including the establishment of a mission home for half-cast children taken from their Aboriginal families on the mainland and brought up as orphans by the Catholic Church. Many members of this so-called “stolen generation” have gone on to become some of the greatest players Australian Football has ever seen.

ABC TV Broadcast dates

Episode # 2 - Sun 29 Mar 1.30pm ABC 1 | Mon 30 Mar 5pm ABC 2 | Fri 03 Apr 6pm ABC 1

 

 

Episode 3

At the beginning of the final episode we recap the story so far resetting the goal of the Bombers to be the first team in history to make the Grand Final in their first year in the competition. After a strong start to the season the Bombers lost their way and went from an apparently unbeatable side to a motley crew who struggle to get a full squad to training and are just hanging on to their spot in the top four teams.

 

A lapse in discipline has seen the code of conduct fly out the window. The pledges the players made at the start of the season to stay off the grog and keep away from ganga (marijuana) are clearly not being upheld with even the leadership group being among the worst offenders. The torrential rains of the tropical wet season has made training almost impossible on the islands and the club officials are deeply worried about the teams prospects as they enter the finals.

 

After loosing their first finals game the entire history of Tiwi football comes down to one game. The pressure is unbearable, the weather couldn’t be worse. Training is almost impossible. At the last minute a decision is taken to bring the squad to Darwin in the lead up to the sudden death semi-final, to train.

 

On Thursday night after training some of the players can’t resist the rare opportunity for a night on the town. They hit the nightclub strip in Darwin and turn up for training next day trying hard to hide their hangovers. Worse still, it happens again of Friday night, the night before their sudden death semi-final. With the two co-captains Edward Darcy and Tomas Simon carrying injuries and the squad in disarray things don’t look good for the  Tiwi dream team.

 

The highly emotional climax to this journey is unavoidable. The cost of their inexperience and lack of discipline is crushing for the players and the club but the message for young and old in the Tiwi community is to get back up and fight another day. After the tears and sadness of the change room after their defeat we experience the freshness and vigour of the local Tiwi grand final day held on the islands the following day. We get the sense that this local competition with barefoot players and stray dogs on the field is really where it’s at. It’s all about playing the game and having a go.

 

Football really is something special to the Tiwi Islanders. Nowhere else in Australia is the game as virulent as it is here. After all’s been said and done, we leave the Bombers running on to the filed for the first game of their second season with the shine of hope in their eyes once more.

ABC TV Broadcast dates
Episode # 3 - Sun 05 Apr 1.30pm ABC 1 | Mon 06 Apr 5pm ABC 2 | Fri 10 Apr 6pm ABC 1

 

 

Characters



Thomas Simon – Co-Captain, Tiwi Bombers (Narrator)
Thomas Simon was born on the Tiwi Islands and grew up at Milikapiti (Snake Bay) on Melville Island. He attended primary school at Milikapiti and finished his secondary education boarding at Kormilda College in Darwin. He has always been a keen footballer and was recruited into the Palmerston under-14 team at the age of 12. He played for Palmerston Magpies during his school days and represented the NT several years running in the Territory Thunder under-18 side. After finishing school he spent two years playing in a regional competition in western Victoria before returning to Milikapiti for the birth of his first son in 2001. After a year away from football he spent two seasons back with the Palmerston Magpies before being recruited by Darwin’s Wanderers Club. He joined the Tiwi Bombers in 2006 for their trial season and was voted Co-Captain of the Bombers by his team mates at the start of the 2007/8 season. Thomas recently moved to nearby Goulbourn Island after quitting his job as an Aboriginal Community Police Officer. He lives there with his wife and three children and travels to Bathurst Island once a week for training.

 

Edward Darcy – Co-Captain, Tiwi Bombers

Edward Darcy was born and raised at Milikapiti (Snake Bay) on Melville Island, 100km north of Darwin. He went to school at the local primary school before attending Kormilda College in Darwin as a boarder. He followed his best mate Thomas Simon into the Palmerston juniors and played along side Thomas in the Territory Thunder representative side for several years in the late 1990’s. After finishing school Edward won a Football Scholarship with Essendon Football Club and spent a year in Melbourne before playing for Werribee in the VFL. After being sidelined with an injury he returned to the Tiwi Islands and ended up playing for Palmerston until the Bombers club was formed in 2006. At the start of the 2007/8 season he was voted Co-Captian of the Bombers along with Thomas Simon. He lives at Milikapiti with his wife and they had their first child during the Bombers first full season in the Darwin competition. Edward has undergone an apprenticeship with Great Southern Plantations who run a large-scale forestry operation on Melville Island.

 

Brenton Toy – General Manager, Tiwi Bombers

Brenton Toy was born and bred in Darwin and was introduced to football at a young age by his parents Alice and Bill Toy who coached juniors for North Darwin, later to become the Palmerston Magpies. Bill spent two years coaching at St Mary’s before moving on to Palmerston but young Brenton remained loyal to the Saints throughout his playing career. He played for Saints juniors throughout his school years and went on to play for St Mary’s 1st grade where he was considered a solid performer.  After retiring as a player he remained involved in the club and coached junior sides for a number of years. He has been a member of the coaching staff of the Territory Thunder under 18’s representative side for several years, a role in which he continues today. He was closely involved in the establishment of the Tiwi Bombers Football Club and became the inaugural General Manager once the club was established. In mid-2008 he was appointed Coach of the Tiwi Bombers to take them into their second full season of competition.

 

 

 

Film Crew Credits

 

 

Steven McGregor – Director
MY BROTHER VINNIE – 30 minutes for SBSI 2006, Director
5 SEASONS – One hour for SBSI & CBC Canada, 2004 Writer/Director
WILLIGENS FITZROY – 30 minute for ABC 2000, Writer/Associate Producer
APEKATHE – 30 minute for ABC 1997, Writer/director
MARN – GROOK – one hour CH 7 1996, Writer/director
COLD TURKEY – 50 minute for SBSI 2002, Writer/Director
DE - EVOLUTION – short CGI film for AFTRS 2001, Director
THE WATCHERS – short film 2000, Director

 

 

Murray Lui – Director of Photography

MY COUNTRY – 10 min Short  Drama  orig 16mm Colour, Director of Photography
BIT OF BLACK BUSINESS – Television Drama Shorts – HDV, Director of Photography
THE CIRCUIT – Mini Series, HDV, 2nd Unit DOP / B Camera Operator
FOOTY LEGENDS – Feature Drama, 35mm, 2nd Unit DOP / B Camera Operator
REMOTE AREA NURSE – Mini Series, HDV, 2nd Unit DOP / B Camera Operator
GREEN BUSH – 26 min Short Drama,Super 16mm, DOP/Camera Operator
DJARNS DJARNS – 26 min Short Drama, Super 16mm, DOP/Camera Operator
THE FINISHED PEOPLE – Feature Drama, Mini DV fin 35mm, Co-DOP
ORANGE LOVE STORY – Feature Drama  Digi Beta, Co-DOP
BLACK TALK – 10 min Short Drama  Super 16mm, Director of Photography
WHEN COLIN MET JOYCE  – 50 min Doco HDV, Director of Photography
LAPEROUSE PANTHERS –  26min Doco MiniDV, Director of Photography
ISLAND FETTLERS –  26min Doco orig MiniDV, Director of Photography
BIG GIRLS DON’T CRY - 26 min Doco Digi Betacam, Director of Photography
FOR WHO I AM – THE BONITA MABO STORY – 26 min Doco DV Cam, DOP
JETJA NAI MEDICAL MOB – The Naomi Myers Story – 26 min Doco DVC Pro, DOP
DREAMTIME TO DANCE – 4 X 26 min Doco DVCam, Director of Photography
TREK – 55 min Doco Digi Beta, Director of Photography

 

Tania Nehme – Editor/Post Production Supervisor

DR PLONK Silent Feature, 2007, Picture Editor
THE BALANDA & THE BARK CANOES Doco, 2006, Picture/Narration Editor
TEN CANOES Feature film, 2005, Picture Editor / Narration Editor            
THE HOUSE OF NAMES Short film, 2003, Picture Editor
ALEXANDRA'S PROJECT Feature, 2003 Picture Editor / Dialogue Editor               
THE 13TH HOUSE Short Feature. 2002, Picture Editor
THE TRACKER Feature, 2001, Picture Editor / Sound Editor.
AUSTRALIA BY NUMBERS - KUMARANGK 5214 Documentary, 2000, Picture Editor
THE OLD MAN WHO READ LOVE STORIES Feature film, 2000, Picture Editor
CHUCK FINN Television Series, 1999, Picture Editor
HEATHER ROSE GOES TO CANNES Documentary, 1998, Picture/Sound Editor
DANCE ME TO MY SONG Feature, 1998, Picture & Dialogue Editor
THE SOUND OF ONE HAND CLAPPING Feature Film, 1997, Editor        
A SHORT FILM ABOUT SNORING Short Drama, 1997 Picture Editor
GREAT AUSTRALIAN TRAIN JOURNEYS - Ep 5 Documentary,1996, Picture Editor
A GERMAN ARTIST VISITS AUSTRALIA Documentary, 1996, Editor
EPSILON Feature, 1995, Editor
UNDER THE SKIN - A LITTLE LOVE Teleseries, 1993, Picture editor
ONCE IN TIME Drama, 1990, Picture & Sound Editor

 

 

 

Director's Statement - by Steven McGregor

 

Growing up as a kid in Darwin I always went to the Umpires Carnival which heralded the start of the AFL football season in Darwin. The attraction? To watch the Tiwi Island footballers. Every year they sent a team to Darwin to compete and people would flock to their games. Their pace, their flair and the screamers (high marks) they took held us in awe. During the half time breaks me and my cousins would go onto the oval for a kick and throw screamers trying to emulate the Tiwi Islander footballers. The way they played, was how football should be played.

 

My mother and 6 of her 13 brothers and sisters grew up on the Tiwi Islands, at Garden Point on Melville Island. She was taken there to be raised by the Catholic Church. My mother says she has some of her best and worst memories from growing up on the mission but the ones she cherishes most are the friendships she made with the other children. Friendships that endure to this day, as my mother says, “We were the only family we had.”

 

The Tiwi Islands and football have been a part of me all my life and when I was approached to direct the series I jumped at it. It was an opportunity to celebrate the passion that the Tiwi Islanders have for the game and attempt to illustrate where this passion comes from. I could use a lot of big words to try to explain how the Tiwi people feel about football but I won’t, they are mad for the game.

 

The perfect vehicle for this exploration was the admittance of a Tiwi side in the Darwin competition, the Tiwi Bombers. In season 2007 –2008 they made their debut. High expectations were held for them, they might win the premiership in their first season. A feat that has never been achieved in Darwin let alone around Australia.

 

A Hollywood ending, could they do it? For me this created drama, we had a stake. In the minds of the players this is their pre-determined destiny, this is their birthright, come to the mainland and flog all the “pretty boy Darwin sides”. This dramatic element established the style the series would take. I approached it in a dramatic form, the three-act structure. The first episode would be the set up, the second the emotional journey and the third the resolution.

 

In terms of point of view, I wanted it to come from the players in the side and we needed characters who were able to be articulate but also hold currency within the frame work of the team and the Tiwi Islands. Our main storyteller is the captain Thomas Simon who is supported by his co-captain Edward Darcy. These two men have grown up with each other, as Thomas says, “He used to come around my house and steal my toys.” Theirs is a bond that is evident on the screen. There are other support characters who underpin the story and deal with issues that impact on the team structure but Thomas and Edward are the primary voices.

 

While we wanted to celebrate the Tiwi Bombers it was important to look at football in a social context and how the players are seen as role models. Rather then have a plethora of talking head experts from outside the team structure I wanted it to come from within the team. The team is a microcosm of the Tiwi Islands and I felt we could explore the social issues of substance abuse within the team structure and their journey over the course of the season. The Tiwi Islands is a paradise but beneath the surface lays problems that beset most Indigenous communities around Australia. We explore these issues through our main characters, which imbues the stories with truth. No talking head experts but from within.

 

I didn’t want this series to be another story about “poor drunken Aboriginals”. We have enough of those. While not shying away from substance abuse issues and youth suicide I wanted to make a story which will inspire people, inspire kids. Not one which tells them how fucked their life is. I want kids to watch this and say “That’s deadly, I want to go and throw some screamers.” There is room for stories where we can celebrate and be entertained, this is one of those stories.

 

We followed the team through the season and spent time with them on their homelands capturing them at work and play, work being on the football field. After a shaky start the Tiwi Bombers became the team to beat, but then things started to slide and they got a bit cocky and then the critics kicked in having their ten cents worth. Which I suppose is understandable as not everyone was happy with the inclusion of the Tiwi Bombers. The perception that the Bombers received thousands of dollars and enviable draft concessions was hotly debated amongst officials from other Darwin clubs. So the season had everything, did they win the grand final? You’ll have to watch the series.

 

 

TIWI Footy

 

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Acknowledgements

 

amity community services logo
caledonia foundation logo
fred hollows foundation logo
northern territory government logo
abc tv logo
screen australia logo
south australian film corp logo
NTG NTFO logo
rio tinto
shark island foundation logo
thrifty logo

 

tiwi travel an freight

 

 

cathy freeman foundaion

ausjet logo

 

tiwi land council

 

waltja logo

Waltja Tjutangku Palyapayi Aboriginal Corporation

tiwi bobers FC logo essendon FC logo AFLNT logo  

Dept. of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs (FaHCSIA)
Australian Cultural Fund
Australian Business Arts Foundation
NT Department of Natural Resources, Environment, the Arts and Sport
NT Department of Justice
The Scully Fund
Documentary Australia Foundation

Tiwi Barge Services
Tiwi Training Centre



Director:
Steven McGregor
Stories from the Shoot (doc)
Producers: Tony Collins / Carmel YoungThe Producers (doc)