- Tuesday 11 October 2016
- Written by Peta Cooper
“This is more than just football and netball – it’s about connecting families back to Country, culture and community.”
That’s how Wimmera Eagles co-ordinator and football coach Sonny Secombe describes the Murrun Dhelk Senior Statewide Koori Football and Netball Carnival to be played in Bendigo this weekend.
Sonny’s family has been taking part in the carnival for decades, with his dad Raymond first taking to the footy field in the late 1980s and then establishing a Wimmera-Grampians region team in 1999.
They reformed as the Wimmera Eagles 10 years ago and take the field in memory of a cousin, Ricci Marks, who was tragically killed in a car accident.
“Ricci was a really good footballer from Horsham and he had played at carnivals for Wimmera teams,” Sonny recalls. “So all of us young guys got together and played in his honour.”
After finishing runners-up several times in the past, Sonny’s football team finally won the division two grand final at last year’s carnival and the success has generated much excitement for 2016.
“We’d been trying so hard for so long and we finally did it and it was a great feeling,” says Sonny.
“We’d had another young fellow killed in a farm accident last year and we did it for all those who have passed on as well as for our whole community – the win was for everyone who played on the day and everyone who had represented and supported Wimmera Eagles over the past 10 years.
“This year we have got enough players to have two football teams and three netball teams. We are only a small community but we have family members living right across the state and even across the South Australian border and a lot of people are coming home to play for the Wimmera Eagles.
“Our teams also include people who we meet on our journey through life, not just blood connections, but those we have formed friendships and networks with as well.”
Sonny is nursing an injury this year so will coach the football squad that has stepped up into division one. He hopes to be super competitive and would love to see the division two team aim for back to back premierships.
The boys’ football victory has also inspired the netballers, with players coming from far and wide to join the hunt for success.
“We have family members in South Australia and one of the cousins who has played netball for many years heard about the boys winning and went around the girls saying how about we come back and give the guys a hand and get to know our family in the area,” Sonny says.
“It puts a big smile on my face to see so many netballers involved this year. Three teams is the most we have ever had and we really want the girls to do well.”
Sonny is determined to set a strong foundation for the Wimmera Eagles so that his mob can continue to play in Indigenous sporting carnivals for years to come.
He is very grateful to his team’s sponsors, which have included Indigenous Prospects Training and Recreuitment, the East Sunbury and Stawell Swifts football-netball clubs, Goolum Goolum Aboriginal Co-operative, Grampians Indigenous Family Violence Regional Action Group, Hume City Counciland Barengi Gadjin Land Council.
“It cost us about $10,000 a year to have two teams, when you take accommodation and buses into account as well,” Sonny says. “But we are setting up Wimmera Eagles as a brand and making sure this is there for future generations.”
The 2016 Senior Statewide Koori Football and Netball Carnival is an initiative of Victorian Aboriginal Youth Sport and Recreation and has been held for more than 30 years.
This is the second year in a row it is being hosted by Bendigo and District Aboriginal Co-operative, in conjunction with the Dja Dja Wurrung Clans Aboriginal Corporation.
For more carnival information and program details, click here.