Reports by Indigenous Sports Development Officers:
Callan Hatchman and Ebony HumbleThe closeness and excitement of the tussles, the passion fuelling individual and team performances, and a series of upset results saw the Western Desert League showcase its best qualities at the final festival for the year, held at Kiwirrkurra over the cusp of September and October.
With the support of major sponsor Newcrest Mining Limited, the Department of Sport and Recreation, and Healthway, the competitors made the long trek east to Kiwirrkurra for softball and football games to determine winners of the titles of Western Desert League Round Three, and the 2014 Season WDL Premiers.
The Kiwirrkurra community had prepared the ovals magnificently. Special thanks are due to Ngurra Kujungka Council members Matthew and Bobby West, and Community Development Adviser, Andrew Gurkin, for their superb contributions to the festival preparations.
Fierce football battlesTwo football trophies were on offer at Kiwirrkurra. The hosts and the Punmu Bulldogs made it into both Grand Finals, and each had one hand on the trophies. In the first final, to decide who would be crowned Round Three champions, the battle was fierce.
After winning the previous day’s round-robin game between the sides by a comprehensive margin, Kiwirrkurra rightly entered the final contest as warm favourites.
Unsurprisingly, Kiwirrkurra leapt out of the blocks with a dominant first quarter performance. The Kiwirrkurra men had justified their early favouritism, leading by 15 points. However, to their credit, Punmu did not cower from the contest and went goal-for-goal with the hosts over the next two quarters. Going into the last quarter, Kiwirrkurra held a 14 point advantage and could smell victory.
Punmu pushed back hard, kicking two early goals to bring the game back to within a straight kick. However, a late Kiwirrkurra 70-metre torpedo punt resulted in a goal and sealed a deserved victory.
Kiwirrkurra were victorious in securing the Ngurra Kujungka Western Desert League Round Three Shield title.
Nevertheless, celebrations were subdued, with minds soon wondering to the 2014 Western Desert League Grand Final to be held the next day.
The vision of a champion is someone who is bent over, drenched in sweat, at the point of exhaustion when no one else is watching.” – Anson Dorrance.
On this day, every player from Kiwirrkurra and Punmu was a champion. The weather for Grand Final day was best described as extreme. It was hot, really hot, with relief only coming briefly, with a warm breeze blowing across sweating brows.Bodies were bruised and muscles were weary, yet there was still one game to be played, with the biggest prize of all waiting – the right to be named 2014 Western Desert League Premiers.
After a brave showing in the Round Three Grand Final, the Punmu Bulldogs’ odds of victory against the well-drilled and talented Kiwirrkurra Lions side had shortened dramatically, and an upset was on the cards to throw yet another intriguing twist into the festival program.
The siren sounded, car horns blared and the crowds cheered, as the game got under way.
Kiwirrkurra’s home ground advantage spurred the players on, and they responded with a couple of quick goals, only to be pegged back by a Punmu side nipping at their heels. Kiwirrkurra led by 7 points at quarter-time.
The two teams battled out another fierce second-quarter. Punmu fell further behind and Kiwirrkurra went into the long break with a healthy 19 point advantage, and the silverware seemed to be within close reach.
As the teams entered the arena for the ‘premiership’ (third) quarter, the nervousness of all players resonated around the ground.
Kiwirrkurra simply needed to remain composed and they could take out the title, while Punmu needed to dig deep and find a way back into the game to have a chance of securing yet another Western Desert League trophy.
Punmu, with their backs to the wall, put on a pure display of exquisite, powerful football, kicking seven goals to Kiwirrkurra’s two. Every time Kiwirrkurra settled and seemed capable of falling over the line, Punmu hit back with interest to finally run out 11 point winners in a fantastic advertisement for Ngurra Kujungka Western Desert Football.
And so it was, the upset of the festival: Punmu secured the 2014 Western Desert League Grand Final.