Western Desert League Round 1: Welcome to ‘the new kids on the block’

NGURRA KUJUNGKA’s 2016 Western Desert League had a rough start to Round One of the competition.

While several mechanical issues with buses travelling to two venues failed to stop the season getting underway, they did cause the postponement of two fixtures.

The start of the season saw the introduction of a new structure and format for the competition sponsored by major supporter Newcrest Mining, together with Healthway, with Round One played across three venues on Sunday 10 April

The addition of a new Junior Basketball League supported by MediBank Australia excited all the kids, who proudly showed off their new team jerseys, and their community pride.

Jigalong hosts Round One

The Round One fixtures in Jigalong kicked off on Saturday night with Junior Basketball taking centre stage before the kids rocked on stage with Desert Feet Tours.

The Jigalong Suns and Eagles, and Parnngurr, competed in the Junior Western Desert League, with the quality of games reflecting the skills taught by Kieran O’Connor, Basketball WA’s Development Officer, the previous day.

Tournament victory went to the Jigalong Suns, who won all their games.

Three communities travelled to Jigalong to take on the Suns and Eagles in Football, Softball and Junior Basketball.

With a ground that was hardened by recent rain, players were expecting some tight and tough games and the Sunday fixtures didn’t disappoint.

Parnngurr, presenting a strong and youthful team, began the day’s proceedings against the home Suns side. Big Clifton Girgirba returned to lead his troops and Curtis Wumi, showing his usual dash, and the Tiger Swans started the 2016 season with a solid win over an inexperienced Suns outfit, 27 points to 15.

Softball featured a double-header, with Parnpajinya against the Jigalong Suns, and the Eagles taking on Parnngurr.

The Parnpajinya ladies, surprise winners in last year’s final Festival at Warralong, seemingly hadn’t lost any of their form, and secured a comprehensive 8-run victory.

In a much tighter contest, Parnngurr led by Ngurra Kujungka Recreation Officer Darlene Richards, overcome a gallant Eagles outfit by 3 runs.

Back into the footy, and it was the first hit-out for the Jigalong Eagles as they faced a resurgent Parnngurr outfit. Parnngurr had the edge in the first half, preventing the Eagles from scoring a solitary point. In a sign that fitness is going to be vital as the 2016 season progresses, the second half saw a stirring fightback from the Eagles and at the final whistle, they fell short by just 1 point.

Home runs were prevalent in the final games of softball for the day between Parnpajinya vs Eagles and Parnngurr vs Suns. Parnpajinya, coached by the tireless Jackie Bickendorf, went through the day undefeated, with another comfortable win by 6 runs over the Eagles.

The day couldn’t be complete without a surprise result and, after being dominated by Parnpajinya in the first game, the Suns found their softball prowess to defeat a strong Parnngurr side by 2 runs.

Softball WA Participation and Development Officer Saskia Kosterink was very pleased with the day’s games and was excited to see the development of the League: “It’s great to see the Martu women umpiring, scoring and controlling their own games,” Saskia said. “The progress of the League has been amazing.”

To end an enthralling Round One of the new 2016 WDL format, two long-time rivals – the two Jigalong teams, the Suns and the Eagles, battled it out on the footy field. A big crowd witnessed a game with plenty of action and the biggest score of the day.

The Suns contributed little to that score, with the Eagles running out 48 point winners.

Player of the Day in Football went to Curtis Wumi from Parnngurr; Softball’s recipient of the equivalent trophy was Parnpajinya’s Montana Williams; while much congratulations is due to Neil Burton, who took out Player of the Tournament in the inaugural Junior Basketball League competition.

Ngurra Kujungka looks forward to seeing all communities in Round Two, to be played on June 5 in Marble Bar and Punmu.

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