On July 12, Newcrest Mining supported 70 young Martu men to participate in a curtain raiser football match at Perth’s Optus Stadium prior to the AFL Grand Final rematch between Collingwood and the West Coast Eagles.

The young Martu players and support staff travelled several thousand kilometres to Perth from various remote communities in the Pilbara region of WA. The week-long tour is part run by Ngurra Kujungka and consists of several capacity building opportunities and coaching sessions for Martu participants.

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The objective of the Newcrest Mining Limited Western Desert Shield is to provide an opportunity for selected Martu youth to represent their communities and follow their dreams by playing football on the biggest sporting stage in Western Australia.

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Led by the Ngurra Kujungka Council, players were selected at the annual Ngurra Kujungka Martu Youth Festival in April, by representatives from the West Coast Eagles and Swan Districts Football Club.

The curtain-raiser game was played between the Western Desert ‘East’ communities referred to as ‘Kakarra’, representing Parnngurr, Punmu, Kiwirrkurra and Kunawarriji communities and the Western Desert ‘West’ communities referred to as ‘Yapurra’, which includes Warralong, Nullagine, Parnpajinya and Jigalong communities.

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The match was close until 3 quarter time with Kakarra eventually proving to be too strong for Yapurra, winning by more than seven goals at the final siren.

The two most valued players of the match, Lindsay Ward and Jerrence Malana both said it was a once in a lifetime experience.

Yapurra player Jarras Sailor from Jigalong was excited to participate in the event and had a great game.

“It was a great feeling to run out and play in front of the many spectators at Optus Stadium.

”When I kicked a goal, I celebrated by doing a back flip,” he said.

During their stay in Perth, the teams were kitted out with uniforms, new boots and runners on arrival, before making their way to Swan Districts Football Club. Here the team attended a jumper presentation by Newcrest Mining and the West Coast Eagles. Sharing in such a memorable trip, has allowed the Martu men to build closer friendships.

Ngurra Kujungka’s Council’s Chairman Bruce Booth, said the footballers enjoyed a busy few days of training, team building and entertainment before their big game.

“Such a momentous and exciting experience for the players of the Western Desert would not be possible without major founding sponsor Newcrest Mining Limited, and the generous spirited support of the West Coast Eagles – thank you!” said Mr Booth.

Since 2003, the Newcrest Mining Limited Western Desert Shield has developed into a significant and successful event. It is a highlight of the broad Sport and Recreation Program delivered by Ngurra Kujungka, designed to increase participation in physical activity across all levels and age demographics.

The program also provides important educational sessions which allow participants to grow as young men, taking the skills, knowledge and experiences they have learned back to their communities.

Newcrest Mining Manager External Affairs and Social Performance Ben Bryant attended the game at Optus Stadium.

“Having the opportunity to play football on a stage like Optus Stadium creates an unforgettable experience and lifelong memory for the players. Players also had the opportunity to showcase their talent to AFL scouts.

“We are very proud to support the program as the founding partner of Ngurra Kujungka, as it continues to generate enthusiasm for the development of sport and recreation in the Western Desert.

“Congratulations to Kakarra and Yuparra teams for their efforts and great spirit showed throughout the game,” Mr Bryant said.

Visit Newcrest Mining’s website for more information on their community engagement activities and careers.