Covering the Goulburn and Murray valleys

Playing hard and studying hard

Longwood recruits are passionate about their football, but they are also studying hard at the Academy of Sport Health and Education while living in Shepparton.

OLIVER CAFFREY June 27, 2014 3:05am

Longwood recruits Cosmos Puautjimi, Richard Puruntatameri, Redlegs coach Matthew Chilcott, Hector Tipungwuti, Rodney Moreen, Douglas Timaepatua and Barney Tipuamantamerri have been enjoying their footy, while studying in Shepparton.

For Longwood’s Indigenous recruits, football is not just a game, it’s a way of life.

Surfers speak about chasing that never-ending summer, but 12 Tiwi Islanders are living out their dream and playing the sport they love all-year round.

However, their experience in the Goulburn Valley hasn’t been to just fill-in time during the Northern Territory Football League off-season.

When a number of players return to the Northern Territory at the end of the Kyabram District Football League season, they will be qualified as youth workers.

When they’re not out kicking a footy, Hector Tipungwuti, 25, and Rodney Moreen, 23, are studying at the Academy of Sport Health and Education in Shepparton.

Longwood coach Matthew Chilcott, who spent a number of seasons playing for Waratahs in the NTFL, said it was important for the players to have an outlet outside football.

‘‘One of the really positive things about this is in another two months they’ll have their youth worker’s certificate and be able to go back and work with the youth in the remote communities,’’ Chilcott said.

‘‘The guys have really taken it all on board, and not only are their studies going to help them, but it’s going to benefit their communities back home because not a lot of guys back there have that type of ticket.’’

Younger recruits Cosmos Puautjimi, 19, Richard Puruntatameri, 19, Douglas Timaepatua, 19, and Barney Tipuamantamerri, 20, are also studying at ASHE.

Dylon Kerinauia, Clancy Puruntatameri, David Kantilla and Michael Dunn returned to Shepparton yesterday after heading home for a funeral last week.

Jimmy Puautjimi and Shane Tipuamantamerri have taken to the field for the Redlegs this season and will make further appearances when they come back from the Northern Territory in coming weeks.

Chilcott’s close connection with NTFL legend Sylvanius Tipiloura was vital in bringing the players to Longwood, along with organising study and accommodation.

All the players live together in a boarding house in Shepparton.

Being slightly older and having spent time at Swan Hill playing for Nyah Nyah West United in Central Murray Football League last year, Tipungwuti has been to able to mentor some of the younger players.

After a short stint at Rumbalara with some other mates, Tipungwuti said he was relishing his time in Victoria.

Even after an alleged racial slur directed towards Cosmos in their first game against Avenel in April, which resulted in a league investigation, Tipungwuti and Moreen never thought about leaving the area.

‘‘I’m still getting used to the cold weather, but it’s really good coming back to the boys at Longwood,’’ Tipungwuti said.

‘‘Footy is our passion, we just love playing footy and we’ll travel around anywhere for it.

‘‘We love playing the game seven days a week, we’ll kick around an empty bottle if we have to.’’

Moreen has been flying on and off the field for the Redlegs, even to the point where he would be in the top two in the club’s best-and-fairest.

‘‘I’ll be going back home and have a season up there and then come back here and play for the Redlegs again next year,’’ Moreen said.

‘‘Around the club has been awesome and living here has been really good, that first win was really good for the boys.’’

After years battling down the bottom of the ladder, it comes as a surprise to see Longwood’s form dramatically improve recently.

The Redlegs broke a 25-game losing streak by defeating Rushworth in round eight, which was followed up by a victory against Girgarre last Saturday.

Chilcott said along with the obvious boost in morale that comes with winning, the club had been a more vibrant place since the new players arrived.

‘‘They’ve all had a massive impact, obviously the club has battled and not won a game for a couple of years, so we just want to become competitive,’’ Chilcott said.

‘‘The club obviously enjoys having the guys here, the community enjoys them and even the opposition loves seeing the guys play.

‘‘We’ve got some great feedback and I think it helps the gates of the opposition grounds, the only sour day was the incident in the first game, but they’ve all been well received as they should be.’’

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