How Essendon coach was adopted into Tiwi clan


Essendon coaching legend Kevin Sheedy has been formally adopted as a member of a Tiwi Island clan and handed a Tiwi name, while the Essendon Football Club has also been recognised as part of the Mantiyupwi people.

Sheedy has been given the Mantiyupwi name of Tartuwali, which means “shark”, in recognition of having acted as family for club great and Indigenous icon Michael Long, whose family – and that of the related Rioli family – are among the nine families that comprise the Mantiyupwi.

Former Essendon coach Kevin Sheedy with Tiwi Islands dancers, from left: Bon Gerard Timeapatua, Barry Ullungura jnr, and Joseph Pilakui.Credit:Essendon Football Club

Five Tiwi Islanders, all from the Mantiyupwi, came down to Melbourne for Essendon’s 150th year anniversary celebration on June 10-11, in what those present described as the highlight of the gala function, three former Essendon players with Tiwi backgrounds – Long, Dean Rioli and just-retired Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti – performed a traditional Tiwi dance on the stage, as Sheedy’s adoption was celebrated.

Rioli, who played 100 senior games for Essendon, was the first to take the stage for the dance, alongside Mantiyupwi clan members CJ Keriaupia, his brother Joseph Pilakui, Bon Gerard Timeapatua, Barry Ullungura, and Barry Ullungura jnr. Rioli was soon joined by Long and McDonald-Tipungwuti.

The Tiwi dance, in which the trio were in step with one another, was described by Essendon people present as the most uplifting and electrifying moment of the function, underscoring the role of football, the Bombers, Long and Sheedy in changing the relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.

The moment also served as a reminder of Essendon and Sheedy’s pioneering work with Indigenous footballers – most notably through the agency of Long, whose stand against racism is celebrated by the AFL and the game – at a time when the Bombers have struggled on the field and tested the endurance of their large and passionate fan base. It took place the night after Essendon’s pre-game celebrations of their milestone, featuring a parade of champions on the MCG, followed by a deflating loss to Carlton.

Tiwi Islands dancers, Senior Elder CJ Kerinauia (left), Barry Ullungura jnr, Bon Gerard Timeapatua, Joseph Pilakui, and former Essendon footballer Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti (second right) perform.

Tiwi Islands dancers, Senior Elder CJ Kerinauia (left), Barry Ullungura jnr, Bon Gerard Timeapatua, Joseph Pilakui, and former Essendon footballer Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti (second right) perform.Credit:Essendon Football Club

Sheedy had not been told that he would be adopted into the Mantiyupwi clan, which is based in the southern tip of both Melville and Bathurst Islands in the Tiwi, until it took place on that night at Melbourne Park.



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