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18 June, 2022


THE 2022 AFL Cape York Crusaders team, made up of 22 young people (20 boys, two girls) from 14 different communities in the Cape York and the Torres Strait, competed at the Australian Football State Championships on the Sunshine Coast.

Cape York Crusaders team

Students were chosen based on behaviour, school attendance and attitude towards sport. 

The selected students met the rest of their teammates in Cairns earlier last week and toured AFL Cape York House for Girls, before heading down to the Sunshine Coast for the State Championships. 

AFL Cape York Development Coordinator Matt Mellahn said the championship was a meaningful event for the students. 

“The opportunity to tour the AFL Cape York House for girls is a very important part of our trip,” Mr Mellahn said. 

“This is a genuine boarding option for the female team members heading off to high school next year. 

Torres Strait Families

“The event is about much more than just football, with students learning the importance of leadership, teamwork and gaining valuable life experiences.” 

Timothy Mari (Thursday Island) and Rodney Rist (Cooktown) were named as Co-Captains; Tiffany Nona (Badu Island), Francis Williams (Bamaga/AFL Cape York House for Boys) and Jyren Kyle (Hope Vale) were part of the team’s leadership group. 

“Events like this wouldn’t be possible without support from our partner schools in community and our major sponsor – Virgin Australia, who covered return flights for our whole team from Cairns to Brisbane and back,” Mr Mellahn said.

The AFL Cape York Crusaders wrapped up their most successful on-field performance at a U12 Australian Football State Championships in six years. 

Most of the team had little experience playing competitive AFL, with most students only learning AFL in school when Development Coordinators from AFL Cape York visit. 

Award winners

“Each year, the team starts slowly as players get to know each other and put all the skills they’ve practised into action,” Mr Mellahn said. 

“We get a little bit better with every game we play, and to end the championships on such a high note is fantastic.” 

The AFL Cape York Crusaders recorded their first win at a U12 State School Championships in six years, which led to a ‘pitch invasion’ with the team being swarmed by supporters, families and competing teams after the final siren. 

“The team were crowd favourites, and the sportsmanship shown by other young people from competing teams has been outstanding,” Mr Mellahn said. 

“From guards of honour as our team takes to the field to ‘Crusader’ chants from spectators around the grounds – it’s been a great experience for our team.” 

The team was also awarded the Coker-King Sportsmanship Shield, which is given to the team that shows the best sportsmanship and passion throughout the carnival. 

Auntie of Crusader team member Tiffany Nona said it was touching to see how much the kids were growing and improving. 

“It’s heartwarming to see good kids being guided on and off the field along these sports pathways and for them to be able to look back on these photos and remember where they started,” Ms Nona said. 

• Grayson Norman (Lockart River/AFL Cape York House for Boys) won the Most Valuable Player award for best on ground throughout the event. 

• Timothy Mari (Tagai State College – Thursday Island) was awarded Crusader Medallist for great on-field and outstanding off-field performance. 

• The coaches’ choice award went to Keziah Leo (Hope Vale State School). 

The team travelled back to Cairns with major sponsor – Virgin Australia, before travelling home to community to return to school.

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