A Special Report from Football Correspondent H.G. Nelson at the 2024 Barunga Festival

The Arnhem Crows – 2024 AFLNTW Barunga Festival Grand Final winners

Footy Heads, Barunga Festival 2024 was a humungous array of craft, music, dance, damper making, and of course spear throwing.

Of course, sport was part of it.

In fact, it was a weekend when too much sport was barely enough.

Of course, there was AFL football!

Being neutral I found myself, by luck, taking a pew in the front row of the Charlie King Stand aka The Charlie aka The Crow’s Nest.

As the weekend unfolded this was a great spot to perch. The Oval – laid out in front of the Crows’ record-breaking home crowd – was in magnificent condition and the excellent weather promised an avalanche of goals.

The Bunguul with Boots On demonstrates the Top End’s genuine commitment to AFL. Teams travel enormous distances, requiring Herculean feats of organisation and solid savaging of the mobile phone networks.

No distance is too far to travel for a kick. Travel bonds a team camped in the back of the bus and hundreds of kilometres on the highway every week is the norm for N.T. teams.

A round robin of the Boot got under way on Saturday not long after sunrise. In the Men’s Comp teams the Kalano (Miaili Brumby) Bombers, the Arnhem Crows, Mt Allan Eagles, the Timber Creek Lions, Milingimbi Magpies, the Borroloola Thunder and the Weemol-Bulman Buffaloes represented their communities.

In the Women’s Competition, apart from the Arnhem Crows, the Weemol-Bulman Buffaloes and the Borroloola Thunder made the trip.

The Crows featured players from as a far away as Melbourne and started their opening game with a bang. This is quality Football that leaves the old past ideas about a knock-about comp far behind, gathering the dust of history.

The blow torch of competition has made the Women’s game a battle of speed, tactics and effort. Like any match it’s those horrible mistakes and turnovers that make the difference.

As the Saturday turned into Sunday the Crows kept winning, throwing down a gauntlet to the rest of the comp.

In the fiercest of contests, the Michael Voss ‘red hot go’ produced battles at both ends of the Oval.

It was an intensity that tossed up clouds of dust as teams fought for possession close to the big sticks.

The Crows breezed into the big one on Sunday.

Sadly, the final was a lopsided stink.

Their opponents were the Weemol Bulman Buffaloes. But it was all over at half time when The Crows led by 33 points.

The Tune when the Final hooter blew was Crows 12-7 79 Buffaloes 0-0 0.

Winners are certainly grinners! The Arnhem Crows with the big cheque and the solid gold trophy!!

In the Men’s side of the comp, The Mount Allan Eagles made the long trip worth every minute.

They clobbered the Timber Creek Lions. The Lions scored 3-1 19. The Eagles booted 10-3 63.

The home crowd celebrated as winners should.

And what about the umpiring?

Well, it was no better or worse than the umpiring of the AFL Match of the Round featuring the Carlton Blues v Essendon Bombers, later on Sunday night.


Arnhem Crows (Womens) Barunga Festival coach: Huia Haerewa

Arnhem Crows (Womens) Big Rivers AFLNT competition coach: Malcolm Hales

Arnhem Crows Football Club President: Helen Lee

H. G Nelson travelled to Barunga as a guest of the Bagala Aboriginal Corporation. The Bagala Corporation represents the interests of the Traditional Aboriginal Owners of the Jawoyn lands in and around the Barunga and Wugularr (Beswick) communities.

Special thanks go to Esther Bulumbara and the other senior traditional owners of the Barunga and Wugularr communities and to junggayi Nell Brown.

Thanks also to Anya Lorimer, Alan James, Liberty Bridgman, Jing Jin, Charmaine Marquez and the rest of the crew from CampaignEdgeSprout.