Tiwi tradition continues at Bulldogs

South Fremantle's new recruits from Northern Territory Dion Munkara (27) and Michael Commbes (22). Photo: Andrew Ritchie. d491699 communitypix.com.au.
South Fremantle's new recruits from Northern Territory Dion Munkara (27) and Michael Commbes (22). Photo: Andrew Ritchie. d491699 communitypix.com.au.

TIWI Islanders have a long and rich history with the South Fremantle Football Club.

Many club greats have hailed from the small Northern Territory community including Benedict “Benny” Vigona, who spent 10 seasons at the Bulldogs and won a premiership in 1980 alongside Basil Campbell, a six-season stayer who played more than 100 games and who opened the door for his son Warren to continue the legacy and win a premiership of his own with the club in 1997.

But it was one of the biggest names in AFL circles, the Rioli’s, who created one of the longest lasting connections between the Tiwi Islanders and South Fremantle.

Brothers Sebastian (Sibby), Maurice and Cyril Junior started the domination in the 70s and 80s and it continued through the 90s with younger brother William (Willie) and Sebastian’s son Dean.

Dion Munkara and Michael Coombes will be hoping to continue that strong tradition in 2019 after they were recruited to join the Bulldogs this year.

Coombes said he looked forward to following in the footsteps of some greats.

“There’s a lot of Tiwi connections with my uncles Benny Vigona, Maurice Rioli and all the other names,” he said.

“Just following their footsteps with me and Dion here at the moment, it’s good to carry on the tradition of having more Tiwi people down at South Fremantle.”

He said he had some experience playing away from home but that coming to the Bulldogs had been a little different.

“Over here it’s more professional, they look after me really well, my body management and how to recover better,” he said.

“It didn’t really take too long for me to settle in, I’ve fitted in (with the boys) like I’ve been here for ages.

“My main goal is just to play consistent footy and just play really well.”

South Fremantle football operations manager David Depane said the club regularly travelled north to check out the talent coming out of the NT competition.

“The club has a long history with NT football and it is all about giving their players an opportunity at WAFL level, combined with them developing their own life skills while being part of our program,” he said.

“We like to provide them with a great experience while in WA, then hopefully when they head back up they continue to tell their story and how much they enjoyed their experience with the Bulldogs.”