Daly River Buffaloes’ only home game lifts community spirits with art and footy festival

In the vast outback of the Northern Territory, the tyranny of distance takes on a new meaning — but when it comes to footy, nowhere is too far.

Key points:
The inaugural Daly River Buffaloes home game drew hundreds of people to the remote community of Nauiyu for a day of art and sport
The team’s one and only home fixture saw them take on the Katherine Camels
After a tough game, the Camels won 16 goals to 10
It was a twist of fate, and a last-minute call that saw the Daly River Buffaloes rise to the challenge of the Big Rivers Football league — a major step up for the local footy team.

“One of the other senior sides in the Big Rivers Football League in Katherine pulled out,” the team’s president John Bonson said.

“We got a phone call basically saying if you’re interested, can you get sponsors, can you commit every weekend and possibly be in the competition for the next 10 years?

“We just jumped at the chance.”

It’s been no easy feat to get from the tiny remote community of Nauiyu, set on the banks of the Daly River, to Katherine.

Every weekend the team hustles onto a bus at the crack of dawn for the eight-hour round trip, navigating twisting roads, flat tyres, and wild buffaloes big enough to stop a car in its tracks.

But on Saturday, the team played its one and only fixture on home soil. And hundreds of people came to watch.

‘They can scream’

The goals flowed in a blistering contest, with the Buffaloes keeping up the pressure as they took on the Katherine Camels.

Spectators came from hundreds of kilometres away and screamed their support from the sideline.

It was the first time the community had welcomed visitors in big numbers since the start of the pandemic, and emotions were high.

“We were locked down for nearly two and a half years and it was scary,” community leader Dr Miriam-Rose Ungunmerr Baumann AM said.

“When I heard the boys were having a home game I spoke to the art centre and I said ‘Hey, why don’t we combine with the boys?’

The idea sparked the community’s inaugural Art and Footy day, and for Dr Ungunmerr Baumann watching her team for the first time was galvanising.

She said she hoped the weekend’s event would be the first of many.

Growing the home game into a mainstay on the NT calendar was a sentiment shared by Labor member for Daly, Dheran Young.

“Something I’ve always pictured is this [event] to be even bigger and better than the Tiwi Islands Grand Final,” he said.

“I don’t want to speak too soon but Daly River is only two hours from Darwin.”

Looking for the win

In round two of the Big Rivers Football League, the Buffaloes lost by two points to the Katherine Camels in a close contest.

But this week they were looking for the win.

“We got skill, we got speed … some really formidable footballers, but it’s more than just football,” Mr Bonson said.

“Football and sport in the community is a great vehicle, it’s not just about the game and it’s not just about reaching the summit. It’s the journey along the way.

After a tough game, that saw the Katherine Camels maintain the upper hand right through to the last quarter, the Katherine team secured a victory, winning 16 goals to 10.