This year’s annual Dreamtime match between Richmond and Essendon will be played in Darwin, the first time the game has been staged outside the MCG.
The match will take place on August 22 as part of the round 13 fixture, with the rest of the matches in the dedicated Sir Doug Nicholls Round to be announced next week.
The 16th Dreamtime match is being moved from the MCG because of Victoria’s coronavirus wave, which has forced all clubs out of the state.
And more matches could be hosted in Darwin, as the AFL continues to schedule fixtures within government COVID-19 restrictions.
“Dreamtime is a highly significant game for both Richmond and Essendon, and a major event on the AFL calendar,” Richmond chief executive Brendon Gale said.
NT Chief Minister Michael Gunner said the game was “coming home” and paid credit to the Territory’s coronavirus response as the reason for the game being held in the Top End.
“Footy is coming to Rioli and Long country,” he said in a statement.
“This is the first time the Dreamtime game between Richmond and Essendon will be played outside Melbourne. But in a way, it feels like it is coming home.
“Territorians have been the best in the nation. You have made the Territory the safest in the nation.
“And in a few weeks, the eyes of the nation will look to the Territory as we celebrate the extraordinary contribution of Indigenous Australians — including so many Territorians — to our national game.”
The Sir Doug Nicholls Round will take on added significance this season, which marks the 25th anniversary of the AFL’s introduction of its Discrimination and Racial and Religious Vilification Act.
“This act clearly signalled that racial and religious vilification would no longer be tolerated in Australian football,” AFL social policy and inclusion manager Tanya Hosch said.
“We continue to prioritise an inclusive environment for all people within the industry and focus on identifying strategies targeted at the prevention of vilification before it occurs.
“Through the hard work and dedication of our playing group, past and present, community leaders and industry leaders, we’re able to collectively work towards a future with no racism in our game.”