Dreamtime at the ‘G is one of the highlights of the football fixture, where we come together to celebrate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and their contribution to football.Since its inception in 2005, Richmond and Essendon do battle every year in what has become the marquee game of the annual AFL Sir Doug Nicholls Round.
The game welcomes an average crowd of over 70,000 each year, with the football community coming together to celebrate and experience a special night at the ‘G.
In 2020, the Dreamtime match will take on a new form, as it travels to TIO Stadium in Darwin in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and Victoria’s Stage 4 lockdown restrictions.
Holding a special place in the hearts of all those at the ‘G, this week we are looking back and celebrating the history of Dreamtime at the ‘G.
The Long Walk
The Long Walk began when, in 2004, dual Essendon premiership player Michael Long embarked on a walk from Melbourne to Canberra to meet with the then Prime Minister John Howard and get the lives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples back on the national agenda.
Photo by Michael Dodge/ Getty Images.
Now a special part of the Dreamtime at the ‘G celebrations, Long embarks on The Long Walk from Federation Square to the MCG accompanied by a mass of supporters to promote reconciliation, often joined by dignitaries such as Australian Prime Ministers, Victorian Premiers and AFL representatives.
The Pre-Match Ceremony
The pre-match ceremony is a special part of Dreamtime at the ‘G and takes on greater significance considering the MCG sits on land that has been a traditional meeting place for thousands of generations of Traditional Owners.
A Welcome to Country, war cries delivered by both competing teams, light shows and musical performances are often enjoyed during the ceremony.
Football fans will remember the powerful 2019 ceremony, when Richmond footballer Sydney Stack joined in the war cry performance, sending the crowd cheering.
The Sir Doug Nicholls Round also sees each team don their own unique guernsey designed by Indigenous artists.
It was a special moment for one Tiger in the 2019 Dreamtime at the ‘G match, with dual Richmond premiership player Daniel Rioli and his parents designing Richmond’s guernsey. The design represented the Rioli family, the Tiwi Island community and Rioli’s own Tiwi upbringing.
Essendon and Richmond have had some classic matches over the years as part of Dreamtime at the ‘G. With nine wins to Richmond and six to Essendon, the match is always hotly contested.
The Tigers claimed the inaugural win, downing the Bombers 92-66 and claiming the first Kevin Sheedy Cup – named after former Richmond player and Essendon coach, Kevin Sheedy.
It was the second Dreamtime match – held in 2006 – which provided the most exciting ending, with a two-point win to Richmond in a late resurgence.
The match also saw the rise of Dean Polo who, in his debut AFL match, received the inaugural Yiooken Award for the player judged best on ground, finishing with three goals, including the leveller in the final minutes.Since Polo, an additional 12 players have received the Yiooken Award, with Richmond dual-premiership star Dustin Martin the only player to receive the award twice.
Past Dreamtime matches have also seen players enter the record books, with Bombers’ legend Dustin Fletcher reaching his 400th match milestone in the 2015 Dreamtime match – just the third AFL/VFL player to reach the 400 mark.