Having played over a hundred league games, Simon Minton-Connell isn’t ready to hang up his boots just yet. Since 2008, he has headed up the Fitzroy Stars – the first all-Aboriginal footy team, formed back in the 1970s. Besides being one of the teams to beat in the Northern Football League, the Stars boast a netball team and an enviably sized training gym on Gertrude Street.
Securing their own home ground at the Sir Douglas Nicholls Reserve in Thornbury has been the Fitzroy Stars’ latest win, after living what Simon calls “a nomadic existence”. The oval has not been played on for some 25 years after the council turned the reserve into a tip, so it will take another few months to restore to its former glory. But for Simon and the Stars it will be worth the wait. “Douglas Nicholls was probably one of the most famous Aboriginal football players and community elders. We’re very proud to have his name as our ground.”
It wasn’t that long ago that the Stars seemed all but lost, disbanding for 13 years. The club’s resurrection, with the help of Oxfam and the Aboriginal Advancement League, has become the stuff of legend, thanks to the documentary Fitzroy Stars: More Than a Game that has been doing the film festival rounds. Besides the empowerment of Indigenous youth, the Fitzroy Stars are committed to other important causes. “The drugs epidemic isn’t tolerated within the club and we are dead against violence against women. We’ve got 25 White Ribbon ambassadors, our guys are really seen in the community as leaders, so the lads are in a perfect position to preach about those sorts of issues.”
Simon says the club is “not exclusively black fellas”, with some white fellas on the team, including a Canadian import. And the club welcomes volunteers. “We need people manning the gates and working the canteen. If there are people interested, get in contact.”
Training sessions at W Ruthven VC Reserve, Albert St, Preston 3072. Contact Simon on 0406 531 581 or head to their Facebook page. Tue & Thu 6pm.