Indigenous Goannas leading the way for younger players

By Jennifer Kent

AHEAD of this month’s Australian Indigenous Football tournament on the Sunshine Coast GC&M News caught up with star Goannas players, Samara Christmas and Kyren Walters, who are thrilled to be representing their culture and country.

Women’s Goanna and Indigenous Koalas player Samara Christmas has just recently been recruited to play for local team the BeeGees (Beerwah Glasshouse United Football Club) for the upcoming season.

The Sunshine Coast local has previously captained the women’s Indigenous Koalas and last year led the women’s Goannas team to the finals in their first ever tournament, the First Nations Cup. While she’s happy to pass on the captain’s hat this year, the talented player is eager to continue to play a leadership role in her teams.

“I enjoy taking on a mentorship role for younger players and to be able to help open up the scope for them to be seen is fantastic,” she said.

“A lot of the girls, especially the younger players coming through, haven’t had the opportunity to play in tournaments, so for them to be seen and tested is fantastic.

“These younger players are doing really well and it’s a great motivator for me as a player.”

Samara’s love of the sport began some twenty years ago as a six year old playing in a local boys team at a grassroots level. Spending most of her life on the coast, she played for various teams, before playing for an Indigenous women’s team in Brisbane. She eventually found herself back home, playing for the Sunshine Coast Goannas womens team.

“A few years ago Wayne [Alberts] contacted me about the Sunshine Coast Goannas,” she shared. “At the time I was still playing in Brisbane but I was so excited that my hometown had its own Indigenous team.

“Last year the team made it to the finals in their first tournament, the First Nations Cup – it was a really tough game but while we didn’t win, it was a great achievement.”

For Samara, being able to play and represent alongside others in the Indigenous teams and tournaments means a lot, so when the opportunity to play for an Indigenous team in her hometown presented itself, she jumped at the opportunity to be involved with the Sunshine Coast Goannas.

“For little kids to be able to see players representing – it gives them a goal and vision for their future,” said Samara, who as well as representing a number of teams, is a primary physical education teacher on the coast.

As for the upcoming tournament, Samara said she’s thrilled to be part of it, especially as it’s the first of its kind to be held on the coast.

“The Sunshine Coast is my backyard, it’s where I grew up, so to have the tournament held here is really exciting,” she said. “It means a lot for players that these tournaments are held and it’s a fantastic opportunity for some great players to be seen and tested.

“They really provide an opportunity and open the scope for their talent to be seen.”

As for her plans for the future, it’s a big year ahead for the newly recruited BeeGees player, who’s looking forward to being a guiding influence both on and off the pitch.

Making his National Premier League (NPL) debut at just 16 with Mackay’s Magpies Crusaders, the 20 year-old Goannas and Indigenousroos player Kyren Walters has recently made the move to the Sunshine Coast, calling Landsborough home.

Kyren has done three tours with the Australian Indigenousroos, having been a part of the team from the very beginning, which he counts as one of his sporting highlights. He played for Brisbane Indigenous club, the Brisbane Warrigals, before recently joining the Sunshine Coast Goannas.

“It’s great to be involved with the Goannas, and I feel a definite sense of pride being able to represent a coast team now that it’s home,” shared Kyren. “It’s definitely a great benefit now I’m living here.”

As for the upcoming Indigenous tournament, Kyren is thrilled to again be a part of the team, sharing that being able to represent his culture in the sport he loves means a lot to both him and his family.

“There’s a lot of pride in playing and representing both my country and my culture,” he said. “The opportunity to represent your mob, and be a figure to younger players means a lot.

“When little kids walk alongside you onto the field, it really feels as though you’ve made it and hope to be a big inspiration to them.”

And Kyren, along with his other team mates, will no doubt be a great inspiration to future generations of the game.

Tickets to the Sunshine Coast Festival of Indigenous Football are available for purchase through ticketek; $10 adults, $5 concession, free for 15 years and under  – search ‘Festival of Indigenous Football’.