Because of her, we can. That 2018 #NAIDOC Week theme holds special significance for Tamworth-based team Euraba, which took part in last weekend’s 2020 National Indigenous Touch Football Knockout in Dubbo. The team has those words printed on the back of their playing shirts to honour the Aboriginal elder, Vivian Knox, who established the team back in 1988.
Vivian has passed away, but the team lives on in her honour, playing together every chance they get. And Euraba Mixed Opens team player Jermain Walford, the partner of one of Vivian’s granddaughters who also plays in the team, says it means so much to wear those words when they play.
“It represents the woman that started it all, Vivian. If it wasn’t for her, we couldn’t do what we can.
“Last year was the first year we put a Mixed side together for the Indigenous Knockout, and it was really good to get the girls involved. Having my partner by my side on the field, her representing her grandmother, means a lot to her.
“Euraba is the place where Vivian’s [Gomeroi] ancestors grew up. So that’s why it means so much to the family.”
Vivian’s son, Johnny Knox, says Euraba Mission was opened in 1912 on the Moree Boonangar Rd near the town of Boomi in the north west of NSW. “Aboriginal people were removed from their traditional areas of Mungindi, Talwood, Wellington, Whalan Station and relocated to one place.”
He says that due to insufficient water supplies, those living on Euraba had to dismantle the buildings and move them to a new location and rebuild the mission in 1927 on the Boomi Boggabilla Rd, which was then renamed Toomelah, meaning ‘lifted and shifted’. In 1938 they were once again moved due to lack of water supply to Toomelah Mission on Tucka Tucka Rd.
When Vivian put together the Euraba team at Tamworth Touch 32 years ago. “I want to give a big thank you to Tamworth Touch; without Tamworth Touch, I don’t think our team would have got together,” says Johnny. “I started playing in the Euraba team myself as a kid back in 1988. I never thought it would come this far.
“My mother used to come down here every time we played Touch here in Tamworth. My dad, Roger, as well; he was the one, back in the day when we started off, who was there with us at Touch knockouts when Mum couldn’t come. But my mum was the one who put it all together right from the start, she’d be very proud of us and her grandkids still playing as that team.
“Her grandkids love wearing that shirt in honour of their grandmother. They wear it all the time. Wash it, wear it, wash it, wear it.”
Johnny says he’s always loved the sport of Touch Football. “I think that’s what kept all us young fellas going. It keeps people busy, keeps the young people off the street and interacting. It’s a great way to stay in shape and it’s fun.
“Everyone can play it, from the great players to the learners. Young people and old people. It’s one of the best sports out there.”
Jermain, who as well as a player is an administrator at Tamworth Touch, agrees that Touch plays an important role in people’s lives, especially for young people. “The reason why I bust my backside every year to put Euraba in as many competitions as possible is because my whole goal is to create opportunities for the youth and for the future.”
And he says his favourite part of being involved in the sport is the Euraba team. “I played with the NSW Northern Eagles earlier this year at the National Touch League, and that was such an honour and a privilege, but by far Euraba is my favourite team to be involved with because of the meaning behind it.
“Vivian was a massive part of my life. She was a local Aboriginal elder, a well-known figure in the community, well-respected. She kind of taught me right from wrong. As has Johnny, he’s been a father a figure to me and fantastic sportsperson, he’s a massive inspiration.”
Of the ‘Because of her, we can’ theme, Johnny says he thought it would be good to use that in honour of his mother as well as “all women in our lives”. “Whether it’s your mother, your grandmother, your aunty, your sister, your daughter. To me, women give me strength. I had four kids playing in that Euraba team at the Indigenous Knockout this year and three of them are girls.”