The Tiwi Islands comprises two islands, Bathurst and the larger Melville which are separated by the narrow Apsley Strait. The Islands are located approximately 80 kilometers north of Darwin. The Island’s population of approximately 2,600 is mostly full blood Aboriginals who live in the four communities of Nguiu, Ranku, Milikapiti, and Pirlangimpi.
The Tiwi Islands Football League was established in 1969/70, with the inaugural competition comprising five teams, Pumarali, Tapalinga, Imalu, Tuyu, and Irrimaru. The competition has grown over the years and now has eight teams, the original five plus new teams Taracumbie, Warankuwu, and Nguiu. Since the inception of the competition Imalu has been the most successful side having won tenPremierships.
The competition is similar to that of the NTFL, with the Grand Final played on the Sunday following the NTFL Grand Final. The Tiwi Islands Football League Grand Final has become a yearly pilgrimage for people from all over Australia who deriive enormous joy from the spectacular display put on by the players of both teams competing.
The Tiwi Islands has produces some marvellous footballers since 1952/53 with David Kantilla, Maurice Rioli and most recently Michael Long being the most famous. Both Kantilla and Rioli became champions in the SANFL, WAFL, and VFL in the 1960’s, 70’s and 80’s highlighting the talent that the Tiwi Islands Football League produces, while Long went on to become one of the most exciting players of the modern AFL era playing 190 games for the Essendon Football Club and winning the 1993 Norm Smith Medal having been judged best on ground in the Grand Final.
The Tiwi Island Football League has 900 participants from the 2,600 population, representing the highest football participation rate in Australia (35%)