Competitive football resumed on Friday, June 5th in Australia with the Darwin Women's Premier League.
The Darwin WPL match is the first game to be allowed in Australia since the COVID-19 pandemic stoppage of all play. It was the first of two games featured in a double-header, the second game being a Darwin Men's Premier League match.
The game was held at the Darwin Football Stadium and due to stage 3 changes in the Northern Territory, which took effect June 5, it was allowed to be played with fans in the stands. This makes it one of the first games in the world to see the return of a live audience.
A total of 500 spectators were permitted to be present. They were scattered in the stands to maintain social distancing. Under the new COVID rules other health and safety changes, as well as football modifications, were also put in place. These included drinks break halfway through each half. Halves were 35 mins each.
The Darwin WPL match was between reigning champions Hellenic Athletic Women and the newly-promoted majority-Indigenous NT Yapas. It was a Round two league match, Round one having taken place prior to the suspension of sport in March.
Teams were given a two-week notice for the resumption of play. They held four training sessions, all non-contact, prior to the match. One would not have known that either team had just resumed training by watching the game. The match included physicality, tackles, and end to end football.
Hellenic Athletic Women's Morgan Johnston opened the scoring with a chip over the NT Yapas goalkeeper. Minutes later, NT Yapas striker Marcey Gurruwiwi equalized the score with a bolt shot from just inside the box. It was the first-ever Darwin WPL goal for the NT Yapas.
Hellenic scored just prior to the end of the first half when last year's Darwin WPL top scorer, Rhiarna Myatt, picked up the ball off just inside the Yapas half and made a great individual run through the middle past three defenders to finish with a shot into the left-hand corner of the goal. Players entered into the break with the Hellenic up 2-1.
Hellenic came out and made it 3-1 nine minutes into the second half. The goal, a rocket from outside the box, was the second of the night for Myatt. The scoreline did not dissuade the Yapas, who were resilient and continued in their pressing play. However, Myatt completed her hat trick in the 66th minute to give Hellenic a three-goal lead. The match finished 4-1.
The chance to see live football again was a special moment for Australian sport. This game was even more special due to the ability to watch the NT Yapas. The team is the only majority-indigenous women's team to play not just in the Darwin Women's Premier League but in Australia.
Prior to the match, the indigenous team received a good luck message from indigenous Australian Matildas' goalkeeper Lydia Williams.
The game was broadcast on the Football Federation of Australia's My Football with commentary provided by ABC Darwin broadcaster Shannon Byrne. You can watch it in the following link.