Kevin ‘Shark’ Sheedy: How Essendon legend was adopted into Tiwi clan

Essendon coaching legend Kevin Sheedy has been formally adopted as a member of a Tiwi Island clan and handed a Tiwi name, while the Essendon Football Club has also been recognised as part of the Mantiyupwi people.

Sheedy has been given the Mantiyupwi name of Tartuwali, which means shark, in recognition of having acted as family for club great and Indigenous icon Michael Long, whose family – and that of the related Rioli family – are among the nine families that comprise the Mantiyupwi.

Five Tiwi Islanders, all from the Mantiyupwi, came down to Melbourne for Essendon’s 150th year anniversary celebration on June 10-11, in what those present described as the highlight of the gala function, three former Essendon players with Tiwi backgrounds – Long, Dean Rioli and just-retired – performed a traditional Tiwi dance on the stage, as Sheedy’s adoption was celebrated.

Rioli, who played 100 senior games for Essendon, was the first to take the stage for the dance, alongside Mantiyupwi clan members CJ Keriaupia, his brother Joseph Pilakui, Bon Gerard Timeapatua, Barry Ullungura, and Barry Ullungura jnr. Rioli was soon joined by Long and McDonald-Tipungwuti.

The Tiwi dance, in which the trio were in step with one another, was described by Essendon people present as the most uplifting and electrifying moment of the function, underscoring the role of football, the Bombers, Long and Sheedy in changing the relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.

The moment also served as a reminder of Essendon and Sheedy’s pioneering work with Indigenous footballers – most notably through the agency of Long, whose stand against racism is celebrated by the AFL and the game – at a time when the Bombers have struggled on the field and tested the endurance of their large and passionate fan base. It took place the night after Essendon’s pre-game celebrations of their milestone, featuring a parade of champions on the MCG, followed by a deflating loss to Carlton.

Sheedy had not been told that he would be adopted into the Mantiyupwi clan, which is based in the southern tip of both Melville and Bathurst Islands in the Tiwi, until it took place on that night at Melbourne Park.

Essendon chief executive Xavier Campbell labelled the Tiwi dance of that evening: One of the most powerful moments in the history of football club, on or off the field. A beautiful moment. Campbell and Sheedy will travel to the Tiwi in mid-July for a celebration of Sheedy’s and Essendon’s honour.

Uncle Brian Clancy, who has helped forge the relationship between the Tiwi Islands and the Bombers, said that Sheedy had been recognised as Long’s father by dint of his care for the Norm Smith medallist when he came to Melbourne from Garden Point, Pirlangimpi.

Kevin was his [Long’s] dad while he was in Melbourne and Essendon were his family away from family, explained Clancy, formerly an Ascot Vale boy who moved up to the Tiwi Islands to become a teacher, was adopted into the Tipungwuti and married a local woman. So Kevin has been given the name Tartuwali, which means shark.

Kevin started the relationship. And that’s why they decided to adopt Essendon.

The decision to bestow Sheedy and the Bombers with membership of the clan was in discussions with the Mantiyupwi elders, brothers Pilakui, and CJ Keriaupia.

Long also addressed the function, recalling how the game had changed – and all clubs had improved – since he made his stand against racism in 1995. Campbell observed of Long’s footprint on the club and game: I don’t think there’s another with bigger impact over the competition in any respect.

Keep up to date with the best AFL coverage in the country. .

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *