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Local Matters | North Pilbara Football League

Kleenheat is committed to supporting communities in which we operate. Especially within regional WA where we service communities and businesses with our LPG products and services. This year, Kleenheat partnered with the North Pilbara Football League (NPFL) as a sponsor for their 2019 season.

Earlier in the season, we flew up to Karratha to attend the ‘Kleenheat Round’ and watch as the competition played out between the Karratha Kats and the Dampier Sharks.

The North Pilbara Football League

The football season is all but wrapped up in regional WA, with the NPFL’s Grand Final played out on Saturday 7 September. As you can imagine, much (but not all) of the community, celebrated the win of the 2019 Premiers, the Wickham Wolves! Congratulations to the 2019 Premiers!

Established over 40 years ago, the NPFL consists of six clubs across the Pilbara. The clubs includes the Dampier Sharks, Karratha Kats, Karratha Falcons, Wickham Wolves, Port Hedland Rovers and South Hedland Swans.

Within each club there are around 100 players aged between 15 and 45, who play, in either League or Reserve teams. In addition, there’s also committee members, umpires, volunteers, and the local community of supporters who see each season through.

The Kleenheat Round

As part of our partnership, Kleenheat also arranged for a jumping castle to keep the kids extra-entertained, a gold coin donation, sausage sizzle and a raffle to win a BBQ pack to take home. The community helped raise over $700 from the sausage sizzle, which was then donated to the Karratha Women’s Refuge.

We also took the opportunity to chat with some of the locals to discuss the importance of sport in regional WA, not only for physical health, but for inclusiveness within the community and for mental health.

We met with Greg Braithwaite, President of the NPFL, Russell Turner, President of the Dampier Sharks Football Club, Steven Dodd, Senior Coach of the Dampier Sharks and Lewis Upton who plays for the Dampier Sharks.

Getting involved

When Greg Braithwaite moved to the Dampier Karratha area from Mt Barker in 2000, “he was told” he had to be involved in the local football scene. Braithwaite has now been President for eleven years in total and as President, coordinates the football season with assistance from his committee members.

Braithwaite is a great supporter of playing sport, having always been actively involved, especially when his children were growing up. He has played, umpired and coached in previous years and now loves seeing the little kids getting involved.

Sport is a great part of family life, it builds family. You’re together, can play any sport together and it builds your family as a result,” he said.

Steven Dodd, the senior coach of the Dampier Sharks Football League, made the move from Perth to work at the Karratha Health Campus.

Dodd is well known for playing 100 games with the Fremantle Dockers over eight years, and for his 119 games he played with East Fremantle.

Upon arriving he played a few games before suffering an injury. Not long after he was offered the opportunity to coach instead. Dodd signed on for two years, of which he has just completed his first year. Dodd is incredibly passionate about the sport and creating positive growth in the team and community.

“To succeed in life, team sports are paramount,” he said, “…they build skills, ethics, create structure in life, encourage you to strive to achieve success, be part of a community and encourage competitiveness.”

He loves seeing players develop their skills and shine amongst their peers. He looks forward to contributing to the community, developing the sporting culture and welcomes everyone to join, no matter their age, race or fitness level.

“These guys can have a lot of talent and skills. You want them to thrive and you want to give them the opportunity to do so. The guys really embrace it too, they are keen to thrive, they bring youth, energy and spark. It lifts some of the older guys as well. That’s the most rewarding,” he said.

Steven just had a son and hopes to play with him one day, and if he has a daughter, would love to see her play too.

“The Fremantle Dockers have womens’ and mens’ teams, and past players children are invited to join these clubs. If my kids join and they actually enjoy playing sport, that’s the important part,” Dodd said.

Starring talent

Braithwaite is proud to say that local talent has been nurtured and because of the support from the community to have football, the Pilbara has seen some star talent emerge.

Two players in particular are Zac Langdon and Dean Cox, both from the Dampier Sharks, who’ve gone on to play in AFL, for Greater Western Sydney Giants and the West Coast Eagles, respectively.

Lewis Upton, a gifted footballer, who plays for the Dampier Sharks Football Club, has been playing since he was a six year old and thinks of the Club and those involved as his second home and family.

Upton got involved early on because the community was involved and all his friends were. He loves the competition, and likes seeing people he knows in town or through work, out on the field or supporting from the sidelines.

Upton believes being part of a team offers a lot of life skills too.

“It’s good to be involved in a sporting club,” he says, “it helps out in work; helps with team work and working with people of all backgrounds,” Upton said.

The lifeblood of the community

Braithwaite says if you move to or live in a country town you have to get involved and football is one way to do it.

Not only does it give kids of all ages, and adults, something to do that’s healthy for your mind and body; it also encourages locals to become part of a team, get along with each other, and enjoy each -others’ company in a healthy environment.

“Footy is a lifeblood of the community, it gets the town going on Fridays and Saturdays especially during game time. You can come along and watch mums and dads play and the kids enjoy themselves. It gives people something healthy to be a part of,” Braithwaite said.

With a culturally diverse population across the Pilbara, the consensus from Braithwaite, Upton, Turner and Dodd is that sport in regional WA is vital, to creating that sense of community and inclusiveness.

Community mental health and FIFO workers

Russell Turner, President of the Dampier Sharks believes football offers the players, in particular, the chance to chat about not only the game, but also home, work and life in general, with each other.

“You can get a feel about how the guys are travelling. A lot of them are aware of mental health issues and have seen players suffering from mental health and they know the importance of and benefit of having sport in the community,” Turner said.

This awareness extends to the FIFO community. Joining the local football team, allows FIFO workers a break from the long shifts they do and the opportunity to get involved.

“Football gives them the opportunity to build relationships with locals, and gives them a breather from those they work with and from work too,” he said.

Braithwaite agreed, “…it helps to fill a void they often feel when they are working away from family and friends at home.”

Upton also agrees that it’s good for FIFO workers, because “…it’s not all work, they can get down to the footy club and have a game. It offers a bit of release, and the chance to mingle and chat with locals.”

The importance of sponsors

Without sponsors Braithwaite, Turner, Dodd and Upton all agreed that there would be no football. Before the season starts, the League alone, needs $20, 000 in the bank, just to cover insurances.

Each club organises their own sponsors and raises their own funds to support the team each season.

Dodd knows how much goes into a running a football game and how important it is to have support behind each player, and club.

“Sponsors are a massive contributor to sport in regional clubs. There’s a lot of extra things that go unseen, in addition to the actual game being played. Sponsors help all the components of the game and the League come together. Without sponsors, we can’t run smoothly,” he said.

For more information on the NPFL and their teams, head to the North Pilbara Football League Facebook page.

Find this interesting? Read about our partnership with the Youth Involvement Council.

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