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MAURICE RIOLI

 

They often call Maurice Rioli "The Northern Territory's most famous sporting son." It is a monumental honour when you consider some of the great sporting champions the Territory has produced.

But nobody could deny that Maurice deserves such recognition because his career in Australian Rules football is by the far the most outstanding of any Territorian in that sport in history.

Maurice achieved the highest individual honour of Australia's premier sporting event when he won the Norm smith medal for best on ground in the 1982 VFL Grand Final. It was the jewel in the crown of a senior football career that started in 1974, spanned three states, and has ended as a player with Waratahs in the NTFL.

Maurice was born in 1957 on Bathurst Island. The third of nine children, he grew up a typical football mad Tiwi Islander but he was going to school at Darwin's St Johns College in 1974 when he first played A grade with St Marys.

So rapid was his progress that Maurice was included in the 1974 NT side which made an historic trip to Brisbane and humbled Queensland in a game which put Territory football on the national map.

Cyclone Tracy interrupted the 1974/75 season but it didn't stop Maurice heading for Perth to join his older brother, Sebastian, at South Fremantle. From there, Maurice launched a career that eventually stamped him, as one of football's all time greats.

At the beginning things were not easy. A shy youngster, Maurice admits he found difficulty adjusting to life away from home, if it had not been for the support and encouragement of Sebastian he may well have tossed it in.

But Maurice stuck at it, and soon the dividends started to come. In 1980 he played in South Fremantle's premiership side, and won the Simpson medal for best afield. The following year he tied for the Simpson with Gary Shaw.

By this time Maurice was a regular state player for WA so it was no surprise when he moved to VFL. side Richmond in 1982 with a reputation as one of the best players outside the VFL.

Maurice played six seasons at Punt Road for a total of 118 VFL games, a record for a Territory player until beaten by Michael Long As well as winning the Norm Smith Medal on grand final day, he won Richmond's best and fairest award in 1982 and 83. In 1983 he was also favourite for the Brownlow Medal.

In 1984 Maurice played in possibly the greatest game of football of the 1980's The State of origin clash between Victoria and WA in Perth. WA won, the newspapers hailed the match as "Space Age Football" and Maurice was one of the best players on the ground.

Also in 1984 Maurice toured Ireland with the All-Australian team for a series of Test Matches which were played half-Gaelic Football, half-Australian Rules. Maurice adjusted better than any of the Australians to the Gaelic style and finished the tour with Australia's best player award.

Maurice returned to South Fremantle in 1988 as club Captain, but not before he was captain of the NT side at the Bicentennial carnival in Adelaide. The NT as the surprise packet of the series winning all three of its games to take the Second Divsion pennant. Maurice was one of three Territorians selected in the All-Australian side.

When Maurice retired as a WAFL player in 1990 he'd already served one season as coach of Waratahs in the Darwin competition. Maurice was one of the top coaches in the competition, but his work forced him out of the game.

In 1992 Maurice was elected to the NT parliament in a by-election for the seat of Arafura which includes his Tiwi Islands homeland. The election was forced by the untimely death of Maurice's long time friend and former St Marys teammate, Stan Tipiloura.

Maurice is now the shadow spokesmen for mines and Energy and Youth, Sport and Recreation in the ALP Opposition. He is married to Robyn and they have three children.

 

His football career in snapshot is:

* 118 VFL games for Richmond.

* 160 WAFL games with South Fremantle.

* 20 state games (12 with WA, eight with the NT).

* 5-times captain of the NT versus Essendon (1986), Hawthorn (1987), Tasmania, Australian Amateurs, VFA (1988).

* Norm Smith Medal (best afield VFL grand final) 1982.

* Simpson Medal (best afield WAFL grand final) 1980-81.

* All Australian - 1988 Bicentennial Carnival.

* Best player, Irish tour- 1984

* Best and fairest, Richmond, 1982-83.