Before running out onto the field for their first game of the 2022 season, the Arnhem Crows senior women's football team wrap their arms around each other and put their heads together in a huddle, taking turns to share words of encouragement.
Young girls - nieces, cousins, daughters - hang around as well. Some kick a footy among themselves and others run around with water bottles, wearing bright pink t-shirts with the words "WATER CARRIER" proudly emblazoned on the back. They want to be as close to the action as possible until they're old enough to be on the team for real.
There is anticipation in the air, with just a hint of apprehension - out of all the players, only four played last year. For the vast majority of the Crows, this is their first time playing footy at this level in their lives, and the pressure is on.
The back-to-back premiership winning team hails from the remote community of Barunga, around an hour southeast of Katherine in the Northern Territory.
Despite their success, the senior women's team in the Big Rivers Football League has only existed since 2020 after a group of young women in the community approached the now Crows President Helen Lee and asked her to help them get a team together.
The Crows was the first women's team from an Indigenous community in the league, leading the way for two other communities in the area getting their own women's teams together since.
The team is leading a revolution that sees the traditional roles of women and girls in community dramatically changed when it comes to footy, which in the NT, is like a religion.
"Instead of sitting in the grandstand watching uncles, brothers, cousins, fathers and all the men play, it's reversed and now we've got them playing and all those relatives are watching them," Coach Malcolm Hales says.
"And to me, that's a fantastic opportunity for women in our communities to earn the right, I guess, to have something really positive in their life."
It's a movement that is growing dramatically, as more and more women and girls in remote Indigenous communities become keen to play. .
There's not going to be a shortage of community girls wanting to play football in the future," Hales says. .
"It's more than just the game of football. For them, it's self esteem, it's pride, it's exercise...that to me is more important than the game itself."
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This year, the Crows women's team is made up of a diverse range of players from across the community - from teenage girls who have grown up playing footy to mums who are playing for the first time in a decade or ever.
In fact, mother and daughter Lakeisha and Devleana Ahfat are both playing for the Crows this year.
Delvean, 15, says she started playing because her mum and cousin were on the team, whereas Lakeisha joined in 2021 following the lead of her younger sister.
"It's just really fun being around all the other girls," Lakeisha says.
She says she and her daughter motivate each other to do better on the field.
"This morning [before the first game] I actually had a bit of a talk to her about not to run slow or stand around and she actually did something today, she showed me," Lakeisha says.
Originally from Tennant Creek, near the centre of the NT, Ricoda Ahfat, 21, had played plenty of footy and had heard about the team before moving to Barunga, further north in the NT - about 80km southeast of Katherine.
"I knew about the Crows and I was like 'who do I do I go and see and what do I do?'" she says
"So I went to training and I was like 'how do I sign up?"
She says she loves being a mentor to some of the younger and less experienced players.
"I love it. I love coming together and talking to girls and helping them and supporting them and all that."
Now in her second year as the team's assistant coach, Lana Broome says the leadership group within the team is vital to getting other women and girls engaged.
"It's very important for them to be actively participating, just trying to get them involved," she says.
She says the team had benefits for both girls who are still in school and women with kids of their own.
"We've got a couple of parents, ladies who are making their debut today," she says.
"Even though they're mums, it's still important for them to get involved."
With Gold Coast Suns medium forward Ashanti Bush playing in the first ever women's team for the Arnhem Crows before being drafted in 2021, Hales says the current and future players have someone to look up to and something to aspire to.
"There's a couple of young ones in my team who I tell 'you can do what Ashanti did'," he says.
"To be part of that sort of pathway to the senior footy, which might be AFL, there's a career in it."
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