Mateship is an undoubted strength of country football communities, and returning Southern Flinders footballer Joel Palmer displayed that again on the weekend.
On Saturday night, Palmer donned his mate Tai Martin-Page’s number 19 jumper and played in a Northern Territory Premier League match for the Darwin Buffaloes against the Wanderers at TIO Stadium.
Sadly in the previous round between these two combatants, a freak accident during the first quarter saw Martin-Page’s life take a dramatic turn, as he injured his spine and was flown directly to Royal Perth Hospital.
The following weekend Palmer, with fellow Southern Flinders team mates Koby Millington and Jake Prior, flew across the Nullarbor to see their mate and give him support.
On Saturday, February 10, Palmer made his NTFL debut for the Buffaloes and played in honour of his mate, a friendship that goes back to primary school days at Laura.
“It was a privilege to be a part of something to support Tai,” Palmer said.
“I actually put my boots in the bin after the (Yorke Peninsula) grand final last year; and luckily my wife Monique retrieved them.
“I only have a couple of training sessions before hand and it was hard work playing as a rover coming off the bench.
“(My) talk at the start of the game was pretty emotional.
“There is plenty of spirit in the football community in the NT.
“It’s great the support Tai is receiving up there, the entire community got involved.
“From a playing perspective is a good, quick brand of football.
“But there had been a fair bit of rain and it was pretty slippery and it was pretty wet under foot and there had been a couple of games on the oval before ours.
“The humidity is another thing you have to deal with up here.
“I also got pretty emotional when Tai’s mum Bridget spoke after the game.”
Along with his wife Monique, Palmer’s children Willow and Addie came up for the event along with his parents, Deb and Wayne.
Palmer and Martin-Page became very close mates at Gladstone High School and played a number of different sports together.
The Buffaloes has an emphatic 15.10 (100) to 4.5 (29) victory on Saturday evening, with Palmer kicking a goal.
At the end of a very special night at the Michael Long Learning and Leadership Centre, AFLNT and the Darwin Buffaloes Football Club handed over a cheque for $52,407 to Martin-Page’s mum and brother, Jay.
Martin-Page has returned from Perth to Adelaide and begun his rehabilitation.
The cost of his flight back to Adelaide alone was $26,000.