THOUSANDS of kilometres, almost 200 pairs of footy boots and runners, 63 students, and one of the experiences of a lifetime.
Students from St Patrick’s College are gearing up for a nine-day tour of the Northern Territory as part of the college’s indigenous program.
In what will be a homecoming of sorts for nine indigenous students at the college, the tour will incorporate a range of cultural activities and programs in a number of areas including Darwin, Katherine and the Tiwi Islands.
There, the footy boots that have been donated by students will be given to different communities in need.
And of course, what would a St Patrick’s tour be without a few games of football thrown in?
Both the first and second XVIII sides will play matches against underage Northern Territory representative sides in Darwin, although coach Howard Clark said the trip was about much more than football.
It is the third time the college has toured NT, an area it visits every three years.
“It gives our indigenous boys an opportunity to show off their land, which to me is the most important thing,” he said.
One of the indigenous students heading back home on the tour is year 12 student Shane McAuliffe and year 11 student Daniel Rioli from the Tiwi Islands, nephew of Hawthorn star Cyril Rioli.
Both said they could not wait to get back home and show their classmates where they came from.
“Football is so big up there (in Tiwi Islands),” Rioli said.
“It’s like a religion. People don’t play any other sport, it really is like a religion.”
Having made his first XVIII debut in a practice match against St Joseph’s College Geelong last night, Rioli said he dreamed of one day playing AFL.
For McAuliffe, the anticipation of the tour has him believing it will be one of the big experiences of his life.
“To be part of the trip with all the boys is going to be great,” he said.
“I’ve still got a lot of friends up there and to go to these places I’ve always wanted to go will be good.”
The tour departs on Sunday and returns Tuesday week.