By PETER ARGENT
Eyre Peninsula legends and SANFL premiership players Simon Pedler and Michael Curtis, have enjoyed one of the special experiences in our national football code.
Pedler, a former Port Adelaide forward and Curtis, an ex-Sturt defender, umpired two games in the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands Grand Finals at Pukatja, in the far north west corner of South Australian during late August.
“That was my first time to the area and it was an unreal experience,” said Pedler, who is currently the president of the Great Flinders Football League (GFFL), where he is a fourth generation member of his family to play Eyre Peninsula football.
“We officiated the Elimination and Qualifying Finals games on Saturday, August 26.
“After flying to Alice Springs, it was a 1500km round trip.
“I’d do it again in a heart-beat.
“It was certainly unique.
“Because of the clay oval, they (the players) didn’t go to ground very often, they are quite good at holding their feet.
“It is pretty surreal, there is consistent noise around the game.
“A very quick style of football, and very open play.
“Amongst the play, there were a number of freakish acts.
“I remember one torp unleashed from well outside the 50m metre arc that was a goal.
“There are definitely a number of players, if they had an opportunity, who could definitely go further in the game.”
Double Blues’ 2002 premiership half-back flanker Michael Curtis first umpired in the APY Lands in 2022, officiating in a minor round weekend and last year’s Grand Final.
“I rated it pretty high on my footy experiences, it would be amongst the top five things I’ve done,” Curtis told SANFL.com.au.
“I finished playing at Tumby Bay around 2019 and have been umpiring the Under 12s for the past couple of years.
“I’ve umpired the B-Grade and I’m still the runner for Blues’ A grade side.
“We stayed at Marla on the Friday night and then had a three-hour drive from there to Pukatja for the game.
“The style of the football is the major difference you notice.
“In the APY Land games they (the players) never possess the ball and it’s always in motion.
“Very, very rarely does a player kick over their mark.
“There is plenty of speed and athleticism.
“It is a definite life experience and should be on your bucket list.”
1994 Port Adelaide premiership player Simon Pedler
“That was my first time to the area and it was an unreal experience.''
The SANFL football duo, who were fierce rivals on the playing arena both in Adelaide and back on the West Coast, travelled to the APY lands with SANFL employees Richard ”Pacer” Murphy, Head of Community Football Shawn Ford and Heath Sims to officiate in the most remote football league in the land.
A Crows AFL-listed player in the 1990s, Pedler is a 1994 Port Adelaide premiership player who played 65 SANFL games, while also winning a premiership in 2001 at Tanunda in the Barossa, Light and Gawler competition, before returning home to the family farm in Cummins to play for his foundation club, Cummins Ramblers.
He is a premiership captain and coach for Ramblers, along with representing Eyre Peninsula (EP) and the SA State Country team.
He is current president of the GFFL and a GFFL Panel Umpire.
Curtis played in the 1999 SANFL reserves flag and 2002 SANFL league premiership with the Double Blues before returning home to his family agriculture and machinery business in Tumby Bay.
His list of accolades include being a premiership captain and coach for Tumby Bay, a GFFL Mail Medallist, and like Pedler, playing EP Representative and SA State Country football. Curtis is also the current EP Under 15 coach.
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