A winter without footy is unbearable for anyone, and it was especially so for the footy-mad communities of the central Kimberley in 2020 when all local competitions were cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Thanks to Garnduwa, an Indigenous Kimberley sports and recreation organisation that is also a key stakeholder in Fremantle’s Next Generation Academy, Aussie rules returned for a three day carnival in early October.

To celebrate the return of footy to the club’s NGA region, Fremantle representatives Roger Hayden and AFLW player Roxy Roux made the trip to Fitzroy Crossing to get involved.

A country footballer from Dongara, Roux was blown away by the passion and talent on show in the carnival that showcased talent among all age groups.

“None of the players had any pre-seasons to prepare, they were just straight into it and it was amazing to see the skills on show and how quick they were,” Roux said.

“When I was umpiring, I found if I didn’t blow the whistle quick enough the ball would end up right down the other end before you could bring it back.

“The community spirit was fantastic, everyone was really welcoming and nice and it was a really exciting experience.”

Growing up 350km from Perth, Roux recalls it being a big deal when football players came to town, let alone the 2500km trip to Fitzroy Crossing.

“I remember ‘Juddy’ (Kara Donnellan) coming up. When footy players came to town it was absolutely amazing, those carnivals were the best days of my life,” Roux said.

“I’ve reflected on that a lot. Seeing these kids walk away from having that same excitement and joy that I had, that’s our job done.

“It is almost a bit frustrating as there’s so much talent on the field for the girls.

“To play AFLW, they would have to relocate their whole life and move away from their community and family, and it’s not easy with how expensive the flights are.

“I made sure I got around a couple of the girls who especially caught my eye and spoke to them about it. A couple said they were considering coming down to Perth. Some were as young as eight years old and I felt they could run me down so easily!”

Roux said she also gained a lot from the trip and spending time with Hayden who has played and coached at Fremantle for the past 20 years and was recently named a life member of the club.

“It was great getting to know Roger, we had a lot of really good talks about footy on the drive from Broome to Fitzroy Crossing, discussing our journeys as footballers,” Roux said.

"He showed me a couple of things, took me out to do my run and watched me die on the field! He helped me umpire and we really got along well.

“It was awesome seeing him get Life Membership last week. I was so excited for him as I know how dedicated he is to Freo. He was absolutely swarmed by everyone at Fitzroy Crossing, they were really excited to see him.

“It’s a great achievement and I’m really proud and happy for him.”