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Women are taking charge at Groote Eylandt – on the football oval.

Two female footy fanatics, Retsina Barabara and Seralina Lalara, have joined the umpiring ranks.

They were encouraged to take up the whistle by Rob Hince, who manages AFL Northern Territory’s remote programs.

Groote players catch charter flights to Gove on the mainland every fortnight to play for the Stingrays.

The team is selected every other week from matches between three Groote Eylandt clubs.

Umpire and writer Chelsea Roffey says on the AFL website: “Aboriginal women taking up the whistle is rare, if not unheard of, in this part of the world. But the teams have welcomed their cool-headed presence.

“After completing a community umpiring course, the women jumped head-first into senior men’s footy, officiating alongside an experienced umpire who can assist their development.

“Both women are quietly spoken, but learning to blow the whistle, signal and pay decisions has been an empowering experience.”

Retsina says: “Umpiring makes me feel strong. The players are good. We talk to them before the game … they never backchat.”

Rob says: “They don’t say much, but they command a lot of respect. They were timid at first, but with each quarter they’ve become braver and braver. The guys have embraced it.”