Willie Rioli Senior, Northern Territory football great, dies aged 50

Willie Rioli Senior smiles at the camera wearing a Tiwi Bombers shirt.

Willie Rioli Senior, a legend of Northern Territory football and leader on the Tiwi Islands, has died aged 50.

Key points:

  • Willie Rioli Senior was a great of the Northern Territory Football League
  • Hawthorn drafted Willie RIoli Senior in 1990
  • He was heavily involved in land management on the Tiwi Islands

Warning: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander readers are advised that this story contains the name and image of a person who has died.

The ABC has permission from Willie Rioli Senior’s family to use his name and image.

Willie Rioli Senior played in multiple premierships with St Mary’s, won a Nichols Medal for the best player in the Northern Territory Football League, coached the Tiwi Island Bombers Football Club, coached the Imalu Tigers to a Tiwi Island Football League premiership, and was drafted by Hawthorn in 1990.

Willie Rioli Senior smiles at the camera wearing a Tiwi Bombers shirt.
Willie Rioli Senior won the Nichols Medal in the 1988/89 season.(Supplied: Tiwi Bombers Football Club)

“We are extremely shocked of the sudden passing of Uncle Willie,” a statement from the family said.

“He was the youngest of 10 in the family and was a great leader who pushed everyone to get the most out of themselves.

“He is going to be sadly missed by the family, friends and the people on the Tiwi Islands.

“Our love and support will be behind Aunty Georgina, Nikita, Willie Jnr, Kathleen and grandsons Martin and Willy Jr III during this time.”

A key part of the Rioli/Long football dynasty, Willie Rioli Senior was the brother of Richmond great Maurice Rioli, who he played with at the South Fremantle Football Club in the Western Australian Football League.

His son Willie Junior currently plays for West Coast and has won a premiership with the club.

Willie Rioli Senior looks through a device to measure the height of a tree.Willie Rioli Senior looks through a device to measure the height of a tree.
Willie Rioli Senior, pictured here measuring tree heights while managing burn offs, was a Tiwi Land Ranger.(Supplied: Tiwi Land Council)

Willie Rioli Senior was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia in 2008 for service to the development of the community of the Tiwi Islands, was a Tiwi Land Ranger mentor and supervisor, and a fire coordinator on the islands.

A statement from the Tiwi Bombers Football Club said Willie Rioli Senior was “a great contributor for both the Tiwi Bombers and more recently the Tiwi Islands Football League”.

“Our love goes out to the Rioli family and especially partner Georgina, Children Nikita, Willie Junior, Kathleen and grandchildren Martin and William Jr,” the statement said.

St Mary’s Football Club president Adrian Moscheni remembered Willie Rioli Senior as an “outstanding person and champion footballer”.

“I have very fond memories of Willie, he was just such a great character, a very infectious person, a great leader of his people,” he said.

“Also around the St Mary’s football club, he held our values to the highest level.

“It’s a very sad day. I’m stuck for words really. Me and the family, all the brothers go back a long way.”

Posted 38m ago38 minutes agoTue 12 Jul 2022 at 11:14pm, updated 12m ago12 minutes agoTue 12 Jul 2022 at 11:39pm

Author: Ivan Robinson