Although some may think that 3,500km is a long distance, foundation SUNS member Shannon Jackson proves that love and support are not bound by distance, especially when it comes to his favourite footy team.
Ain't no mountain high or valley low enough to stop this SUNS member of 13 years from making the trek all the way from rural Nganmarriyanga - approximately 400km from Darwin – to watch eight games last season.
“I'll give you a general example of one trip,” Jackson told SUNS Media.
“For the Bulldogs game this year, it’s a four-hour trip for us to get to Darwin. We stay overnight in a hotel.
“Well, not even overnight, we get to Darwin early evening, and we sleep in the hotel for about five hours.
“We catch a 2am flight from Darwin to Melbourne. Then we hired a car and drove to Ballarat to watch the game, drove back to Melbourne and caught the 9pm flight back from Melbourne to get to Darwin at 1am.”
For Jackson, it’s not just about football. It’s also about the social aspects and positive influences having AFL games in the NT has had, with two games held there last season.
“I think that's really important and the socio-economic benefits that it provides to the Indigenous communities out here are fantastic,” said Jackson.
“It gives them something to look forward to. They talk about it for weeks leading up to the games and they speak about it for weeks after the game.
“I think it's very good for football and it provides hope, belief and something out of the ordinary for the people out here.”
If you were wondering what the AFL community was like in the Northern Territory, Jackson offers some insight into the local supporters, as he paves the way for the small but mighty SUNS NT faction.
“There are a few people that get around, but not everyone has just one team,” said Jackson.
“It’s more about how everyone just loves football and the sport. There are a few people that get around in the odd Gold Coast jersey or Gold Coast hat.
“They're a big fan of the indigenous players obviously. Hopefully, I have converted a few into becoming Gold Coast fans.
“Just to hear people asking how the SUNS went lifts my heart a little bit.”
Jackson’s supporting efforts and dedication to the SUNS was recognised this year, as he was announced in the Member Team of the Year and received a call from Brandon Ellis as part of the celebrations.
“Since that phone call we had with Brandon Ellis for the Member Team of the Year announcement the other week, Brandon Ellis acquired probably about 200 new fans from the young inspiring football players here,” Jackson added.
“They absolutely love Brandon now. If they can’t watch the game, they always ask about how Brandon played.”
It was hard for Jackson to pick only one highlight from his time as a member of the SUNS but chose to reminisce about the SUNS’ knack for kicking goals after the siren.
“I think before the Noah Anderson siren goal this year, the Karmichael Hunt goal on the siren was probably the most unique moment personally from games that I've been to,” said Jackson.
“The first win at the MCG was big because I grew up watching football and it was just such a significant moment in our history to win our first game at the home of football.
“It's really hard to pick one moment when I've been to so many games for a long time. So many highs and so many lows.”
Jackson highlighted how the club’s positive culture keeps him coming back to show his support for the club.
“I think the true highlights have yet to come. Just seeing the culture shift for me, through Stuey and the players that have signed on,” said Jackson.
“I know it's a little bit bland, but probably my highlight so far is we've got something to look forward to in the future.”