AFL legend Eddie Betts is about to get back on the field, but his return to footy has a bigger focus


After 350 games at the highest level, Eddie Betts, one of the greatest pure goal kickers in Australian rules football history, has unfinished business bringing him to the Northern Territory Football League (NTFL).

Betts will this weekend make his NTFL debut for the Palmerston Magpies against Southern Districts.

But on top of pulling the boots back on for the first time in official competition since he retired, for Betts there’s a bigger goal to his Top End trip than football.

“I’m looking forward to going to remote communities up to Arnhem Land,” he said.

“I want kids to go to school, I want kids to graduate and I want kids to learn to read and write.”

Betts said feats on the field would be secondary to being able to embark on something as important as improving education in remote communities.

“Footy was on the back burner for me,” he said.

“I’ve always wanted to work within communities. I’ve always wanted to help Aboriginal kids go to school.”

Eddie Betts runs on the Palmerston football oval with three teammates behind him.
Retired AFL star Eddie Betts is set to pull the boots back on for Palmerston this weekend.(ABC News: Myles Houlbrook-Walk)

For Betts, part of his motivation is guided by his own experience.

First game expected to attract thousands

Throughout a career of immense achievement, Eddie Betts put together one of the greatest highlight reels of any individual players in AFL history.

An Indigenous AFL footballer pumps his fists and smiles after kicking the final goal of the game.
Betts played for Carlton and Adelaide from 2005 to 2021.(AAP: Dave Hunt)

In that reel, one quality shines through: an ability to kick goals from almost anywhere on the field.

Lee Elder from AFL Northern Territory said the league was predicting a bumper crowd for Betts’s first game on Sunday.

“I’m sure there’ll be quite a few thousand there … I’m saying three to five,” he said.

Among the 640 goals he kicked at Carlton and Adelaide in the AFL, he won the AFL’s prized Goal of the Year four times, more than any other player in history.

AFL great Eddie Betts is chaired off after his last game for Carlton, a loss to GWS.
Betts retired from the AFL in August, playing his last game for Carlton against Greater Western Sydney.(Getty Images: Quinn Rooney)

Having gone through his first training session with the Magpies, Betts has already begun sizing up some of the more difficult areas of his new home ground from which to kick goals.

But he’ll have some likely competition.

“I’ve already been told by [ex-Essendon player] Alwyn Davey he’s got every single pocket here,” he said.

“I might have to take one off him. He said, ‘you can rent one’.”


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