• Carlton star Eddie Betts has announced his retirement. (AAP)Source: AAP
The Top End’s AFL community has been sent into a spin amid growing speculation recently retired superstar Eddie Betts will spend coming months living and playing football in Darwin.
Guy McLean

14 Sep 2021 - 5:10 PM  UPDATED 14 Sep 2021 - 5:10 PM

Betts, who called time on a stellar 350-game career last month, has been linked to NTFL club Palmerston Magpies after several local teams expressed interest in securing his rare talents for the coming season.

The 34 year old kicked 640 goals for Carlton and Adelaide as an electrifying small forward and Darwin football administrators are salivating over the impact a player of his standing could play in promoting Top End footy.

Darwin-based NT News has reported Betts’ friendship with former Palmerston and Geelong AFL premiership player Matthew Stokes has helped sway him the Magpies’ way. Stokes runs a remote mentoring service in the NT and it’s rumored Betts will be offered work there too.

If Palmerston can secure Betts’ signature it will go probably go down as the biggest recruiting coup in Top End football history.

The Magpies, formerly known as North Darwin, are a perennial NTFL struggler and this season marks two decades since they last tasted premiership success. Finals appearances have also been few and far between over recent years.

Veteran AFL broadcaster and Gurindji man Charlie King has called close to 800 games of NTFL over almost 30 years. He can’t recall a bigger name than Eddie Betts pulling on the boots in Darwin and predicts a rapid upswing in Palmerston’s on-field performances if the ambitious recruiting raid comes off.

“This is a good move by them to get a big name in the place and I think more people will turn up to their games than ever before,” he said.

“They’re a struggling club and AFLNT have been worried about them for a long time... But we’ve seen in the Territory many times that one player can come up and change the whole culture of a club.

“They don’t seem to have that broader connection with the wider community and that’s what they need to do – open the windows, open the doors and let people in because the club has a big catchment area and a growing population and there’s no reason they shouldn’t be more successful.”

The head of the Top End's AFL agreed Betts' influence could energise the sport in the region. 

“If Eddie and his family did land and stay for the footy season it would just be terrific for the competition, for whoever he decides to play for and for the game generally,” AFLNT CEO Stu Totham said.

“I think he’s really elevated himself, not just on the field but off the field as well. He’s a champion of the game and hopefully we do see him up here.”

AFLNT already has plans to offer Betts employment and believes he’s keen to relocate for the full NTFL season, which runs from October until March.

“We’ve certainly indicated that there’ll be some opportunities for Eddie with us so we’ll just wait and see how it all pans out over the next week or two,” Mr Totham said.

“We’ve got nine remote projects so he could be doing some work with that team, also in our school program, our talent program. There’s a myriad of different areas where we think Eddie will be able to help us.

“If you think about some of the ripple effect if he’s here: you talk about attracting people to our game, you talk about attracting players, whether that be the club he decides to play for or just in the comp generally.

"The profile boost that he would be provide would be quite outstanding.”

‘He’d be a great ambassador’

Away from broadcasting, Charlie King is a passionate advocate for social change, having founded the prominent No More campaign which encourages men take a stand against family violence.

While he’d be excited to see Eddie Betts strutting his stuff on Top End’s football fields this wet season, he’s also hoping to bring Betts on board as a 'No More' ambassador.

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“When he arrives I’ll be at the front of the media group in my Carlton shirt waiting to talk to him and of course he’d be a great ambassador for the family violence program.

“He’s got five children of his own and he loves his family, loves his kids, and he’d be the ideal person to be a No More ambassador so we’ve got some ideas to put to him when he gets here.”

Covid-19 could be the clincher

While Darwin’s football-loving public delights at the prospect of Betts plying his trade on sodden Top End grounds during the oppressive wet season months ahead, navigating a path for Betts and his family to actually get to Darwin could prove problematic.

The Northern Territory doesn’t currently accept travelers from declared Covid-19 hotspots, meaning Betts and his family would need exemptions granted by the NT’s Chief Health Officer Dr Hugh Heggie to enter the Howard Springs Centre for National Resilience for mandatory 14-day supervised quarantine.

Travelers who quarantine at Howard Springs do so at a cost of $2500 per person or $5000 for families of two or more people.

Palmerston Football Club was contacted for comment.