Rio Tinto NAIDOC Week was celebrated in Round 14 of the WAFL across the weekend and it was only fitting that included some standout performances from Indigenous players with none better than Perth's M & J Chickens Player of the Round, Cody Ninyette.
Across the four WAFL matches to celebrate NAIDOC Week in Round 14 of the WAFL, it was only fitting that a host of Indigenous players delivered standout performances.
That started on Friday night and despite Peel Thunder losing to Subiaco by 52 points and not kicking a goal for three quarters, Danyle Pearce racked up 29 possessions while Michael Johnson had 20 disposals and nine marks, Traye Bennell 14 touches, Harley Bennell 13 and captain Gerald Ugle seven.
Then on Saturday in South Fremantle's win over Claremont, Marlion Pickett was again a standout for the Bulldogs with 23 possessions, 12 marks and eight tackles while Matthew Parker kicked two goals from 18 disposals.
Keifer Yu threatened to have a big day for the Tigers but only managed to kick four behinds from 15 possessions and six marks while Nick Winmar struggled for just the six disposals.
Then Perth's opponent on Saturday, Swan Districts, featured Warrick Wilson who played well with 15 possessions, six marks and a goal while Taryce Stewart couldn’t get into the game.
Then Ninyette also had his Perth teammate, Michael Bennell, continue his good form to start his league career with 11 possessions, four tackles and two goals.
But it was Ninyette who was the standout player of Round 14 and that's why he has been named M & J Chickens Player of NAIDOC Round.
Ninyette had a relatively quiet first half of the 2018 season compared with what he was able to produce in 2017, but his form has come to life in recent weeks and then he took things up another gear in Saturday's win against Swan Districts at Steel Blue Oval.
The 20-year-old ended the afternoon kicking five goals to go with 21 possessions, five tackles, four marks and four entries inside the forward 50.
Ninyette started the game strongly with three goals in the first quarter to help the Demons to a fast start. He then went on to add a fourth goal in the third quarter and his fifth during the last term as he ensured he delivered a strong performance for the whole four quarters.
Ninyette has now kicked five goals twice in his last three matches this season and is in some stunning forward-line alongside Bennell in a Perth team making a genuine run for the finals.
The Kelmscott product came through the colts at Perth and played some impressive football across 28 games in 2015 and 2016 where he kicked 33 goals in that time.
He made the step up to senior football late in the 2016 season playing three reserves matches and kicking eight goals, and then kicking four goals from two league appearances.
Ninyette was then a permanent member of the league team in 2017 and he went on to be the leading goalkicker for Perth for the season kicking 28 goals in his 18 matches, highlighted by his still career-best of seven in the last game of the season against East Perth.
Ninyette had a solid, yet unspectacular start to the 2018 season kicking 10 goals across his first nine matches, but he then booted five goals in Round 11 against East Fremantle on the same afternoon teammate Bennell kicked seven.
Then he delivered another five-goal haul in Saturday's win against Swan Districts and there's every reason he could find himself in the AFL system by the end of 2018.
M & J Chickens Players of the Round
Round 1 – Rhys Palmer (Swan Districts)
Round 2 – Fraser McInnes (East Perth)
Round 3 – Cody Leggett (Perth)
Round 4 – Shane Nelson (West Perth)
Round 5 – Patrick McGinnity (East Perth)
Round 6 – Marlion Pickett (South Fremantle)
Round 7 – Andrew Strijk (West Perth)
Round 8 – George Hampson (East Fremantle)
Round 9 – Nick Suban (South Fremantle)
Round 10 – Ben Howlett (Peel Thunder)
Round 11 – Michael Bennell (Perth)
Round 12 – Kyal Horsley (Subiaco)
Round 13 – Lachlan Delahunty (Subiaco)
Round 14 – Cody Ninyette (Perth)