Michael Walters models Fremantle's Indigenous jumper

FREMANTLE forward and Indigenous role model Michael Walters describes the scene on his childhood street in Midvale with pride.

The 31-year-old has taken Sydney great Michael O'Loughlin to Bushby Street in Perth's eastern suburbs as part of the filming for new documentary Warriors on the Field.

It's the street where Walters grew up alongside West Coast superstar Nic Naitanui and former Carlton forward Chris Yarran, but on this day it is the visiting O'Loughlin who is the star. 

THE MAN WHO INSPIRED 'MAGIC' View the Warriors on the Field trailer

"Right through my footy journey Mick has been someone who would send me a message just to say 'good game brother', or give me words of advice, and we took him back to Bushby Street," Walters told AFL.com.au

"I introduced him to a lot of young kids who were walking around the street and their parents, and we would've had 15-20 kids gathered outside the house.

"'Micky O' did nothing but stand around and have yarns with everyone and sign autographs, and he just made it so enjoyable to take him back to where me, Chris and Nico grew up.

"He was a superstar of the competition and a huge Indigenous role model, so that was massive for me and my family and the community."


O'Loughlin is the presenter of Warriors on the Field, a powerful look at the strength Indigenous players get from their culture, connection to the game, and how it helps them navigate racism.

Directed by Indigenous academic and filmmaker Larissa Behrendt, it also stars Walters and young North Melbourne midfielder Tarryn Thomas, showcasing the players' backgrounds and highlighting their challenges on and off the field.

A proud Noongar man, Walters has grown into a role model during his 14-year career with the Dockers and he doesn't shy away from his ability to help inspire young boys and girls who want to pursue their dreams.

Michael Walters models the 2022 Indigenous jumper. Picture: fremantlefc.com.au

His story includes hitting the crossroads in his career as a 21-year-old in 2012 when he was banished from the Dockers for failing to meet pre-season fitness standards before fighting his way back to be a star of the competition.   

"We all come from different cultures and backgrounds and places, but regardless of the environment you're in, if you do set your mind to something you can achieve what you want in life, and that's the message I wanted to get out there in this documentary," he said.

"I like to think I'm a prime example of that. I could have gone down a different path and a lot of people helped me get on the right path."


Walters said it was important for him to have his family involved in the documentary, highlighting the role his mother, Martha Penny, and father, Mick Walters, had played in fostering his love of football.

The skilful forward was around the game from a young age through his dad's team, taking on water boy duties from the age of six through to 14, while his mum was the "driving force" during his progression through the ranks as a junior.

Racism is not something Walters encountered much growing up and playing football in the Swan Districts zone, which has a proud history of developing Indigenous players, but it became more prominent outside the game as he got older.

He said the stories shared by the players in Warriors on the Field shape as the lasting message from the documentary, which he hoped would have a lasting impact.

"Racism is here in our society and it's something we need to stamp out," Walters said.

"It's going to take a lot of hard work and education around it, although we want people to educate themselves, we can't keep saying it.

"I guess that's something that is a huge turning point in the documentary, to say that we need this, and we need everyone to educate themselves and think about what they're saying before they say it."

Featuring AFL great Michael O’Loughlin and current players Michael 'Sonny' Walters and Tarryn Thomas, Warriors On The Field celebrates Aboriginal Australia and its long-standing history and connection with Australian football.

Produced by the Australian Football League, EQ Media and Amazon Studios, this one-hour documentary premieres exclusively on Prime Video on July 8 in Australia and over 240 countries and territories worldwide.

Warriors On The Field