Zibeon Fielding had to pass through 62 kilometres of desert in 30-degree heat to get to UTAS Stadium for Sir Doug Nicholls Round.
The 24-year-old marathon runner, from the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara lands in far North-West South Australia, will toss the coin for Saturday’s Hawthorn versus Port Adelaide game.
Fielding’s ultramarathon raised $50,000 for The Purple House to help provide dialysis treatment for people suffering from renal failure.
“People from my area go to Purple House to get treatment for dialysis and they have to live away from their families and away from their loved ones,” he said.
“[The donation will] see dialysis treatment put on my country, so all these people can come back home to their loved ones and have treatment on country.”
The perilous journey, which saw Fielding chased by dingoes at the 15-kilometre mark, was completed in six hours.
The run was a huge step up after running the Boston Marathon just five weeks earlier and the New York Marathon in 2016.
“Running back on my country in the heat of 30 degrees, getting chased by dingoes and running in the dark in 4 o’clock in the morning, and running on my feet for six hours, [was] a massive challenge,” he said.
“Every foot I put in front of the other was the longest distance I’d ever ran.”
Fielding said he hoped the 62-kilometre journey would motivate other Indigenous people to lead healthier lifestyles.
Renal failure, also known as kidney failure, is a major problem for Aboriginal communities, with a 2013 study showing Indigenous people were up to 30 times more likely to be diagnosed with the illness.
We need to dig deep back into our old roots and start living healthier lifestyles with our loved ones.Zibeon Fielding
Statistics released by Kidney Health Australia also showed that almost one-in-five Aboriginals over the age of 18 had indicators of chronic kidney disease in 2012-13.
“I want to use running as a vehicle to drive positive and healthy change in my community, so people can look up to me as a role model,” Fielding said.
“We need to dig deep back into our old roots and start living healthier lifestyles with our loved ones.
“We need to get rid of the drug and alcohol abuse and all that stuff.”