The NSWRL would like to pay tribute to all the talented Indigenous players, coaches, officials and volunteers who make a wonderful contribution to Rugby League as the NRL prepares to celebrate Indigenous Round (July 30- Aug 2).
The round is designed to highlight significant social issues affecting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people as well as cement the game’s commitment to the Indigenous community and celebrate the unique relationship they have with Rugby League.
“The NSWRL has a long and proud history with the Indigenous community and will always value the contribution to our great game,” NSWRL Chief Executive David Trodden said.
“The NSWRL is fortunate to have two Indigenous directors on the board in John Anderson and William ‘Smiley’ Johnstone, who have been tireless servants for the Indigenous community and made enormous contributions to Rugby League over long and distinguished careers.
“We are proud of all the Indigenous players who have represented our state and our Hall of Fame includes two Indigenous Rugby League greats in Immortal Arthur Beetson and Laurie Daley. Laurie won State of Origin series as both a captain and a coach as well as being the coach of the Indigenous All Stars.
“Brydens Lawyers NSW Blues coach Brad Fittler has visited Indigenous communities in Taree, Kempsey, Walgett, Brewarrina and Bourke and plays an active role in promoting positive messages around healthy lifestyles and the importance of education.
“We’re just as proud of all the players who have represented our Women’s Origin team, played in our pathways teams, or participated in any of our competitions, as well as all the Indigenous coaches, officials and volunteers who give their time to Rugby League.
“The game would not be as strong without involvement from the Indigenous community and we are grateful for their support and commitment. We are particularly grateful for the support of our partner Kari, whose name we carry on our State of Origin jerseys.”
The NSWRL has always prided itself on being diverse and inclusive and has initiated several programs designed to promote, develop and showcase talent.
- Talented Aboriginal Athlete Program (TAAP): a camp designed to expose young Indigenous Rugby League players to NSWRL High Performance programs. Brydens Lawyers NSW Blues coach Brad Fittler has helped conduct clinics at the week-long camp which also provides information on NRL careers or school-based apprenticeships or traineeships;
- NSW U16 Koori vs Queensland U16 Murri: a team is chosen from the TAAP program to play a match against a Queensland U16 Murri team with the winner taking the Steve ‘Bear’ Hall Shield named after the late, long-serving Indigenous Development Officer responsible for many of the Indigenous initiatives at the NSWRL;
- Deadly Choices campaign: a program backed by Federal Government funding which empowers Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to make healthy choices for themselves and their families – to stop smoking, to eat good food and exercise daily. Deadly Choices also encourages Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to access their local Community Controlled Health Service and complete an annual health check;
- PCYC Nations of Origin: NSWRL facilitates the Rugby League side of the tournament with teams representing the different traditional local Aboriginal nations across NSW participate in a round robin tournament;
- Indigenous Referees camp: NSWRL facilitates the training and development for 30 referees for the PCYC Nations of Origin with the hope they will return to their communities to continue refereeing in their local districts;
- Ricky Walford Shield: the NSWRL in partnership with Walgett Primary School helps facilitate this tournament for Primary School children across Western NSW to honour legendary St George winger Ricky Walford as well as supplying prizes and man of the match awards;
- Ronny Gibbs 7s: the NSWRL in partnership with former Rugby League hardman Ronny Gibbs helps facilitate this tournament for High School children across Western NSW as well as supplying prizes and man of the match awards.
“I find it extremely rewarding to be involved with the Indigenous programs run by the NSWRL and I’ve seen firsthand the difference they can make in Indigenous communities,” NSWRL Indigenous and Community Programs Manager Kristian Heffernan said.
“We’ve already seen several Indigenous players who have come through the programs graduate to professional Rugby League careers and I’m confident we will continue to unearth even more stars as these programs continue into the future.”