NRL

JT’s ‘Previews’: The NRL, Round 11 (Indigenous Round)

Artie Beetson getting chaired off after captaining Easts to the ’75 Premiership
(Arthur Beetson Foundation)

This week, all the colours in nature are pouring out of the dove’s foot and onto the jerseys of every NRL team, as we celebrate the involvement of the Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islander peoples in the game of rugby league.

And for the first time, The Preston Campbell Foundation is partnering with Essendon great Michael Long to bring The Long Walk to rugby league, raising awareness for the social challenges faced by our First Peoples, and both Preston and Longy will be in Newcastle on Friday night, leading people from Ford Oval to McDonald Jones Stadium for the Knights-Roosters game.

And now to take a look at the designs… and the games!

THURSDAY

Parramatta (8th, 5-5) vs Penrith (16th, 2-8) @ Bankwest Stadium, 7:50pm AEST

The clash between the two great rivals of the Darug Nation.

Parra’s design by players Josh Hoffman, Will Smith, Bevan French and Blake Ferguson, is a tribute to the rich history of the traditional owners of the land, and it’s only fitting in the Indigenous Round that we remember that Parramatta’s nickname of the Eels came from the Darug people, who called the now-Parramatta area Burramatta- “Burra” meaning eel, and “matta” meaning place, forming a rough translation of “Place where the eels lie down”.

The late Peter ‘Chippy’ Frilingos picked up on this in the 1960s as Parramatta searched for a nickname, the club liked it, and thus the Eels became the Eels.

Although after watching Parra’s last two games, I wouldn’t be surprised if “Queensland” was also defined as the place where the Eels lie down.

Penrith’s design is based on an artwork by the club’s Indigenous Welfare Officer Glen Liddiard, depicting the geography and people of the Darug nation, and features the totems of the Wiradjuri, Guriwal and Biripi peoples, representing the club’s Indigenous players both past and present.

It’s a welcome distraction from the Panthers’ train wreck of a season, which has reached the point that Kiwis skipper Dallin Watene-Zelezniak wants an immediate release, making it a comedy on par with the Pushbike skit from the Paul Hogan Show.

I was hoping Ivan Cleary would bring in Leo Wanker to replace James Maloney, but we’ve had to settle for Jarome Luai, who was once the subject of a song by Eurythmics.

“Would I Luai to you.. would I tell you something that wasn’t true.”

On that note, the game is at Bankwest Stadium, which means the Eels will probably show up and play well.

FRIDAY

Manly (5th, 6-4) vs Gold Coast (15th, 2-8) @ Brookvale, 6pm AEST

Manly’s design by Lee Anthony Hampton is known as “The Lyons’ Den”, a tribute to the great Cliffy Lyons, and his face is adorned on the front.

The circles are meant to represent the teams Cliff played for, from his junior days at Gundagai, to Manly, to NSW and eventually Australia.

A lizard also appears on the back, meant to represent Cliff’s totem, and also contains the significant numbers of Cliff’s career- The back legs have 80 dots for his 80 tries for Manly, down each side of the lizard’s back are 5 dots and 6 dots, representing his 5 goals and 6 field goals for Manly, and when you combine all dots and lines within the tail, it totals 309, the total games he played for Manly. 

The Titans ran a competition to pick their design, with the theme of “Stronger as one”, and the winning design is based on an artwork titled “Korowa tarig” by Newcastle artist Tyler Smith- Korowa tarig meaning ‘the sea coast’ in the traditional language of the Awabakal people in the Hunter.

Smith’s description on the NRL website says, “The illustration shows a school of fish swimming together as they are stronger as one… This also represents the essential teamwork needed to be a successful football team and organisation.”

That was something the Titans did for 20 minutes against the Dogs, only to turn back into the Titans and blow a 16-nil lead.

On the flip side, it’s something that the rag-tag Sea Eagles have done quite well in the face of several major injuries, to the point that Des had to pick the fan sitting in Bay 3, Section B, Seat 13 to play in the halves alongside Kane Elgey against the Sharks.

Apparently his name is Cade Cust, ironically a former Titan, and he was more than serviceable, as the Sea Eagles blew the Sharks out of the water in the 1st Half to return to the winner’s list.

This game last year was a dead rubber between two struggling teams, but it was memorable for the fact that the Sea Eagles led 22-6 after 30 minutes, only for the Titans to run in 6 unanswered tries to lead 42-22, and eventually win 42-34.

We may not get that level of scoring on Friday, though.

Newcastle (6th, 5-5) vs Sydney (3rd, 8-2) @ McDonald Jones Stadium 7:55pm AEST

The Knights’ design is by local Indigenous artist Elise Randell, and features the stories of past & present Knights players, including Ash Gordon, Owen Craigie, Timana Tahu and Connor Watson.

The backdrop of blue and green represents salt water and fresh water, and the white raised dots are representative of family and community from their place of origin and local Indigenous community ties.

The Roosters’ design by Danielle Mate Sullivan was designed in conjunction with the club’s Indigenous players, with their totems represented in the design facing towards the large circle in the centre, meant to represent the club, surrounded by red, white and blue dots, representing the two Roosters supporters- Nick Politis and Malcolm Turnbull.

On Easter Sunday, the Knights were pumped by the Titans, leaving them 15th with one win and a PD of -36.

In the month since, they’re up to 6th and a PD of +41, the best in the comp outside of the Top 4, and the stark difference has been their confidence levels, with the monster performances of Kalyn Ponga and Mitchell Pearce the best example of this- That attempted halves marriage by Nathan Brown is now but a thing of the past.

On the flip side, the Roosters were on an 8-game winning run, but ultimately the sheer weight of their injuries, and also the sheer weight of Payne Haas and James Segeyaro, saw that winning run come to an end in Brisbane 15-10, dropping them from 1st to 3rd behind the Bunnies & the Storm.

If Latrell fighting Segeyaro after the game was taking a loss badly, Cooper Cronk went one better and decided to retire.

At the end of the season.

This game is an interesting prospect- The Knights are sky high on the confidence charts after beating up a few underperforming teams, while the Chooks still have the quality on the field, despite most of them being injured and on track to be included in a three-piece feed by the Colonel.

SATURDAY

Canberra (4th, 6-4) vs North Queensland (13th, 4-6) @ GIO Stadium, 1pm AEST

The Raiders at the moment are at the head of the “Best of the Rest” contingent in 2019- They’re in 4th, two games behind the leading Storm, Roosters and Rabbits, who have all beaten the Green Machine this season.

That loss to the Rabbits was especially tough, considering they led with 10 minutes to go, and had repeated chances at the end to tie the scores and Jarrod Croker slot through a winning conversion, but ironically, it was Croker who had the best chance to score stripped out of his hands on the line.

Fortunately, the Cowboys aren’t exactly in that top bracket of teams, and after comfortably beating them in Townsville last month, they should probably be winning.

The Raiders’ design comes from artist Lynnice Church, who teamed up with the community and Indigenous students engaged in the NRL School-to-Work program, to create a “free flowing design”, a celebration of diversity and reconciliation, and how the path to reconciliation is a community effort.

On the flip side, Cairns resident Beau Pennefather Motlop won the contest to design the Cowboys’ jersey back in February, which he titled “Same but different”.

The front features a Torres Strait head dress and an Aboriginal shield to represent courage, The sides feature two hand prints- one black & one white- to represent integrity and honesty, and unity and equality.

Also featured on the bottom is a Torres Strait drum and the Aboriginal didgeridoo, to represent a commitment to keeping Indigenous culture alive through traditional dance and music, as well as sharing their culture.

Hopefully next year, they can vote design in that simply features Johnathan Thurston’s face, similar to the ‘Cliffy’ jersey the Sea Eagles have.

New Zealand (10th, 4-6) vs Brisbane (11th, 4-6) @ “Rarotonga” (Mt Smart), 7:30pm NZST (5:30pm)

In this the 25th anniversary of the Auckland/New Zealand Warriors, they now face the team that they played way back in Round 1, 1995- The Brisbane Broncos.

The Broncos won 25-22, and the only similarity between that game and now is the involvement of Stephen Kearney with the Warriors.

The fellas from Aotearoa are also right on board with the Indigenous Round, honouring Maori culture, with the top half of the design representing the mountains and waterways, with the koru and kowhaiwhai reaching the domain of the Ranginui (The Sky Father) , and connecting down to the domain of the Papatuanuku (The Earth Mother) represented on the bottom.

The design features on the front and back, to represent the North and South Islands, and in a late addition, the Warriors will also carry a #52 as a tribute to the late Kiwis skipper and former Warrior Quentin Pongia, and there will also be a minute’s silence before the game.

The Broncs had a two-game stretch at Suncorp against a pair of Top 8 teams in Manly & Sydney, and with the home ground advantage, they finally managed to string back-to-back wins together for the first time under Anthony Seibold, which in this fairly even season, now leaves them just a game and a chunk of PD out of the Top 8.

Tevita Pangai Jr also gave everyone in Queensland a laugh, by announcing he preferred to play for Tonga instead of NSW.

The Broncos design by Elaine Chambers-Hegarty, represents growth and new beginnings, and also represents 13 players gathering as one at the place of the Broncos’ home ground of Lang Park.

All of the Broncos’ Indigenous players are represented with their totems; The Praying Mantis, Black Raven and Dolphin for James Roberts, the Whale for Jack Bird, the Stingray and Dog for David Fifita, the Dolphin for Troy Daragan, the Goanna for Kotoni Staggs, the Stingray and Turtle for Gehamat Shibaski, and Broncos NRLW player Amber Pilley is represented by the Wedge Tail Eagle, and Tallisha Harden the Turtle.

The Broncs will also wear the jersey again in the rematch against the Warriors in Round 17, to coincide with NAIDOC Week.

In short, this game will be something resembling a massive celebration of culture, a life cut short, and history.

South Sydney (1st, 9-1) vs Wests Tigers (7th, 5-5) @ ANZ Stadium, 7:35pm AEST

The battle between a Souths premiership coach and a future Souths premiership coach.

Just by virtue of the connection to Redfern and the surrounding suburbs, Souths will always have a very established link with Indigenous Australia, and the design by Joe Walker (Uncle of Cody) has “combined mastery, magic, creativity and culture to create a jersey that is inclusive and representative of the Rabbitohs’ six Indigenous players.”

The jersey represents the totems of Souths’ Indigenous players- A Goanna for Kyle Turner & Cody Walker, an Emu for Braidon Burns, a Shovelnose Shark for Dane Gagai, a Crocodile for Alex Johnston, and a Praying Mantis for the now-retired Greg Inglis.

It would’ve been more fitting to have GI as the Goanna, but that’s just me.

Anyway, Souths got away with another hard-fought, Burgess brother penalty-riddled win against the Raiders in Canberra 16-12, inspired by Walker & Adam Renyolds, leaving them on top of the ladder for the first time in 2019.

In a shocking twist after the game, Wayne Bennett spoke in a series of muffled grunts about Origin selection, and declared that the incumbent Blues halves Nathan Cleary & James Maloney were terribly out of form, compared to the likes of Walker & Reynolds.

The Tigers were right up to their necks against the Storm at AAMI Park, leading 22-14 in the 2nd half and track to make it three wins in a row against Melbourne, only to give up two tries in the final 10 minutes and suffer a frustrating 24-22 loss, despite being the better team for most of the night.

Wests’ design by Vicki & Dennis Golding is inspired by the traditional lands of the Wangal, Gadigal and Tharawal people, the land on which Balmain, Western Suburbs and the merged Tigers have played, and the Goldings also use topographical lines to form patterns that link pathways and meeting places, as “a way of uniting cultures to strengthen knowledge and understanding”.

Now, if the ‘Wests Win-Loss’ Pattern of 2019 will continue to hold up, like it has done since Round 4, then I think Michael Maguire might be extracting a pound of flesh from Souths come Saturday night.

SUNDAY

Canterbury (14th, 3-7) vs Melbourne (2nd, 8-2) @ Belmore, 2pm AEST

When the Dogs played the Storm earlier in the season, they were coming off a win and played the Storm at AAMI Park, and despite being a 16 point underdog, they put in a huge performance, leading 12-nil early, but ultimately the Storm fought back and won 18-16.

Now, the rematch takes up to the Doggies’ heartland of Belmore, with the Dogs coming off a comeback win on the Gold Coast, and the Storm also pulled off a typical Bellamy Storm win against Wests- Being outplayed for most of the night, and then knuckling down at the death and pulling a win out of their arses, like a classic villain.

The Doggies’ design focuses on the Indigenous Round idea of reconciliation, and displays meeting places and tracks leading to each other, footprints to represent the players walking together to reach a greater understanding of Indigenous culture, and he three hand prints on the front represent the club’s Indigenous players- Adam Elliott, Chris Smith and Reimis Smith.

On the back, there’s a Goanna, the symbol and totem of the Chifley College Mount Druitt campus students and staff, and the Dogs website mentions that they will be playing with the qualities of the Indigenous warrior Tedbury, who fought the Colonial forces in what is now Canterbury-Bankstown.

Apparently Tedbury was killed by a man called Luttrell.. doesn’t he play for the Roosters?

The Storm’s design is about “Oppurtunity, relationships and respect”, symbolised by the three hands and three lightning bolts in the circle.

The hands represent “Respect for one another and life’s opportunities… the Storm bolts represent relationships, and strong links to our community and cultural respect.”

The logo in the middle represents the Club, while the outer circles are the broader communities that the Storm are reaching out to.

It may not look enticing on paper, but the Dogs will probably keep it watchable.

St George Illawarra (12th, 4-6) vs Cronulla (9th, 5-5) @ WIN Stadium, 4:05pm AEST

The worst neighbours in Sydney going at it this Sunday at WIN Stadium- The only win associated with the Dragons over the past month.

I don’t think it’s any coincidence that the Dragons’ decline has coincided with the sharp drop in quality of Game of Thrones, and it was particularly apparent in Mudgee against the Knights, when one Dragon was randomly speared through the neck by a pass from Mitchell Pearce that was intended for Kalyn Ponga.

It was completely unrealistic from the writers.

In response to the 45-12 mauling, Paul McGregor has dropped Matt Dufty and Mikaele Ravalawa.

The Sharks didn’t go much better against the Sea Eagles, getting played off Shark Park by a bunch of no-names and Addin Fonua-Blake, as Paul Gallen racked up career loss #167 to take over the all-time record.

Distracting us from the Dragons’ form, local ‘Gong artist Lani Balzan has designed the front of the jersey, which features a whale to symbolise the Dharawal nation, the land on which the Dragons play, and also highlights the relationship between the local indigenous peoples and the sea, and the four red dots above the Red V represent the club’s four Indigenous players- Josh Kerr, Jai Field, Jonus Pearson and Tristan Sailor.

The Sharks’ jersey is designed by Aunty Deanna Schreiber, and she uses the blue to represent the waters of Cronulla, the pink to represents the shells scattered on Cronulla’s beaches, and the circles to represent campsites and the elders gathering.

The animal tracks and totems on the back are the Goanna, Black Snake and Echidna, representing the Sharks’ Indigenous players- Wade Graham, Will Kennedy, Andrew Fifita, Braydon Trindall and Jayson Bukuya.

When you look at it, this is a battle between John Howard & Scott Morrison.

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