After a bit of a journey getting there, and with more fecal matter hitting the fan off-field right now, it’s time for one of the great occasions on the NRL calendar:
I like how this year, with so much happening under the Black Lives Matter banner, the NRL website took the extra step and turned their logo orange, and had a fantastic touch of listing the traditional land owners where every team plays, under this campaign of “Pass Back. Move Forward.”
The Broncos/Sharks game for example, recognising the Yuggera & Turrbal tribes of the Brisbane area, and the Gweagal clan of the Cronulla-Sutherland area.
You learn something new every day.
Last year I had a picture of Big Artie Beetson getting chaired off by his Easts teammates after the 1975 Grand Final, so I’d better with another great Indigenous champion of the game, and after thinking for about 386 seconds between the likes of Greg Inglis, Cliffy, Dale Shearer and Eric Simms, I’ve decided to celebrate a bloke who could slot straight into this current Broncos team….
STEVE ‘THE PEARL’ RENOUF.
NO FATTIE, WE WON’T GIVE THAT TRY TO WILLIE CARNE FOR STAYING IN PLAY, WE’LL GIVE IT TO PEARL FOR FLYING 98 METRES AND BEATING OFF MICK POTTER.
Even as he was diagnosed with Type-1 diabetes in his prime, what a record Pearl put together – Indigenous Team of the Century, Queensland & Australian honours (Including a World Cup), 4 Premierships, a Broncos record 142 tries in 183 games, then another 43 in 59 games for Wigan in England.
Of course, this year’s Indigenous Round is all in the backdrop of Queensland shutting the borders on people from the Greater Sydney Region, some apparent attempt by the Banana Benders to keep themselves safe, and to stop the Broncos, Cowboys & Titans from getting thumped by the Cockroaches every week.
Unfortunately for them, the NRL & the teams are still exempt from restrictions and can keep the FIFO routine going.
If you do the math (Which Dan Walsh did), with 480 ‘Top 30’ players across 16 clubs, that’s 18.75% of all players injured.
You’ve got better odds picking out an injured NRL player than winning Lotto.
St George-Illawarra (11th) vs South Sydney (10th) at Kogarah, 7:50pm AEST
So in the traditional Charity Shield clash, we’ll have the funny situation of the Dragons playing in predominantly Red and Souths in White.
The front of the Dragons design, “Dragons Community” by Jakeob Watson, features spiritual guides, with the humpback whale and footprints of the kangaroo within the hunting boomerang (Obscured by the St George bank logo) paying respect to the Dragons’ playing group, their families, staff and supporters, including the Dharawal-speaking people of the Illawarra region.
There’s also another piece of art on the lower back by Elenore Binge, entitled “Dharawal Country – Spirit of the Dragons”, which features a representation of the Dragons two meeting places of Kogarah and WIN Stadium.
You can always expect something big from Souths for Indigenous Round, and this year’s design by Uncle Joe Walker (Cody’s uncle), in conjunction with Souths’ indigenous players (Whose totem animals can be seen on the hands), represents the legacy of the players who have worn the cardinal & myrtle throughout Souths’ history, and the design connects all the different communities, players and their stories to the black rabbit in the centre – There’s also a nice touch of the colours of the Aboriginal & Torres Straight flags on the sleeves.
Latrell Mitchell did the modelling for the design, and importantly for WAYNE and the Rabbits, he’s back in action after his suspension, and history apparently shows that the Rabbits definitely get a rise out of Indigenous Round, having apparently won 5 out of 6 on the annual round since 2014, and in a battle of the relative lightweights, I think the Bunnies are going to be slightly less lightweight than the Red V.
Wests Tigers (9th) vs Once Were Warriors (13th) at the SCG, 6pm AEST
Wests’ design by Billy Reynolds is titled ‘Guwing & Yunada’, defined as ‘Sun’ and ‘Moon’ in the Dharawal language, and features the kangaroo and emu living in harmony as the sun and moon prepare to switch places at dusk, with the sleeves featuring another design called ‘River Flow’, which is said to symbolise life, which is always moving forward, much like a river.
The Warriors’ design by Dave Burke is titled “Taua Tahi”, the Maori way of saying ‘That’s us’, and acknowledges the similarities and shared realities between the Indigenous people of New Zealand and Australia, with the two First Peoples on the font representing the players coming together, inspiring the next generation (below them) to create change through understanding and respecting each other.
It could be just me, but the coming together theme seems especially pertinent for the Warriors this season.
The Tigers get Luke Garner and Alex Twal back, and potentially Josh Reynolds and Robert Jennings in the reserves, and despite their big effort last week, the dogged Warriors have lost the additional 4 players (Including stars Ken Maumalo and David Fusitua) who flew back home this week, although the Eels have loaned the Kiwis George Jennings and Daniel Alvaro, and Jack Hetherington is staying with the team on loan for at least another month.
Still, this isn’t at Gosford, so I’m thinking the Tigers are going to pull a big one on a beloved former player in Todd Payten.
Brisbane (15th) vs Cronulla (7th) at Suncorp Stadium, 7:55pm AEST
Brisbane’s design by Elaine Chambers-Hegarty is focused around the circle on the chest, which represents the meeting place where “People from north, south, east and west gather under the watch of their ancestors,” with the circles around the jersey representing the communities the Brisbane Broncos and Indigenous health program Deadly Choices operate in, the wavy lines represent the rivers and waterways “currently suffering through drought”, and markings around show sections representing the people of the Torres Strait Islands.
The Sharks’ jersey design by Alara Geeburg is titled ‘Coming Together,’ and represents “reconnection with the ways of our old people,” and “oneness with mother nature and equanimity of mind”, with the animals seen in the night sky paying tribute to the players’ tribal totems.
In my opinion, that design is too good to be worn just once.
As the deck chairs get shuffled on the RMS Bronctanic aka Red Hill and David Fifita grabs a lifeboat, Brodie Croft is another injury casualty, along with Anthony Milford, meaning Darius Boyd is going back into his No.1 jersey, which would’ve been an absolute no-brainer move no fewer than 2 years ago, but now it’s like driving a Ferrari Daytona with the brakes cut off.
It wouldn’t surprise me if the Broncos randomly turned up and knocked off the Sharks, but with the way the team from Gweagal country have gone against bottom teams, and with the way Shaun Johnson is racking up try assists at free will, you’d think they’d put up a good showing.
Sydney Roosters (4th) vs Gold Coast (14th) at the SCG, 3:00pm AEST
The Roosters jersey is designed by Kylie Cassidy, and is filled with the tribal totems of all the Indigenous players in the Roosters system from Juniors through to First Grade, while the Easts club is represented by a circle on the top left of the design (Under the NRL logo), with journey lines representing the team’s involvement in the community.
Of course, the Roosters have Travis Touma as their Head of Performance, significant in that Trav is the only Indigenous coach in a senior coaching/training role at an NRL club, although many people may remember him as the poor bugger who ‘controversially’ got hit by the ricocheted kick in last year’s Grand Final, that led to the opening try.
The Titans design is titled “Healing” by Coffs Harbour artist Laura Pitt, with the blue circles in the middle representing the Titans community, the element of passion is represented through the coloured dots surrounding the players and supporters with links of the blue and ochre lines, while the handprints and waterholes represent connection to the land, and the blue and yellow healing leaves represent the resilience of the team that play together and heal together.
Given this is the first game after the Sydney-Queensland travel ban kicks in, it’s like the dawning of the age of Aquarius.
The Roosters are just getting by on sheer class alone, and they probably will again this weekend, even with Boyd Cordner being rested with concussion problems, and Brett Morris sidelined by his dodgy back, while the Titans are making pretty of positive in-roads off-field, but despite Justin Holbrook’s positive strides on-field, their attack is like watching someone get flogged with warm lettuce.
In Round 21 last year, the Titans ventured to the lands of the Gadigal people and horridly lost 58-6, the 2nd heaviest defeat at the SCG in First Grade history, as Latrell Mitchell personally beat them 26-6, and Brett Morris scored a hat-trick, including his 150th career try.
Once again, the Roosters may very well win, but I can see the Titans putting in an proved showing this time… they might actually score 2 tries!
North Queensland (12th) vs Canberra (5th) at North Queensland Stadium, 5:30pm AEST
The Cowboys design is from a painting named ‘The Chosen One’ by Townsville artist William Chambers (No, not THAT Will Chambers), and tells the story of the turtle, a delicacy among Torres Straight and North Queensland Aboriginal communities, as it grows from a hatchling to fully grown adult, with the circles representing obstacles and predators, like hunters with spears looking for their food.
Lynnice Church designed the Raiders jersey, which carries artwork associated with the ACT’s Reconciliation Public Holiday held annually on June 1, and to be honest, I think the Raiders let Lynnice and everyone else down by not bothering to get input from someone like Jack Wighton, the only Indigenous player in their squad.
I mean seriously, have a look at the chest – There’s absolutely nothing.
What a wasted opportunity.
Even Wighton himself said the club got lazy this year and just ticked a box, and that it’s terrible and he’s filthy about it.
As someone who knows about producing lazy and rushed end products every week, I tend to agree with the Clive Churchill Medalist.
Anyway, you’d think the Green Machine will probably put in a better effort against the Cows in Townsville, especially with John Bateman officially playing for the first time in 2020.
Manly (8th) vs Penrith (1st) at Brookvale Oval, 7:35pm AEST
Manly’s jersey was designed by Lee Hampton, with consultation from club legends Cliff Lyons and Mal Cochrane, and is focused around a large blue circle, with a map of the Manly/Warringah/Pittwater districts in the centre, with the tentacles reaching far beyond the Northern Beaches, embracing Silvertails fans across the country (Like my old acquaintance Reg on the Sunny Coast), and the carefully dotted lines represent “The journeys undertaken by Indigenous players, past and present, who have proudly represented the Manly club and their peoples.”
Penrith’s jersey was designed by Natasha Fordham in association with Panthers Indigenous Welfare Officer Glen Liddiard, and Panthers players Brent Naden, Daine Laurie and Brayden McGrady, with the front of the jersey featuring the meeting place of Panthers Stadium on Darug land, situated next to the Nepean River, the local wildlife, and the Blue Mountains, with the setting sun creating a fantastic silhouette, intended to acknowledge the traditional owners of the land where the Panthers call home.
It looks fantastic, and so does the Panthers record as we tick past the halfway mark of 2020.
In a very welcome boost for a Panthers team who have made a habit of dragging themselves into low-scoring arm wrestles, Viliame Kikau returns from a calf injury, but I think we can pencil in the Sea Eagles matching their outstanding defence, especially at the Fortress Brookvale, which is still a notoriously hard place for teams to visit, as the last top-ranked team to visit Brooky found out not even a fortnight ago.
Penrith have successfully wobbled their way through games for a couple of weeks, the Sea Eagles are doing enough to keep themselves in the Top 8, and after some lack of consideration….
I’LL GO WITH THE SILVERTAILS FOR THE UPSET.
Canterbury (16th) vs Parramatta (3rd) at ANZ Stadium, 2pm AEST
The Bulldogs jersey was once again designed by Indigenous students from Bethlehem College in Ashfield, with the designers, players and community represented as suns, arranged around a metaphorical meeting place (Intended to be the Olympic Stadium) near the Cooks River, and the Berries design once again features a representation of Tedbury, son of the Indigenous warrior/freedom fighter Pemulway, on the sternum, as a spirit warrior for the Berries during the round.
As far as designs go, Parramatta’s is a fantastic explosion of colour, a lovely work called ‘Connection’ by Danielle Mate Sullivan, with input from Eels player Will Smith, and as per the name, represents the connection between players of the past & present to their homelands, with the four hands on the back of the jersey representing the children of Smith and Blake Ferguson.
Speaking of great Indigenous Eeels players, Tuesday was the 60th birthday for Eels great Steve Ella.
Happy birthday to the ZipZip Man!
In the first game at ANZ Stadium in 4 months, I think the Eels are going to be too good for their age old rivals, who will absolutely give them a tough showing just as they did in Round 1, and don’t give me a point for trying to decipher that one.
Sunny Coast Storm (2nd) vs Newcastle (6th) at Sunshine Coast Stadium, 4:05pm AEST
The Storm play on the traditional lands of the Wurundjeri people, but they’ve begun playing on the lands of the Kabi Kabi with great distinction.
Their design was put together by 17-year-old Wurundjeri, Dja Dja Wurrung, and Ngurai illum Wurrung artist Ky-ya Nicholson Ward designed Melbourne’s jersey, titled ‘Jindi Worobak’, which means ‘Join and Unite’ in the Woiwurrung language, and the centre circle on the jersey represents AAMI Park, and the white circles represent the staff, fans and crowd who come united as one to support the players, while the joint circles flowing through the middle section represent the Birrarung/Yarra River.
The Knights jersey was designed by local Newcastle artist Tyler Smith, with input from players Connor Watson, Edrick Lee and Gehamat Shibasaki, while Smith also enlisted the assistance of four young Indigenous detainees through his art program at Frank Baxter Youth Justice Centre to help create the design, which represents the local landscape of Newcastle and the Hunter region, and also incorporates the handprints of the team’s three Indigenous players and their tribal totems.
Unfortunately Watson won’t be there on Sunday evening, and either way, I can’t not tip the Storm.
Nice to see Dan Evans even designed a referee’s top for Gavin ‘The Badge’ Badger and Henry Perenara: