In recognising National Sorry Day, the start of National Reconciliation Week and ahead of the NRL’s Indigenous Round, some 15 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students attended Sharks headquarters at PointsBet Stadium on Wednesday for a special jersey presentation.
To mark the significant week for Indigenous peoples and culture, the students proudly presented the playing jerseys, which this week are of a special indigenous design, to the Sharks team travelling to Coffs Harbour to play the Gold Coast Titans on Sunday.
The event was to also recognise the Clontarf Academy from Endeavour Sports High and the opportunities it provides to young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men to not only succeed in school and sport, but to establish meaningful relationships, build self-esteem, and develop life-skills to embrace a more disciplined, purposeful and healthy lifestyle.
The Clontarf Academy at Endeavour High School follows the ‘three Rs’ set out by Indigenous NRL superstar and ex-Sharks player, Preston Campbell, those of respect, responsibility, and reciprocation.
Wednesday was about reciprocating the great work Clontarf does in providing young men with opportunities for success in life.
Sharks Indigenous Programs Coordinator Rachal Allan, a proud Gamilaroi woman, hosted the event and delivered the ‘Acknowledgement to Country’, acknowledging the Gweagal People of the Dharawal Nation, the Traditional Custodians of the Land in Woolooware.
Allan then explained to the playing group and guests the significance of May 26th being Sorry Day.
“I would like to particularly acknowledge the Stolen Generations of our people between 1910 and 1970,” Ms Allan said. “To those families who have had family removed I acknowledge them today. I acknowledge their story, their strength and their resilience. I wish them a safe journey home.”
The event was conducted to coincide with the NRL’s Indigenous Round, a weekend of NRL action which aims to highlight the importance of understanding and appreciating Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander heritage and culture.
“While Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples make up about four per cent of the Australian population, we make up 12 per cent of players in the NRL,” Allan explained.
“Indigenous Round recognises that without our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander players, the game wouldn’t be what it is today.
“We can see that in our own club here at the Sharks, with our Captain Wade Graham, our superstars Andrew Fifita, Jesse Ramien and Will Chambers, and the up and comers already making their mark on the game, Will Kennedy and Braydon Trindall.
“For Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People, we know that Rugby League has always been a sport that brings people together. From Saturday morning footy, the Koori and Murri Knockouts, to the NRL - football has always been a source of connection for us and our families,” Ms Allan added.
The 2021 version of the Sharks Indigenous jerseys represent the Club’s Indigenous players, with each handprint signifying a player and their mob, who they will be proudly representing this weekend.
The large handprint on the front refers to Dharawal Country, here in the Shire where the Cronulla Club comes together.
Andrew Fifita, who was heavily involved in the jersey design, spoke proudly and emotionally to all those gathered at Wednesday’s event, explaining the design and how much it meant to him and his Indigenous teammates.
The jersey presentation event was a continuation of the Sharks efforts to engage with people of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander, to recognise their heritage and provide lifestyle and better health options.
“We know that football doesn’t just exist for the 80 minutes of game play – we have a responsibility to our community at all times. Part of that responsibility is to create and extend opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People, such as our work in the School to Work program, Deadly Choices Healthy Lifestyles campaign and opportunities like today,” Ms Allan concluded.