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Stingrays, sand, sea: Story behind Indigenous jersey

When Jordan Ardler sat down to design the 2024 Sharks Indigenous Round jersey – to be worn against the Panthers at PointsBet Stadium on Saturday night – the first thing she drew was a stingray.

"The stingray is one of the main totems of the area," the proud Bidjigal woman said as she explained how she captured the cultural tales of Cronulla and Kurnell.

Ardler spoke to the NRL squad on Thursday morning to detail her artistic vision.

The marine animal is the centrepiece among symbology that carries multiple meanings and pays homage to the fishing enterprise of the Gweagal people – the traditional owners of the land upon which the Sharks play, train and live.

Ardler said the stingray's outline doubles as a fishing net in a nod to the renowned mullet hauls of the local mobs, who travelled along the coast to catch seafood. Serpent scales on the inside reflect the stingray's significance in Dreaming stories.

©Mitchell Kara

"In short, the serpent went from the land to the sand and to the sea," said Ardler, who also designed last year's Indigenous strip. "As it travelled into the sea, it started losing its scales in this diamond shape. That's when it turned into the stingray."

Ardler consulted members of the Sutherland Shire's Indigenous population, people from all walks of life with an enduring attachment to the region and kids from her communities in La Perouse and Kurnell who support the Sharks.

"I tried to put that kind of excitement into the jersey. I just kept adding on," she said, having also incorporated some of the players' backgrounds.

"Normally I'll sit down and do it all in one session, but this one I really wanted to make special. I wanted all of it to be in this one."

On the back of the jersey, under the Zambrero branding, Ardler has outlined the beaches of Cronulla and Kurnell with a fingerprint pattern.

"Some of our grandparents in this community were born on these beaches and have a strong connection to the place," she continued.

"They grew up here, that was their childhood. I added the shells, the shoreline and things like that into it. The ocean, the salt water are massive things for us."

Another key feature, on the front and back, is the cluster of short, sharp lines signifying footprints along the sand, ripples in the water and schools of fish.

Under the arms, dark circles represent Cronulla's NRL and NRLW teams.

"It's protection like they do with the ball," Ardler added.

White circles on the sleeves symbolise kids and the next generation, while the fading of black into blue conveys the point where the land meets the sky.

"(Country) is underneath us, it's what you breathe and it's in the sky," Ardler said.

"I wanted to embrace that. For me, if I look out to my country, it’s like I'm home."

Ardler and her family posed for photos with Indigenous Sharks star Nicho Hynes, whose mum Julie has painted a traditional artwork which will be presented to the Panthers as part of a pre-game cultural gift exchange with Penrith on Saturday.

The painting contains circles, representing both teams and their colours, with a central 'meeting place' symbolising PointsBet Stadium. The stars around the teams are a metaphor for their dreams and goals this season.

Hynes and Will Kennedy had boots painted by Daren Dunn – see below.

CLICK HERE to shop the 2024 Sharks Indigenous range.

Acknowledgement of Country

Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks respect and honour the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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