The stories behind each club's Indigenous guernsey

The stories behind each club's Indigenous guernsey

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This weekend, for the first time in VFL/AFL history, every side in the competition will wear a guernsey specially designed for Indigenous Round. The jumpers have proven popular with players and fans alike – but there’s also a significant story behind each design. A brief outline of the stories and themes that inspired each guernsey can be found below.

Adelaide

Former club champion Andrew McLeod designed Adelaide’s Indigenous Round guernsey. As featured on the Crows’ website afc.com.au, McLeod said the jumper depicts the club and its players, and how football has brought people together. The unique crow footprints embody the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander players to have played for Adelaide over its 24-season history – itself depicted by the 24 stars on the guernsey. McLeod also explained that the boomerang represents a warrior culture, and the R on the jumper stands for ‘recognition’.

Brisbane

Indigenous player Ash McGrath launched Brisbane’s stunning Indigenous Round guernsey, which was created by local artist Stephen Hogarth. The design of the guernsey is called ‘Wetland Dreaming – The Journey’. The overarching story of the jumper is the artist’s impression of Australia as a nation – its people and places, with the blue dots representing the Brisbane area. The boomerang is illustrative of travelling and learning from others in order to pass that knowledge on. Speaking about the jumper, Hogarth said “the guernsey design shows that there are no boundaries within sport and that we can work as a team to achieve common goals”.

Carlton

Indigenous artist Emma MacNeill has designed Carlton’s Indigenous Round jumper. The boomerang motif woven into the CFC symbol represents hunting, which is apt as the players are hunting for victory, MacNeill said on carltonfc.com.au. The dots inside the boomerang characterise the loyal Blues fans. MacNeill, the partner of Blues player Mitch Robinson, said that the lines running through the letter ‘F’ depict the up-and-down, ever-changing nature of being in a team.

Collingwood

Collingwood’s Jamie Elliot launch his club’s Indigenous Round guernsey on The Marngrook Footy Show on Indigenous station NITV. Artist Dixon Patton designed the logo in the centre of the jumper, which is also the emblem of the club’s Barrawarn (the Wurundjeri word for magpie) Program. Dixon said the program “is all about helping young Indigenous people break through barriers and building communities,” symbolised through outstretched hands

Essendon

Essendon’s Indigenous Round guernsey celebrates the tenth anniversary of Dreamtime at the ‘G and The Long Walk. It was designed by Gunditjmara/Yorta Yorta artist Thomas Day III, who was chosen in a competition. The jumper focuses on possum skins, and the patterns within those skins represent strength, power and identity for the Gunditjmara people, who are based in south-west Victoria. Day said on essendonfc.com.au that “Essendon is known as the Aboriginal club”, and that they “definitely” deserve to have their connection with Indigenous Australians recognised.

Fremantle

Indigenous player Michael Johnson launched Fremantle’s Indigenous Round guernsey – an away strip based on its 2013 Indigenous Round jumper. Three boomerangs replace stripes on their jumper, and the Stolen Generation Commemorative Flower (a hibiscus, a hardy flower found all around the country) sits above them. Johnson’s stepfather is a member of the Stolen Generation. The jumper was designed by Indigenous artist, performer and writer Richard Walley in conjunction with former player and current development coach Roger Hayden.

Geelong

Geelong’s Indigenous Round guernsey was designed by their Indigenous players in conjunction with local artist BJ O’Toole. As indicated on geelongcats.com.au, the Cats will actually wear their guernsey twice this season, in Indigenous Round and in Round 16 “in recognition of Geelong’s Indigenous program Close the Gap”. The five circles depict the communities of the Kulin Nations, with the curves and spots signifying meeting places. Poignantly, the boomerangs on the guernsey represent the journeys of players who move away from home to pursue footy careers, before moving home again.

Gold Coast

Local Indigenous artist Luther Cora, of the Kombumerri tribe, designed Gold Coast’s Indigenous Round guernsey. Gold Coast’s seven Indigenous players, who have come from around Australia, are directly represented by a seven-pointed icon on the back of the guernsey. The colours of the Suns’ traditional guernsey have been used to symbolise the local environment – red and gold represent the sun and sand, with blue depicting water. The handprints stand for reconciliation. Cora said on goldcoastfc.com.au that his inspiration “came from this beautiful city we live in”.

GWS

GWS’s Indigenous Round guernsey was designed by Chris (Wirriimbi) Edwards. The Gumbaynggirr man from Nambucca Heads has used the idea of hunting grounds as a theme for the Giants’ jumper. The larger circles signify areas where men would hunt together in a team in a snake-like formation – similar to a football zone, where teamwork is essential.

Hawthorn

Yorta Yorta/Wiradjuri painter Jirra Lulla Harvey designed Hawthorn’s Indigenous Round guernsey with the help of the Club’s Indigenous players. The jumper tells the story of both the lands surrounding Hawthorn and the homes of the Hawks’ Indigenous players. Harvey also consulted with respected Wurundjeri elder Aunty Joy throughout the process. The names of every Indigneous player to have been on Hawthorn’s list are listed. The Yarra River, shadows cast by gum trees and meeting places are represented on the guernsey.

Melbourne

Melbourne’s Indigenous Round jumper reflects its close community links with Alice Springs and the town of Nyirripi, whose footy team is also the Demons, according to an article on melbournefc.com.au. Ursula Napangardi Hudson, an artist from Nyirripi, adapted an existing work of hers, Pikilyi Jukurrpa (Vaughan Springs Dreaming) for Melbourne’s guernsey. Pikilyi is an important spring in the Nyirripi area.

North Melbourne

Artist Sarrita King, a Gurindij woman, designed North Melbourne’s Indigenous Round guernsey, with the aim of celebrating more than 20 Indigenous players who have represented the club. “We’ve had so many great Indigenous players represent our footy club, and really leave a great mark on the game,” Indigenous player Lindsay Thomas said on AFL 360. The jumper represents everyone involved in North Melbourne – the players, the fans and the club.

Port Adelaide

Valerie Ah Chee, mother of Port Adelaide player Brendon Ah Chee, designed the Power’s Indigenous Round guernsey. “Mum wanted to represent support networks, family and relationships,” Ah Chee told portadelaidefc.com.au. The jumper depicts relationships between teammates, and between the players and their lands.

Richmond

Richmond has again had its Indigenous Round guernsey designed through a competition, with Mick Harding, a Taungwurrung artist, creating the winning design. Two shields are used on either side of the jumper to tie in the overarching theme of “recognition”, which Harding feels is an important part of the reconciliation process. The shield is both a defensive and offensive weapon, reminiscent of the actions taken by Indigenous people in their struggles for recognition and respect.

St Kilda

St Kilda’s Indigenous Round guernsey provides a connection with the club and the Boon Wurrung people, the traditional owners of south-central Victoria. The jumper was co-designed by Boon Wurrung elder Aunty Carolyn Briggs and Indigenous designer Marcus Lee. Three icons are symbolised on the guernsey – the spearhead, the shield and the message stick – representing conflict negotiation, moving forward and protection, as well as reconciliation. It also alludes to a story involving Bunjil and the Boon Wurrung people, where Bunjil stopped the sea rising in return for the Boon Wurrung people respecting the laws.

Sydney

Sydney’s Indigenous Round guernsey has a personal connection to the club, as it was designed by Lisa Sansbury, the mother of star Indigenous player Adam Goodes. The jumper expresses the city meeting the sea, with the red and white striped objects being meeting places next to water. The circles indicate a connection between land and water. “It’s a really special round and I know I walk out a little bit prouder knowing that we have a round to celebrate our culture and people,” Goodes said at the jumper’s launch.

West Coast

Waalitji, the wedge-tailed eagle, is fittingly the central focus of West Coast’s Indigenous Round guernsey. It was designed by Noongar artist Peter Farmer, and the eagle is the strongest totem for the Noongar people. Paths connecting six fresh water sources in Western Australia are also represented on the jumper. “Waalitji [is] painted ready for ceremony and attack,” Farmer said on westcoasteagles.com.au. Waalitji is the central figure in Noongar’s dreaming story, leading the people to fresh water in a drought. He is strong and powerful, and finds a path through adversity where others do not.

Western Bulldogs

Indigenous artist Anzack Newman, a school-friend of Indigenous player Liam Jones, designed the Bulldogs’ Indigenous Round guernsey. As stated on westernbulldogs.com.au, the jumper is a combination of different Indigenous art styles; Coastal, Torres Strait Islander and Desert are all represented. This is fitting, as the design tells of how people have their own personal journeys to playing football, at any level, not just AFL. The names of the 18 Indigenous players to represent the Bulldogs are also present on the guernsey.

Which guernsey do you like best? Let us know in the comment box below!

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  • fremantle

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  • Thank you Sarah for introducing us to the stories behind the AFL's indigenous guernseys. I loved the individual stories and particularly related to the Geelong guernsey. Leaving home at a young age must be traumatic but ultimately returning to their nest is a fulfilling life cycle.

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