The AFL’s annual round for recognising and celebrating indigenous footballers and culture will carry the name of former player Doug Nicholls for the first time in 2016.
Nicholls played 54 games for Fitzroy and was also a talented boxer and sprinter, but his enduring legacy is his pioneering role in reconciliation. He was the first Aboriginal person to be knighted, served as Governor of South Australia and was devoted to the wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
AFL boss Gillon McLachlan said Nicholls “represented both the values of our game and epitomised the spirit of reconciliation”.
“He was a pioneering campaigner for reconciliation but his love for and commitment to Australian football was the glue that brought together all the other facets of his life,” McLachlan said.
In the lead up to the inaugural Sir Doug Nicholls Indigenous Round, to be played across the weekend of May 25-27, every AFL club has designed a special jumper. Those designs and their meanings are listed below.
Designed by: Wirangu artist Susie Leigh (the aunt of Crows forward Eddie Betts)
Meaning: The design features a crow (or Garnga) in full flight on a navy blue base, surrounded by red, gold and white circles and dots. In the Wirangu culture, the Garnga is also a magic man who plays an important role spiritually as a messenger and healer. The jumper also features the ‘R’ RECOGNISE logo, which represents the Crows’ ongoing commitment to Reconciliation in Australia.
Designed by: Kununurra artist Emma MacNeill (whose partner is Lions midfielder Mitch Robinson)
Meaning: MacNeill explains that ”every circle is connected by a path – this symbol represents a place, a community or a tribe” (in this case the Brisbane Lions football club).
“You may notice that the background is full of dots that never run the same way… this is your life. Life is not always easy going, it never runs smoothly, can be filled with plenty of ups and plenty of downs.”
Other symbols include ”a group of women holding hands” (representing the women who work tirelessly to support players); the large hands that represent friendship, sportsmanship and courage; the large yellow boomerang that represents “a man, a fearless hunter and a provider”; and map acknowledging the home country and life of former Lions player Doug Nicholls.
Designed by: Wurundjeri-willam artist Mandy Nicholson.
Meaning: The design honours the life and journey of Sir Doug Nicholls. His Creation Spirits (totems) – which connect Nicholls to his proud Yorta Yorta heritage – are incorporated via the long neck turtle and emu. Both the Dangala (Murray) and Birrarung (Yarra) Rivers are also depicted in the design. The rivers represent unity and connect to country, while the small circles along the sides of the rivers show the many paths travelled by Nicholls and his people to Melbourne, both for traditional purposes of trade and politics but also the many paths made towards reconciliation in the past, present and into the future.
Designed by: Wagiman artist Nathan Patterson
Meaning: Patterson said “the story behind the design is around the recognition the past and present Indigenous footballers who have played for Collingwood”.
“It was important to represent the attacking Barrawarn (magpie) as these birds are extremely territorial. Extremely loyal and fierce, these birds do not give up easily.”
Patterson’s design also recognises all Indigenous players to have pulled on the Black and White stripes throughout Collingwood’s 124-year history.
The circles within the dots on the jumper also symbolise the range of Indigenous communities that Collingwood’s Indigenous players originate from, while the Magpies’ traditional Victoria Park home is represented as a mutual meeting place.
Designed by: Former champion Gavin Wanganeen
Meaning: The design (worn above by Courtenay Dempsey) represents the connection between the club and the Indigenous community. The jumper features 23 U-shapes – symbolising the Indigenous footballers who have played for Essendon – moving towards a circle in the middle of the Dons’ sash, which represents the club.
“It is an honour to not only have played for this great club, but to tell the story through art of how my people have contributed to the Essendon Football Club’s rich history and to the great game that is AFL,” Wanganeen said.
Designed by: Former Fremantle player and current development coach Roger Hayden, along with renowned Aboriginal artist and writer Richard Walley.
Meaning: The design has been worn by the Dockers over the past three Indigenous rounds.
It features a native hibiscus – the national symbol for the Stolen Generation – above three boomerangs.
Each boomerang represents a different application. “One signifies a weapon, the other a musical instrument and the third the strength of coming back home,” Hayden said.
The design also features four waves, which are not only a tribute to Fremantle’s connection with the ocean, but also represent four quarters of football.
Designed by: Former Geelong player Nathan Djerrkura
Meaning: The design represents the fresh and salt water people of Arnhem Land. The arc lines represent the waves in the ocean. The pattern within the hoops represents fresh water rock pools, lakes, rivers and inland communities.
Designed by: Local Yugambeh man, Luther Cora, in consultation with Jarrod Harbrow and the other GC SUNS indigenous players.
Meaning: The jumper incorporates elements of both traditional Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artworks and colours. The 13 hands on the back of the jumper represent all of the Suns’ 13 past and present Indigenous players.
Designed by: Riverina artist Luke Penrith, who has cultural ties to the Wiradjuri, Wotjobaluk, Yuin and Gumbaynggirr nations
Meaning: Penrith said “the large footprints represent the impact the GIANTS are having on the region from Western Sydney, through Canberra and into the Riverina and will continue to have in the years to come”. They also represent walking in the right direction and striving for bigger things. Within each footprint the design is about learning, building and belief.0
The boomerangs, which are heading in the same direction as the footprints, represent players earning their stripes as well as symbolising a weapon used for hunting, gathering and digging.
Designed by: Yorta Yorta/Wiradjuri painter Jirra Lulla-Harvey, in conjunction with Hawthorn’s Indigenous players
Meaning: After the inaugural Indigenous guernsey represented the Hawthorn local area, the new design represents each of the Hawks’ five current Indigenous players and their joining together on the land of the Wurundjeri.
Lulla-Harvey said she “wanted to try to capture their different journeys and individual motifs that represented each of them”.
“The players are the ones that fans want to know about, they are everyone’s heroes and so for the fans to get an insight into their life outside football and their cultural identities, I think is really important.”
Designed by: Wurundjeri artist Mandy Nicholson, in consultation with the Demons’ Indigenous players.
Meaning: The design acknowledges the Wurundjeri people, the traditional custodians of the land on which the city of Melbourne and the MCG were built. Demons defender Neville Jetta said he believed it was about “paying respects to the elders past and present and the Aboriginal people that still live on the lands here in Melbourne, on Wurundjeri lands”.
The design shows the wangim in flight mode depicting speed and fitness, connecting this to the attributes of the Indigenous game of Marngrook and the modern game of AFL. The wangim are embedded into the Birrarung (Yarra-river of mists) to show the connection to the Wurundjeri people.
The jumper also features the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander flags, the Recognise logo and the names of every Indigenous player to have represented the Melbourne Football Club.
Designed by: Indigenous artist Sarrita King and her sister Tarisse.
Meaning: Called ”Bloodline”, the jumper combines the striking styles of the King sisters and provides an aerial view of the land. Dividing the pair’s work is a thick line – the bloodline – which is symbol of their connection to each other and the land.
Designed by: Young Port Adelaide forward Karl Amon.
Meaning: Port has designed previous jumpers based on the language groups of its Indigenous players – with Amon the first Power player to actually come up with the design. The jumper is titled Bambara , which means ‘journey’ in Amon’s Jandai language group, that of the the Noonuccal people on North Stradbroke Island.
“The journey it talks about is the one taken by each of our eight players towards the club, the way that they’ve become part of the club,” Amon said. “The small circles represent the eight players on our AFL list, the larger circle represents the club, which is the coaches, other players, staff and volunteers.”
Designed by: Kirrae Whurrong artist Patricia McKean, a 17 year old from Warrnambool who has been connected with Richmond’s centre for Indigenous youth, the Korin Gamadji Institute, for the past three years.
Meaning: The guernsey aligns with Reconciliation Australia’s theme for 2016: “Our history, our story, our future”.
For the first time the 2016 guernsey is based on the Tigers’ yellow clash strip. Minkgill – star in Kirrae Whurrong language – are the five dots surrounding a main dot used to represent Richmond’s star players past, present and future.
The curved image between the Minkgills is like the river of life that flows through time from the beginning to the present, and into the future.
Designed by: Marcus Lee, a Darwin-born artist descended from the Karajarri people.
Meaning: The design features six concentric circles that symbolically refer to the geographic layout of the Boonwurrung Bay region, which takes in part of Port Phillip Bay, the Mornington Peninsula, Western Port and its two main islands, and land to the south-east down to Wilson’s Promontory. The six clans of the Boonwurrung, who now live in harmony, are known as Yaluk-ut weelam, Ngurrak weelam, Mayune baluk, Boonwurrung baluk, Yawen djeera and Yaluk baluk.
The jumper also features the Recognise logo, a campaign being supported by former Swans Adam Goodes and Michael O’Loughlin.
Designed by: Lisa Sainsbury, mother of Swans champion Adam Goodes.
Meaning: The jumper represents the Indigenous communities of Sydney. It shows the tale of people coming together around Sydney’s harbour and estuaries, with the Opera House representation featuring in the centre.
Again, the design features the Recognise logo, which aims to have the Australian Constitution amended to recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island people.
Designed by: Noongar artist Peter Farmer
Meaning: The design tells the story of the waalitj (wedge-tailed eagle) which is the strongest totem in Noongar culture. The traditional Noongar dreaming story is about a great drought, in which the airborn waalitj was the only one who could find water. By following the eagle the Noongar people could always find a fresh water source. The moral of the story is through great adversity, the waalitj finds a path.
His strength and power is respected and revered throughout Noongar country, because of his capacity to not simply overcome adversity, but to succeed in places that others fail.
Designed by: The Pitcha Makin Fellas, a Ballarat-based Indigenous artist group.
Meaning: The figure in the centre of the guernsey, known as the Great Black Pointer, is a reference to the history of the Indigenous people in Australia. He is pointing the way for others.
The background pattern forms a part of the Pitcha Makin Fellas coat of arms, which embraces their strong sense of themselves and their country. The design also features Australia’s national floral emblem, the Golden Wattle.