• "If you haven’t been to the Koori Knockout you’re missing out on one of the biggest cultural gatherings." (Brendan Esposito)Source: Brendan Esposito
Former rugby league star Owen Craigie says if you haven’t been to the Koori Knockout you’re missing out on one of the biggest cultural gatherings and you need to get to Leichhardt Oval for this year’s tournament.
By
Owen Craigie

13 Sep 2017 - 1:59 PM  UPDATED 13 Sep 2017 - 2:00 PM

"The Koori Knockout is one of the biggest cultural gatherings on the globe.

You have 30,000 Aboriginals there over four days of rugby league and all the NRL boys are showcased playing footy, representing their community and their tribes and it’s a buffet of rugby league all weekend.

It’s 42 years old now so it’s become a cultural event. It’s become an annual event for Aboriginal people. It’s one of those things that we love celebrating every year.

What makes it so special is all the boys and girls and all the men that display great athleticism playing rugby league.

They’re so skilful and it’s just a showcase of the skills and the communities, and most of all it’s a celebration for Aboriginal people to see how far we’ve come as Aboriginal people and celebrate sport which has enhanced our health.

So in so many ways we get to celebrate and be part of something so special.

It’s at Leichhardt this year from September 29 – October 2 and it was at Leichhardt last year and Redfern won. Whoever wins it gets the rights to hold it in their community, or wherever they choose to.

"Wherever you come from you represent your people and if you’re lucky enough to play NRL your community’s going to be backing you 100 per cent."

If you haven’t been to a Koori Knockout yet and you’re reading this article or you hear your friends talking about it, do yourself a favour and get down there. It’s the biggest rugby league weekend of all time.

You’ve got the NRL grand final weekend, then you’ve got the Koori Knockout from Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday – if you love rugby league, do yourself a favour and get down there. You can still watch all your ex-NRL stars who are not playing in the GF of the NRL representing their communities back at Leichhardt.

That’s one of the really important aspects, having the high-profile players. It’s always been that way since day one, that wherever you come from you represent your people and if you’re lucky enough to play NRL, well then your community’s going to be backing you 100 per cent because you’re gonna have a good chance of winning a few games there.

There’s been talks of a takeover bid for the tournament but there’s so many things that can happen, that could be positive and so many things that can happen that could be negative.

First and foremost, let’s talk about the Koori Knockout. The reason the Koori Knockout is so prestigious and so special and unique, is wholly and solely because every year you don’t know who’s going to win it.

So you don’t know where it’s going to be held the next year. And that’s the beauty about the koori Knockout.

But if you’re gonna have a group that’s going to take over the Knockout, well you’re gonna have it set out for the next five years on where it’s going to be held. It takes a bit of the excitement out of it.

It takes the excitement and the adrenaline out of it and I know that people want to do this for the right reasons, but no one actually owns the Knockout. That’s why it’s so special.

"The Koori Knockout has become a calendar event for every Aboriginal person that is actively participating in their community."

No one actually owns the Koori Knockout on paper so I don’t know how a group’s going to come in and take ownership over it. Because the Knockout is only made up all these teams from the community and if those teams from the community are not in it then there is no Knockout. And the beauty about the Knockout is these teams coming down and trying to win this Knockout, because if you do win it you can make up to a million dollars profit from holding it in your community. In Dubbo, they injected $7.4 million dollars in the local economy over four days.

But let’s say Toomelah win it or Walgett win it and have it in Walgett or some other town wins it, well that local council or that local community’s gonna be cheering because you’re gonna have millions of dollars injected in the community, the team’s going to make money, to buy community transport or buy like a dialysis machine, or whatever.

But if someone’s going to break away and hold the group, blackfullas are not gonna like that. They’re not going to be told, after 42 years, ‘This is how the Knockout’s gonna be run’.

Because Aboriginal people, we don’t like change and we don’t like quick change overnight. We're very old fashioned and we like the old system.

The Koori Knockout has become a calendar event for every Aboriginal person that is actively participating in their community. If you see Aboriginal people at the community, you know that they’re 100 per cent wearing the red, black and yellow flag on their heart, representing their communities from the grassroots and playing a game that we all love.

It means everything to our people. It gives our young boys and girls a hope of a better lifestyle, purely because of football. Like I always say, rugby league gives our people hope.

As always, the tournament will be on NITV again and I’ll be a part of the coverage in the call team with Djuro Sen and big Georgie Rose, my Over the Black Dot team.

The NRL grand final will be on the same weekend as the Koori Knockout and on the evidence of the weekend’s NRL games we are in for something special.

The weekend was unbelievable; it’ll be a Roosters-Storm grand final. Parramatta played really well. Last year’s premiers are gone. It’s that time of the year – anything’s possible. In a two horse race, anything’s possible.

So get down to Leichhardt Oval and participate in the Koori Knockout."

Tune into Over the Black Dot tonight at 9:30pm on Ch.34 

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