In the lead up to National Reconciliation Week, the popular NRL Indigenous Round — now in its eleventh year — is kicking off this weekend. All 16 NRL Clubs will, once again, wear specially designed and inspired Indigenous jerseys.
This year, some of the jersey artists have considered the Reconciliation Week theme, Grounded in Truth, Walk Together with Courage in their design. Others have taken a historic look back at the club and celebrated the Indigenous players who have made their mark.
A traditional Welcome or Acknowledgement to Country will take place at all of the matches, as well as cultural gift exchanges prior to kick off.
Here is a look at each club's individual design, the artist and the story behind the unique artwork:
Artist: Elaine Chambers-Hegarty
Theme: Growth and new beginnings
The 2019 Broncos jersey has been designed in conjunction with Deadly Choices.
The two organisations have partnered together since 2013, to aim to promote healthy lifestyle choices for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Elaine Chambers-Hegarty was engaged by Deadly Choices to create the artwork which represents growth and new beginnings as 13 players unite as one at the gathering place of the Broncos’ Home Ground.
Players Jack Bird and James Roberts approached the club to be involved in its design. The pair felt it was important that the totems of all current players featured on the jersey to symbolise their connection to culture. These include: James Roberts (Praying Mantis, Black Raven and Dolphin), Jack Bird (Whale), Gehamat Shibasaki (Stingray and Turtle), David Fifita (Stingray and Dog), Kotoni Staggs (Goanna), Troy Dargan (Dolphin), Amber Pilley (Wedge Tail Eagle), Talisha Harden (Turtle).
On the left sleeve of the jersey is the word ‘United’; a Broncos’ club value that ties in with this year’s NAIDOC theme byline: Voice, Treaty, Truth: Let's work together for a shared future.
On the right sleeve are both the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Flags.
Theme: Connecting everyone to work toward the same goal
The 2019 Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs jersey comprises of meeting places and tracks leading to each other.
Highlighting the core values of the Bulldog's community, the jersey represents everyone being connected working towards the same goal.
The footprints demonstrate how the players walk together to reach a greater understanding of Aboriginal culture.
The three handprints represent the team's current Aboriginal players, Adam Elliot, Chris Smith and Reimis Smith.
The goanna on the back of the jersey is the totem or emblem of the Chifley College Mount Druitt campus, and the icon is representing the students and staff. The meeting place circles around it represent the four leaning places at the school and the design acknowledges that education is power for Aboriginal youth.
Artist: Beau Pennefather Motlop
Theme: Same, but different
The 2019 Queensland Cowboys Indigenous jersey has been designed by Beau Pennefather Motlop from Cairns after winning a competition. It is titled ‘same but different’ and represents courage.
The artist says, "The Torres Strait headdress and the Aboriginal shield represent courage. Our ancestor warriors would need immeasurable amounts of courage to fight battles with neighbouring tribes and during colonisation.
"The two hands, one black, one white, represent integrity and honesty."
"They are also a representation of unity and equality. When you swear an oath on a bible and state to tell the truth, you put one hand up. Committed: The Torres Strait drum and Aboriginal didgeridoo represent our commitment to keeping our culture alive through traditional dance and music, as well as sharing our culture. Unity: The circle dot patterns represent meeting places. The U-Shapes surrounding them represent people meeting in unity."
St George Illawarra Dragons
Artist: Lani Balzan
Theme: Bringing community together
The St George Illawarra Dragons 2019 jersey has been designed by local Illawarra artist Lani Balzan.
The front of the jersey includes a whale (Birri Birri) which symbolises the Dharawal nation, the land on which St George Illawarra play their home games, with the different symbols surrounding the whale, depicting the bringing together of a harmonious community.
The four red dots above the red 'V' symbolise the four Indigenous players currently playing for the NRL team, Josh Kerr, Jai Field, Jonus Pearson and Tristan Sailor.
Young local artists, Keiran Campbell and Koori Minto, have created a design, also featured on the jersey. Their work is on the back of the jersey, highlighting the special relationship and respect local Aboriginal people have with the sea.
Artist: Eels players: Josh Hoffman, Will Smith, Bevan French and Blake Ferguson
Theme: Celebration of heritage
The Parramatta Eels 2019 jersey has been designed by Eels players Josh Hoffman, Will Smith, Bevan French and Blake Ferguson. Their design pays respect to the traditional owners of Parramatta and is a celebration of their own rich heritage.
The area of Parramatta was known by the Darug people as "Burramatta"; "Burra" meaning eel and "matta" meaning creek. The Eel in the background represents the ancestral spirit.
The totems adorn the jersey; Will Smith, a Gumbaynggirr and Anaiwan man, is the long-neck turtle and the echidna are the totems of his country and people. The goanna, represents Blake Ferguson, a Wiradjuri man. The koala, represents Bevan French, a Kamilaroi man. The shark represents Josh Hoffman and his family from Badu Island.
Artist: Elise Randell, conceptualised past and present Knights players, including Ashley Gordon, Owen Craigie, Timana Tahu and Connor Watson.
Theme: Family and connection
The 2019 Knights guernsey is somewhat of a replica as 2018, designed by past and present Knights players including Ashley Gordon, Owen Craigie, Timana Tahu and Connor Watson.
Each player shared a piece of their own history to local Indigenous artist and proud Bundjalung women, Elise Randell from non-for-profit agency Justiz, who painted the artwork that makes up the foundations of the jersey design.
A backdrop of blue and green represents saltwater and freshwater. There is a golden river behind all totems which runs through the player's countries and represents the strong connection as cultural brothers. The white raised dots are symbolic of family and community from their place of origin and local Aboriginal community ties.
Like the other team's jerseys totems feature throughout the design: freshwater turtle and echidna represents Ashley Gordon, a Kamilaroi man. The wedge tail eagle and dingo represents Timana Tahu, a Barkindji man.
The sand goanna and kangaroo represents both Owen Craigie and Connor Watson, Gomeroi men.
Artist: Glen Liddiard
Theme: Darug country
The design of the 2019 Panthers Indigenous Jersey is based on an artwork by Panthers Indigenous Welfare Officer Glen Liddiard.
The art incorporates the Panthers' colours and depicts the location and people of the Darug nation; the home of the Panthers. The jersey also features totems of the Wiradjuri, Guriwal and Birii people, representing the club’s Indigenous players.
Theme: Celebration of diversity and the push toward reconciliation
The 2019 Canberra Raiders Indigenous jersey is a celebration of diversity and the push toward reconciliation.
The artwork uses handprints to illustrate cultural diversity within the Ngunnawal region. Various artistic styles are demonstrated throughout the artwork, a result of community collaboration on the canvas.
By involving the community, including Indigenous students who are engaged in the NRL school-to-work program, artist Lynnice created a free-flowing and accepting artwork.
The path to reconciliation is a collaborative, accepting and an ongoing journey. This work aims to demonstrate how learning, interaction and respect work to create a free-flowing and engaged community.
Artist: Danielle Mate Sullivan with the assistance of the 2019 Sydney Roosters Indigenous players
Theme: Totems and Community, family and inspiration
Conceptualised by the Indigenous players of the Roosters NRL team, Danielle Mate Sullivan's artwork showcases the players' totems, with a large circle at the centre of the piece representing the Roosters Club as a whole. The totems (shark, crocodile, goanna and whale) all face inwards to the 'club' where they meet. Surrounding this is the red, white and blue dot work which represents the supporters and fans of the club.
The white small dots a demonstrative of the connection from the community to club and the club back to the community.
The large handprints are the actual players' prints and the smaller prints are of their children/family. This shows not only the importance of family, but the role that the players have in inspiring our next generation and leaving a positive imprint of culture for everyone.
Manly Sea Eagles
Theme: Honouring former player Cliff Lyons
The 2019 Manly Sea Eagles jersey honours Indigenous Australian former international rugby league footballer of the 1980s and 1990s Cliff Lyons.
The grey circles represent each team that Cliff has played for, from his first team as a junior, right up to playing for an Australia; a total of 22.
Down the back sides of the lizard there are blue stripes (representing his Origin for NSW) on those stripes there are black dots, five on one side and six on the other, representing how many goals and field goals he kicked in his career with Manly.
The lizard's back legs contain 80 dots, these represent the 80 tries Cliff scored for Manly.
The front legs contain 120 dots, Cliff's Hall of Fame number.
Artist: Aunty Deanna Schreiber
Theme: Country, animals and totems
The 2019 Cronulla Sharks jersey was designed by Aunty Deanna Schreiber.
The blue background of the jersey represents the waters of Cronulla, which are surrounded by campsites and elders gathering.
The animal tracks and totems include the goanna, black snake and echidna, which represent the team's players including Wade Graham, Will Kennedy, Andrew Fifita, Braydon Trindall and the family of Jayson Bukuya.
The colour pink represents the many shells that were scattered on the beaches at Cronulla for thousands of years.
South Sydney Rabbitohs
Artist: Joe Walker
Hailing from Bundjalung and Wahlabul Nations, artist Joe Walker has depicted the club's six Indigenous players via. their totems. Joe, who previously designed the 2017 jersey, designed a playing strip that incorporates the player's totems inside their own handprint.
The totems include Kyle Turner (Goanna), Braidon Burns (Emu), Dane Gagai (Shovelnose Shark), Cody Walker (Goanna), Alex Johnston (Crocodile), Greg Inglis (Praying Mantis).
Joe Walker also believes this year's jersey is extra special based on the collaboration with his daughters who helped him design it. Beyond the totems, the jersey utilises lines which Walker says is '[a] representation of the players in their journey on coming to this great Club'.
Artist: Lenny Briggs
Theme: Opportunity, relationships and respect
Yorta Yorta and Gunditjmara artist Lenny Briggs describes his work, "It's about a world that has three hands and three lightning bolts. The hands represent respect for one another and the opportunities we are handed in our lives.
The Storm bolts represent our relationships and strong links to our community and cultural respect. The image represents power and determination to push through to reach our goals, to trust, to feel safe and fulfilled with positive connections."
The 'logo' in the middle represents the Melbourne Storm Rugby League Club, whilst the outer circles are the broader communities that Melbourne Storm are reaching through its various programs. The white lines represent each individuals path. The four colours represent the four seasons, representing diversity and change. The Shields represent strength and resilience.
The Yarra River flows past AAMI Park, home of the Storm, the ‘Birrarung’ has been a meeting point and lifeline for local Aboriginal people for millenia. Water represents life and as it flows through the ‘Melbourne Storm Community’, it becomes much larger.'
New Zealand Warriors
Theme: Paying respect to the Māori - Tangata Whenua
The 2019 Warriors design pays respect to the Māori - Tangata Whenua (people of the land) the First Peoples of New Zealand. '
The top half of the jersey represents the New Zealand landscape, with triangular shapes symbolising our mountains and the koru representing mist, clouds and swirling winds reaching up to the heavenly domain of Ranginui (the Sky Father).
The design is placed on the front and back and represents the North Island and South Island, paying respect to the Kaitaiaki (guardians) of our land and the warrior Whanau (family/fan base). Everything is interconnected and there is great power in these connections - they unite us.
The bottom half of the jersey, including the sleeves, are kowhaiwhai patterns. Through these symbols, representations of attitude, ability and mindset are displayed.
The colour of the jersey and the shades of grey represents the clouds of Aotearoa, known as the land of the long white cloud and the silver element pays respect to our silver fern, our national symbol.
Artist: Vicki Golding and Dennis Golding
Theme: Lands of the Wangal, Gadigal and Tharawal people
The Wests Tigers 2019 Indigenous Jersey is inspired by the traditional lands on which the club is based upon; lands of the Wangal, Gadigal and Tharawal people.
The design uses topographical lines to form patterns that link pathways and meeting places as a way of uniting cultures to strengthen knowledge and understanding.
For more information on the NRL Indigenous Round see the NRL website.
Fans can keep up to date with all the action from the round by following the Twitter hashtag across the weekend.