This weekend is another edition of the Koori Knockout. The Knockout is a special sporting competition, but an even more, it's a significant event beyond rugby league.
More than 40,000 people are expected attend the Central Coast across the four-day long weekend. I don’t want to sound too cliché by saying 'it’s a community event!' and all that, because we've heard it over and over, but for me personally, the reason it’s so special is that it rings true to who I am.
It feels great to be a part of something that amplifies your culture and continues the respect to the people in the past who started it, as well as the elders still with us who have kept it running from our generation and onto the next.
What is more, it's a very successful event and it’s one that the community owns. No corporates own it and there’s no big funding about it. Overall it's something that the Koori community can be proud of and take ownership of.
More than a team
What also sets it apart from other rugby league tournaments, or even broader sporting events in Australia, is that it’s often a family team competing and representing.
We always talk in professional sport about 'being a family', where coaches, organisations and players try to manufacture that environment and close-knit atmosphere which allows for the success of being united.
But the Knockout is actual family — there are uncles and brothers and fathers and sons playing side-by-side.
The only cheer squad you’ve got is your family, so family means a lot to these teams.
Some of them aren’t even thinking about winning the Knockout, it’s just about being a part of it and running with your sister, your nephew, your son or running out with your dad.
That kind of moment can mean more than winning the tournament. Some of these teams might get pumped 60-0 by some of the bigger sides, but after they finish, they’re thinking: “Where’s the next Knockout” and “We’ve got to get our team back in”.
The talk starts again and this is a 365-day-a-year yarn within your community.
Rugby League like no other
On the field, expect some of the most entertaining rugby league you’ve seen. Especially with the women’s competition which just keeps getting stronger and stronger each year.
I feel like the Aboriginal Knockout women’s competition led the way for where the NRLW is today. I’m big fan and supporter of women in rugby league and I can’t wait to coach the Newcastle Yowies Women’s Team in between commentary duties for NITV.
The women’s rugby league in the Knockout is probably the highlight of the weekend.
The women’s rugby league in the Knockout is probably the highlight of the weekend and everyone wants to watch them play because there are big hits, it’s skillful and fast and the effort and energy that these women put in, well, I’d rather them on my side than some of the blokes running around.
I’d advise everyone that if you’re going to be watch Knockout football, tune into NITV and live stream it on NITV on Facebook because you’ll see some entertainment. It's Aboriginal rugby and Aboriginal television at it's best.
NRL players are coming back
One thing you can be sure of is the great NRL talent, like Andrew Fifita and potentially players like Josh Addo-Carr turning up and running out.
I love NRL players coming back to the Knockout. You do get a few whingers here and there, where a lot of the clubs don’t like such high-level players playing in the grassroots Knockout. Some community members don’t like NRL players playing in the competition, because it feels like their team is going to be defeated already.
At the end of the day, these players are the community.
They’re not just people who have dropped out of the sky. They’re not non-Indigenous people flying in — these are actual players who are passionate about the Knockout, they want to be playing in the Knockout and they should be allowed to play in the Knockout.
It's a bummer because this is where these talented players grew up and this is where they were bred and this is where they found their aggression, they found their high-risk plays and their ability to play differently to everyone else as an individual.
Whichever team you’re supporting, or even if you don’t yet have a team, please join us throughout the Koori Knockout, either on the Central Coast or tuning in via. NITV.
I’ll be making my live match commentary debut, which I’m humbled and excited to be doing, and as always it promises to be a brilliant weekend of sport, community and culture.
Who will win this year?
But who wins this weekend? Well, picking winners is always difficult.
The past 5 or 6 years it’s been the same sort of sides at the pointy end; it’s mainly your coastal teams that are pretty strong. They can have the advantage that their facilities are stronger and the local competitions are deeper and with more money and backing, so that depth can be there.
Then there’s the unpredictability factor of 20-minute halves, the luck of the draw and luck of things lining up perfectly over the weekend.
Timana Tahu is a former rugby league, rugby union player and dual international, husband, father and a vegan advocate and panellist for NITV's Over the Black Dot.