This year’s marngrook (AFL) Indigenous Round will span across Rounds 11 and 12 and like every other year, each design has a symbolic meaning and is a display of pride, not just for the teams but for the artists who created them.
The Round was established as a celebration of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture and contribution to sport in the nation and named after the first Aboriginal man to be knighted, Sir Douglas Nicholls in 2016.
Designed by forward Ben Davis, the Crow's guernsey celebrates Torres Strait Islander culture.
The front of the uniform features a shield to show respect to Kaurna country, where the team reside. A traditional headdress known as a dhoeri, is a significant part of Torres Strait Islander culture. Surrounded by hammerhead sharks and spears, the shark being signifies tribal law and order and is a culturally significant creature.
Fish and turtles represent being lead by ancestors and previous club players, with turtles on the back symbolising strength and protection on the field, as well as being a significant part of Torres Strait Islander peoples Dreaming.
Chris Johnson created the design that will be worn by Lions players, coinciding with the 20th anniversary the team’s historic premiership over Essendon in 2001.
The proud Gunditjmara triple premiership hero called it a “huge honour” to be asked to design the guernsey. As the last player standing of the Fitzroy Lions and the first of the Brisbane Lions, Johnson said it was important to honour both clubs and players who have represented them. Semi circles portray 13 Indigenous players who have represented the club, figures and circles surrounding them symbolise the 28 players who played in Grand Final triumphs.
Turtles and Boomerangs are a proud display of Johnson’s Dreaming and his upbringing, with the back displaying the same for the 13 former Aboriginal players.
Yorta Yorta man Dixon Patten put a traditional twist on the black and white stripes, showing magpies with outstretched wings, flying upwards “reaching new heights and possibilities.” Patten tells of the magpies being nurturers who guide their young, like teachers, Elders and respected people do, an important role in the Aboriginal community. Gum leaves make up the background representing growth and are extended to guests as a gesture of “welcome,” as they are the leaves used in ‘Welcome to Country.”
Dixon Patten also designed the shirt that will be worn by Essendon players during the Sir Doug Nicholls Round. The design tells a story of Norm McDonald, a Gunditjamara man who was the first Aboriginal player for the club. The tribe’s Dreaming is represented through the red-tailed black cockatoo, with the artworks background paying homage to the country, the eel traps and lake systems that have provided an abundance of food source for Gunditjamara people for millennia.
Feathers represent people from all backgrounds, races, genders and religions and hands represent ancestors guiding us on our journey.
AFLW player Mikayla Morrison, former player Des Headland and artist Kevin Bynder worked together to create the deep and meaningful designs behind the Freemantle Dockers guernsey. All three designers are related, Headland is Bynder’s counsin and Morrison’s uncle.
The large boomerangs on the front were used for hunting birds and are intentionally positioned to make the number 11, the number worn by Headland, Morrison and former Aboriginal club great Dale Kickett.
The back of the jumper has special meaning, featuring a map of Rottnest Island, which was used as a prison camp for Aboriginal men in the 1930’s and is the largest known burial ground of Aboriginal people in the country.
Below the map is a silhouette of a photo taken in 2003 remembering the proud moment, a then record of seven Aboriginal Torres Strait Islander players lined up to take the field in a single match.
GIANTS forward and proud Whadjuk-Ballardong Noongar man Bobby Hill designs the shirt his team will wear for this year’s Indigenous Round. The artwork tells the story of Hill’s upbringing in Northam in Western Australia before moving to Sydney to play for the GIANTS. Boomerangs and a campfire represent hunting, a circle symbolising his family.
Footprints on the back of the jumper illustrate the young players journey from being a potential draft to AFL player, not just physically but mentally and emotionally as well. Hands embody the rest of the team and how Hill has felt embraced since entering the club. The three animals on the front are the totem animals for the current Indigenous players, Wiradjuri man Zac Williams (Frill neck lizard), Yorta Yorta man Jeremy Finlayson (Long neck turtle) and the Goanna is Hill’s Dreaming.
Representing the language of the land, “Djilang” is the Wadawarrung word for Geelong and is written across the back of the guernsey designed by Traditional Owner Corrina Eccles. The artwork depicts the Barwon River where the eels swim and is looked upon by Bunjil the eagle, who watches over the country he created and is featured in honour of two important people in the community whose lives were tragically lost.
“In the design I have the Kardiniyoo, the sunrise, taking place and the two teams coming together to play what we call Marngrook. The Barwon River is a place that our eels would travel down. The eels then meet on our coast, our saltwater country,” artist Corrina Eccles said.
Gold Coast Suns
Yugembah artist Luther Cora and Larrakia artist Trent Lee collaborated to design the guernsey for the Gold Coast Suns which highlights the harmonious connection between the Gold Coast and Darwin. A sea turtle on the front of the jumper represents the Larrakia people and Darwin, with one on the back with a different colour border for Yugembah and the Gold Coast, acknowledging the connection to country for both the saltwater tribes. All 17 names of Aboriginal players who have played for the Suns are displayed on the back of the guernsey with the rainbow serpent in the background to symbolise the great giver of life and protector of water.
Justine Ronberg is a former Worawa Aboriginal College student and the designer of Hawthorne’s Indigenous uniform. She explains how circles inside one big circle symbolise the Aboriginal players who have played for the club with outer circles representing the crowds, fans and workers who support the players. Footprints represent the journey each player has had to embark on to make it to where they are. Player Chad Wingard explained of all the designs that were put forward, the meaning behind Justine’s artwork resonated the most with players and the support they have had.
Arrernte woman Amunda Gorey designed Melbourne’s guernsey with community connection and support in mind.
Lines leading into the centre of the design represent the journey each player is on with semi circles symbolising safety, shelter and support, extending further across the design to acknowledge greater support networks that may go unnoticed. The team will wear the design in Alice Springs in round 12 against the Bulldogs, adding extra excitement for the designer who is from the Central Australian community of Ltyentye Apurte or Santa Teresa, located just an hour down the road.
Artist Emma McNeill explains on her Instagram page that a group of kangaroos is called a mob. One big kangaroo in the middle of the design represents the strong and staunch men in our playing groups, in our lives and who have supported the club for generations. On either side of the male roo stand female kangaroos who are pillars of courage fighting for change and equality. They represent the women who have provided unconditional support from inside and outside the club. Joeys underneath embody the future and the pathway to success and the babies keeping the love of the game alive. A circle in the centre ties the artwork together and representds the club and everyone who has helped build it.
Elle Campbell designed the Port Adelaide’s Indigenous Round jumper, which has been making headlines since its release. A student from the club’s “Aboriginal Power Cup,” claimed to have designed the artwork, featuring blue and orange circles divided by a kangaroo and his tracks. However, original artist Campbell quickly came forward with evidence to prove she painted the picture first, which was put on display at the Flinders Medical Centre as part of a NAIDOC exhibition in 2019. Campbell came to the student’s defence saying she was only young and still learning.
Campbell says the idea for the painting came from a photo her mother sent her of kangaroos coming from scrub to have a dip in the water. The other aspects of the painting honour Campbell’s ancestral burial grounds and the connection with the native flora and fauna on those lands.
Michelle Kerrin is the artist behind the Richmond Tigers uniform representing strength, brotherhood and the connections made on and off the field. The gum leaf symbolises power, strength, healing and protection from ancestors and the brothers who stand beside you. A sacred meeting place, a special bond, a story of connection that will forever live on, their website reads.
St Kilda Football Club was proud to announce their Indigenous design for the year created by Saints legend and proud Noongar man, Nicky Winmar. The 1993 image of Winmar lifting his shirt to point to his dark skin in pride, is still an iconic photograph in the country’s history today. Winmar says he’s excited to launch his new documentary featuring some of the nations most prominent black athletes, speaking about racism in sport.
Winmar’s spiritual totem the Willy Wagtail is featured on the front of the guernsey symbolising his parents, alongside a silhouette of his infamous “I’m Black and I’m Proud” pose. Nicky’s own hands are splatter painted on the back to signify teamwork and his eternal connection to the club.
The Marn Grook guernsey for the Sydney Swans this year tells the story of Black Swan Guunya. All the other birds were jealous of Guunya who was a beautiful white swan with a long neck who could reach the best foods. The jealousy became so great that the other birds hatch an evil plan to pull out all of Guunya’s feathers and kill him.
The crow watches as the birds attack Guunya leaving him to die, covered in blood with no feathers.
The crow helps Guunya recover from the attack, replacing Guunyas missing white feathers with his own. The blood stained Guunya’s beak red, but he was able to rise up and fly away with his beautiful shiny new black feathers.
West Coast Eagles
Nyoongar artist Darryl Bellotti designed the West Coast Eagles Indigenous shirt this year which features the Waugul or the rainbow serpent.
Aboriginal people’s Dreaming from many tribes consider the Waugul the creator spirit who travelled from the east creating valleys and hills with his body. White lines represent the journey of the club. Yellow lines are for the interconnecting pathways and songlines throughout the land which is the blue.
Former Western Bulldogs player Lindsay Gilbee worked closely with renowned artist, Iluka Art’s Luke Patterson to translate the story of the Boandik people of Mt Gambier into art. The front features the Waawar, or the Blue Lake with people gathering along its banks. Footprints symbolise Traditional Owners gathering fresh water as they move across the land. Gumtrees illustrate the connection to country while boomerangs and spears remember traditional hunting practices.
Gilbees Dreaming is exemplified with possum footprints. Three meeting places on the back personify Lindsay’s family, his community and the club. Gilbee’s grandmother passed away during the COVID-19 pandemic last year which resulted in him finding out he had Aboriginal heritage. He says he has lots to learn but was proud to be able to turn his story into art that will be worn with pride by his brothers.