What started as a casual conversation between two friends around Indigenous recognition in the AFL Canberra competition has now developed into an all-encompassing concept in honour of Reconciliation Week.
The concept in Canberra, now in its third year, mirrors what is happening in the AFL but with a local theme. This theme was conceived following a conversation between businessman Guy Earnshaw and Tuggeranong Hawks legend Gerrit Wanganeen.
Guy, Director and Senior Partner of Canberra Professional Services consulting firm Rubik3, offered to sponsor the Hawks Indigenous jumpers in a three-year deal. And this sponsorship has generated a number of positive spin-offs.
Gerrit says the sponsorship has enabled his club to invest in an Indigenous playing strip for his team.
“It has provided an enormous sense of pride for our Indigenous players and the buy-in from our non-Indigenous players has been great. When we first participated, it opened up a great discussion about things people had been resistant to talk about in the past,” he says.
On 25 May the AFL Canberra Indigenous round takes place involving all premier division teams. This year the umpires, the balls, and even the goal posts will have an Indigenous theme.
Former Hawks midfielder and artist Tom Hodge has given the jumpers a fresh look, bringing back a heritage feel with images of the old and young warriors facing each other on the front. This emphasises the shared experience, with culture staying alive through the passing down of stories.
Guy paid tribute to the work done by Tom in creating the theme on the jumpers.
“I am really proud of how Tom has found his passion through this opportunity and it is fantastic to see the recognition that he deserves,” he says.
The jumpers will be in the colours of the old Tuggeranong Cowboys, the name of the team before it became known as the Hawks.
Gerrit says the jumpers recognise the history of Indigenous players in Australian football in Canberra.
“It’s fantastic recognition of all the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander players who have been involved in the Canberra competition. All of the clubs here have Indigenous players running around the field,” he says.
Current Tuggeranong President Leo Lahey says the recognition isn’t confined to the Hawks. “It is gaining broad attraction. It’s really gaining engagement, and that’s so promising,” he says.
The umpires’ shirts will, according to Tom Hodge, incorporate a silhouette of Black Mountain Tower. There will be a similar theme on the goal posts and Tom will paint the balls to be used on the day.
Eastlake, Tuggeranong’s opponents on 25 May, will also have Indigenous recognition jumpers.
Guy has encouraged other Canberra businesses to sponsor a team in the Indigenous round.
“It has been awesome to see the Indigenous round grow stronger each year and we are excited for May 25. This is Rubik’s third year and we are proud to not only be sponsoring the Hawks but the whole ACT round. We encourage more Canberra businesses to get behind their local team and be a sponsor of the round,” he says.
As Gerrit says, the concept started with a conversation that has generated a much larger discussion; further evidence that sport can lead the way in recognition and reconciliation.