Tag Archives: Indigenous

Indigenous Round

While I am normally a skeptic of the AFL’s <insert lame AFL tribute here> rounds, but Indigenous round is a fantastic initiative (heritage round isn’t bad either, but the rest can get stuffed). I only wish that Dreamtime at the ‘G involved North (and based on North’s Indigenous contribution to the game, I think they have as much a right to it as anyone). I’ve previously mentioned my love of the Indigenous element of Aussie Rule, but in case you’re not sold here’s a video of some of North’s Indigenous highlights.

Still not sold? Take a look at ex-North () protege Daniel Motlop strut his stuff here.

Freakin’ impressive.

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Campbell wins Polly Farmer Medal

One of North’s big improvers of 2008, Matty ‘Flash’ Campbell, continues to look the goods, this time for the Indigenous All-Stars in their win against Adelaide. Awarded the Polly Farmer Medal for best on ground, Campbell has come a long way since carving up the dirt in Alice Springs for the Pioneers.

Matty CampbellThe transition for Indigenous players from the bush to big city football can’t be easy. Campbell has Arrente (Alice Springs region) and Arabana (around Lake Eyre) heritage and spent a fair bit of his childhood living on his grandfather’s land outside Alice. English is still his first language, but there would be plenty of other cultural barriers to be confronted with in the big smoke – many of which us whitefellas don’t even think about. ‘Sorry business’ (death in the family/community) is the most obvious, but even the simple Aussie ritual of going to the pub can present issues.

But if the barriers for Matty Campbell are big, spare a thought for Melbourne’s newest recruit, Liam Jungarrayi Jurrah. Liam is an initiated Warlpiri man from Yuendumu, a traditional Aboriginal community 300km north-west of Alice. Liam had never seen a gym until he came to Melbourne. His journey is an amazing one already (Martin Flanagan tells it as well as anyone) but far from complete. It has the potential to go anywhere.

I’ve previously written about the contribution Indigenous players have made to footy. But it’s fair to say that footy’s contribution in return is immense. It is perhaps the only aspect of mainstream Australian culture which offers real hope for Indigenous Australians (given the exploitative nature of commercialising traditional Indigenous art).

Liam Jurrah training at NorthLiam Jurrah is the AFL’s biggest test yet. I worry about what might happen if things don’t quite work out.

But then again, what are the possibilities if they do … ?

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Aborigines Rule Football

In an interview on SEN yesterday, NMFC CEO Eugene Arocca revealed that North are exploring adding an Indigenous dimension to the Arden St project.

After extensive community consultation, it was discovered that the Arden St site and it’s immediate surrounds are of special significance to the traditional custodians, the Wurundjeri people. With a Life and Learning Centre on the cards, which includes a community classroom, Arocca has seized the opportunity. Forming a steering community with representatives of NMFC and MAYSAR (Melbourne Aboriginal Youth, Sport And Recreation), Arocca is exploring the possibility of  developing a program to put into the community classroom to highlight the significance of Melbourne, and North Melbourne in particular, to the Wurundjeri people, adding that “it doesn’t hurt that we’ve had close to 20 players play senior football for North Melbourne that are Indigenous.” The Life and Learning Centre will have a strong focus on engaging new migrant communities in the North Melbourne area.

Indigenous involvement in Australian rules football is a fascinating microcosm of white-Australia’s relationship with the traditional custodians. Here’s my brief exposition:

The (Football) History Wars

The exact origins of Aussie Rules Football are still unclear and remain a topic of debate. Scotch College and Melbourne Grammar played the first known game of Australian football on 7 August, 1858 in the parkland around the present day MCG. But what inspired this unique ‘game of our own’? Some say it has Irish origins, some say it is distinctly English, while others claim it is based on the Indigenous game of Marngrook. Unfortunately, the Indigenous influence on the game is subject to a history war, which reached its zenith last year during the 150th anniversary celebrations of Australian Football.

On one side, historians such as Gillian Hibbins and Greg de Moore argue that there is no evidence to link Indigenous games, Marngrook or otherwise, to the origins of the game. Martin Flanagan, one of football’s great writers, takes issue with this approach. While he does not contend that Marngrook is the definitive game upon which Aussie Rules is based, he staunchly opposes Hibbins refusal to accept that Indigenous games played any role in influencing our game’s evolution, just because she cannot find any evidence (for the full rant check this out). Ultimately, Flanagan’s states:

‘My view on the origins of the game, as stated in “The Call”, appear on the second-last page:  “Whose game is it, you ask. The blackfellas say it’s theirs. The Irish claim they invented it and poor old HCA Harrison went to the grave swearing it was British. If you want my opinion, it’s a bastard of a game – swift, bold and beautiful – for a bastard of a people”.  I stand by that view.’ (Full rant available here)

I must say, I find it by far the more compelling argument; and not simply for its romanticism. Yet commentators have taken issue with it, often singling out Flanagan as proporting a ‘seductive myth’ that fits nicely into his world view (including local shit-stirrer Andrew Bolt down at The Hun – check out the comments to get a glimpse of the crude arguments used against the Indigenous people). It almost directly parallels the arguments of the broader history wars played out during the Howard era of Australian politics. Like Howard endorsing Windshuttle, the AFL has chosen to officially endorse the Hibbins view, without allowing for any real discourse or alternative. I remain hopeful that one day this will change.

A Change In Attitude

As a teenager in the mid 90s, I recall going to many a match at the MCG and seeing first hand the racial abuse heaped on Indigenous players. Chris Lewis of West Coast copped as much as anyone. Spectators of all classes would have no hesitation in yelling incredibly offensive racial slants, or even spitting at the Indigenous players. I didn’t know any better, and at times got carried along by the herd mentality.

Astonishingly, this all changed in less than 10 years. First Nicky Winmar Nicky Winmar took a stand against the One-Eyed-C**ts at Victoria Park. Then Michael Long took Damien Monkhurst to AFL HQ and won, setting the ball rolling for the creation of a racial and religious vilification code. This effectively silenced on-field racial abuse to little more than a whisper. But more importantly, this filtered through to the masses, who now treat Indigenous players with a special adoration. Watching the likes of Aaron Davey, Adam Goodes and North’s own Matty ‘Flash’ Campbell set crowds alight all over the country  fills my soul with pride and hope. It is, undoubtedly, the AFL’s greatest contribution to Australian society.

North’s Boys

Arocca points out that North’s contribution may be the as significant as any Victorian-based club (based on the number of senior games Indigenous boys have played for North).  My first memory of North is watching the Krakouer brothers bring a touch of brilliance to Victoria in the 80s – something which all VFL/AFL clubs envied, setting in motion recruiters’ fascination with Indigenous players. (Interestingly enough, the Krakouer’s ancestry dates back to a Theodore Krakouer, a Polish Jew from Krakow!)

Here’s the honour roll of Indigenous players’ at North:

  • Percy Johnson – 1951-55, 52 games, 4 goals
  • Bert Johnson – 1965-68, 31 games, 5 goals
  • Barry Cable – 1970, 1974-77, 115 games, 133 goals
  • Jimmy Krakouer – 1982-89, 134 games, 229 goals (also played for Claremont and St Kilda)
  • Phil Krakouer- 1982-89, 141 games, 224 goals (Claremont, Footscray)
  • Andrew Krakouer – 1989-90, 8 games, 1 goal
  • Derek Kickett – 1989, 12 games, 12 goals (Essendon, Sydney)
  • Adrian McAdam – 1993-95, 36 games, 92 goals
  • Warren Campbell – 1994-95, 19 games, 17 goals
  • Byron Pickett – 1997-2002, 120 games, 81 goals (Port Adelaide, Melbourne)
  • Winston Abraham – 1998-2001, 72 games, 102 goals (Fremantle)
  • Gary Dhurrkay –  1999-2000, 21 games, 20 goals (Fremantle)
  • Shannon Motlop – 1999-2003, 54 games, 31 goals (Melbourne)
  • Daniel Motlop – 2001-05, 47 games, 53 goals (Port Adelaide)
  • Daniel Wells – 2003 – , 123 games, 66 goals
  • Eddie Sansbury – 2004-08, 40 games, 21 goals
  • Djaran Whyman – 2006-07, 5 games, 5 goals
  • Matthew Campbell – 2007 – , 35 games, 42 goals
  • Lindsay Thomas – 2007 – , 35 games, 42 goals (uncanny similarity with Matty Campbell!)

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