Northern NSW Football’s Indigenous Round got underway yesterday and will continue across this weekend as the zone celebrates and recognises the contributions of First Nations members of the football community.
With a deep commitment to diversity and inclusion, Indigenous Round provides an opportunity to recognise the history, culture and achievements of First Nations participants.
One of the significant features of the Northern Inland area is the large Indigenous population and strong connection to the land, which will be represented on the field across the weekend.
NNSWF Female Participation and Inclusion Officer Nat Boyd said she looked forward to another successful Indigenous Round this weekend.
“Indigenous Round is a fantastic opportunity to recognise and celebrate diversity within our football community,” Nat said.
“Special rounds such as this allow clubs to engage with their community on important issues.”
Three Northern Inland Premier League clubs – Oxley Vale Attunga, South United FC and Moore Creek FC – will all celebrate the round in style as they pull on Indigenous-inspired kits today.
2023 is OVA’s second year playing in Indigenous strips after they did so in 2022. This season’s Indigenous Round playing shirts have been designed by Phoebe Little, a Kamilaroi, Gomeroi, Gamilaraay high school student from Tamworth. The talented 17-year-old artist had previously created inspiring designs for other clothing items, including her school’s Year 12 jerseys, and was asked by a friend who is a former OVA player to create a design for the club’s jerseys for this weekend.
A local football player herself with North Companions, Phoebe was intrigued by the challenge and opportunity of creating a jersey design for a local club for Indigenous Round and said that she was proud of what she had created.
“I submitted three designs, and the inspiration behind them is my own connection to football, how clubs in Tamworth are really connected with Indigenous culture, and how they allow our culture to shine through football. I’m pretty proud of it,” Phoebe said.
Phoebe was also the winner of NNSWF’s 2023 NAIDOC Cup Jersey Competition, and her design will feature on the official team strip for the NNSWF NAIDOC Cup teams that will play at Valentine Sports Park in Glenwood, Sydney this week. A different design to the OVA jersey, the NAIDOC Cup design was inspired by this year’s theme of ‘For our Elders’.
“It was an amazing feeling. I was actually in at work and when I opened the email to say that I had won, honestly, I screamed. I couldn’t stop smiling all day,” Phoebe said of winning the competition.
“I had a different approach for that one. As this year’s theme is ‘For our Elders’, I wanted to showcase more about our elders, and the inspiration behind it was our culture’s roots. One of our big beliefs in our culture is that once we die, we always will return to Mother Nature. So, there’s a lot of connections to pathways and that represents the tribes in Australia. There are two elders on the back that I sketched, and they resemble this year’s theme.”
The Tamworth artist said that it would be an “amazing” feeling to see football players take the field and play the game in strips that feature her designs.
“One of my goals was to try and get myself out there more and express myself more through my art, and it’s amazing to see that so many teams will be wearing both designs. It makes me feel really good about myself,” Phoebe said.
OVA will run out onto the field today in the Northern Inland Premier League in the Indigenous Round jerseys that include Phoebe’s designs at Marius Street No 2 against her club, North Companions, and seven junior teams will also line up wearing them this morning as well as the women’s players today.
The club’s coaching coordinator and senior player Sam Higgins said that Indigenous round was a great initiative, and his club could not wait to get out on the park in a kit that celebrates and recognises the contributions of First Nations members of the local community.
“It’s very important to us. Just generally, our area has a high population of Indigenous kids out there and we really want to represent that part of our community and the roots of it,” he said.
“We actually had initiated last year we were going to do an Indigenous jersey prior to it being announced as a formal round by NNSWF. It was something we were doing off our own bat early last year. It’s something we are keen on and are really eager to do.
“This year, we’ll have a full kit, including shorts and socks. They are a great look, and there’s that really special meaning behind it.
“It means a lot to people. I coach a little under-10s team and I’ve got three Indigenous players in our team. I see a big smile on their face, and they get really excited about it. It’s really special to that.
“We’ve all heard Phoebe’s message of the meaning behind the jerseys, and I think that adds so much more weight to it. We did a presentation last Sunday with Phoebe. She presented jerseys to a representative of the men’s, women’s and junior teams. She did a nice Welcome to Country as well and had a nice chat about the jerseys.”
OVA and Moore Creek were the only two teams to play in special Indigenous Round kits in 2022, and it actually lined up perfectly that they played against one another during that round. Higgins said it turned out really well and he described it as a great spectacle.
Moore Creek FC founder and co-coach Dean Hoy agreed and said his club were excited to wear an Indigenous Round jersey again today. The Mountain Goats take on South United at Riverside, a club that has gone a step further and has been wearing Indigenous-inspired jerseys all season.
Moore Creek will be playing in a jersey designed by Tamworth’s Renee Leigh and they are excited to run out in those jerseys after the success of last year’s Indigenous Round.
“It was really good last year. We have a few Indigenous players at our club and we wanted to celebrate their culture and where these guys are from,” Dean said.
“It’s also a really good way to bring the community together.
“It’s really good that South United are involved as well. It brings it together when everyone jumps on board and it makes it a bit more of a spectacle.
“We’ll have a chat about it before the game and what it should mean to the boys and what pride they should have in wearing these jerseys.”
Moore Creek’s opponents in the Northern Inland Premier League today are South United FC, a club that proudly displays an Indigenous design on its strips in 2023 in the senior men’s and women’s divisions and are excited to participate in Indigenous Round this weekend.
Mary-Anne Dieckmann is a committee member, women’s team representative and player at South United FC and being a local Indigenous lady herself, she said it was a special feeling to be able to line up each week in a jersey that showcases Aboriginal-inspired stories and artwork.
There are two designs at South United FC, the first of which is represented on all premier league, reserve grade, third grade, committee and club shirts. It was designed by Jodie Herden who is a local Gamilaraay Aboriginal artist in collaboration with Toni Ross, a South United FC committee member and Aboriginal woman. The other design is worn by the women’s team and is specifically a women’s design that was a collaboration with women’s members, Mary-Anne and Jodie, which has a specific story and meaning to the club’s women’s team and the league itself.
“All grades, including men’s premier league, reserve grade, third grade and women’s, wear strips with Aboriginal inspired stories and artwork,” Mary-Anne said.
“The idea came about after seeing the strips last year worn by other teams for NAIDOC week. I was personally happy and proud to see the other teams with Indigenous and non-Indigenous people wearing designs supporting and celebrating First Nations culture and peoples, and thought that with so many on our team, why not celebrate all year round.
“At South United Football Club, a significant portion of committee, players and associates of the club identify as being from Aboriginal, Torres Strait Islander, gender and other culturally diverse backgrounds, which is welcomed and celebrated inclusively within our club.
“The club has really welcomed and embraced the designs. New shirts included the designs as an option and so many members and players have opted to wear the designs. Everyone loves them and appreciates the meaning behind the artwork. There is a real connection and appreciation for culture and each other’s backgrounds.
“Myself and other Indigenous members feel appreciated and welcome. It’s a natural fit within the club and we are so proud to wear the new strips.
“We have already had a moment to acknowledge country and appreciate the meaning. We will be presenting jerseys to our artist in a few weeks’ time on the 29th. Uncle Neville Sampson will perform a welcome on that day before we kick off with men’s and women’s teams playing side by side.”