Round 12 is a special point in the NRL calendar, as Eels utility Will Smith knows too well.
It’s Indigenous Round.
“It just makes me very proud to be an Indigenous man. It’s one of those weekends where we get to celebrate our culture,” he said.
The Parramatta Eels will play the Bulldogs wearing specially designed jerseys by Aboriginal artist Danielle Mate Sullivan, with input from Will.
“The artwork is called connection so it’s about a connection between the past and the present,” Danielle said.
“I’m absolutely rapt with it. The colours are so intense and there’s so much to look at on it.”
Eels' "pride" in 2020 Indigenous Jersey
One of the more special features on the jersey is on the back.
“My favourite (part) would be just down the back there, there’s four hands. Two of the hands are my two kids of two of the hands are Fergo’s two kids. I think it’s just a great touch, they’ll love that,” Will said.
“My kids are very proud to be Indigenous. My daughter goes to a school here in Parramatta and she is the only Indigenous kid at the whole school and she is very proud to tell everyone at the school that she is Indigenous,” he said.
The large circle on the front of the jersey represents the meeting place for the players/warriors of the game, while the line to the top is a journey line to the players’ homelands.
The smaller circles are a nod to communities the Eels visit and work with.
“The past is represented by the warrior and the Parramatta River. The Burramattagal people, who are a clan of the Darug, have a connection to this river where they ﬁrst settled and caught ﬁsh, eels and other sources of food,” Danielle said.
Colours from the Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islander Flags feature on the sides of the jersey.
“I can’t wait to see all the players with the jersey on run out onto the field ... That will be a really proud moment,” Danielle said.
“For an organisation as big as the NRL to acknowledge and to celebrate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture is huge,” she said.
Blake hopes the Round will not only bring Indigenous culture to the forefront, but also prompt important conversations.
“Everyone’s equal, everyone bleeds the same, so just hopefully we can get that across the board and get that local knowledge into everyone about elders past, present and future. There are conversations to be had,” he said.