Brought to you by Newscorp Australia

AFL and NRL celebrate Indigenous links

Kamahl Cogdon, May 25, 2021 6:00PM Kids News

Print Article

Richmond player Sydney Stack leads a traditional dance at the pre-match ceremony of the Dreamtime at the G match in 2019. Picture: AAP Image media_cameraRichmond player Sydney Stack leads a traditional dance at the pre-match ceremony of the Dreamtime at the G match in 2019. Picture: AAP Image

indigenous news

Reading level: green

Warning: This story contains images of Indigenous Australians who have died

The history, culture and achievements of our First Nations peoples will be in the sporting spotlight this week as the AFL and NRL kick off their Indigenous rounds.

Specially designed Indigenous shirts and pre-match ceremonies will be part of the celebrations, which aim to highlight the contributions made by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander players and their communities.


The Indigenous designs worn by the teams from both football codes are a highlight of the Indigenous rounds each year.

The team shirts feature Indigenous art that represents the stories and culture of various Indigenous groups from around Australia

Each club has its own design, created by Indigenous artists. Take a look at some of this year’s designs.


The NRL Indigenous Round, round 12 of the season, kicks off with a match between the Brisbane Broncos and Melbourne Storm on Thursday, May 27.

The following night, the Western Bulldogs take on Melbourne in the first match of the AFL Indigenous round, which is known as the Sir Doug Nicholls Round.

The Sir Doug Nicholls Round will run across two weekends this year, with the “Dreamtime at the G” match between Essendon and Richmond the traditional highlight.

The annual Dreamtime match between the Bombers and Tigers began in 2005 and has become one of the most significant* matches on the AFL calendar.

Its success led to the AFL introducing a dedicated* Indigenous round in 2007 and this became the Sir Doug Nicholls Round from 2016.

Swans v North Melbourne media_cameraA welcome to country ceremony is held ahead of AFL’s Sir Doug Nicholls Round match between the Sydney Swans and North Melbourne at the SCG in 2016. Picture: Phil Hillyard

The Dreamtime match usually follows another recent tradition, The Long Walk. This event is named after Essendon champion Michael Long, who in 2004 walked from Melbourne to Canberra to talk to the Prime Minister of the time, John Howard, about the challenges faced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

The Long Walk sees thousands of people walk 1km from Federation Square in Melbourne to the MCG, arriving just before the Dreamtime match in a show of support for reconciliation*.

Prime Minister media_cameraMichael Long leads The Long Walk to the MCG for the Dreamtime at the G match in 2017. Picture: Andrew Henshaw

Last year, the Dreamtime match was played in the Northern Territory because of COVID-19 outbreaks in Melbourne.

This year, the match was scheduled to return to the MCG but had to be switched to Perth at the last minute because of another Covid-19 outbreak in Melbourne.

Two other games — Gold Coast versus Hawthorn and Melbourne versus Brisbane Lions — were supposed to be played in Darwin and Alice Springs but also had to be changed when the Northern Territory closed its border to people from Victoria.

The NRL is taking its Indigenous Round around the country this year, with matches in Sydney, Townsville, Brisbane, Perth, Newcastle and Coffs Harbour.

Essendon v Richmond media_cameraA traditional smoking ceremony is done before the Dreamtime match at the MCG in 2018. Picture: Michael Klein


The AFL and NRL have many star Indigenous players in their line-ups today, including the AFL’s Lance “Buddy” Franklin from the Sydney Swans and the NRL’s Cody Walker from the South Sydney Rabbitohs.

Special media_cameraSydney Swans star Lance Franklin has inspired a generation of Indigenous kids, including Daniel, Jakequan, Emakhi, Darius, Rocco and Daesean. Picture. Phil Hillyard
NRL Rd 6 - Rabbitohs v Wests Tigers media_cameraCody Walker is one of the NRL’s Indigenous superstars. Picture: Getty Images

Hawthorn’s Shaun Burgoyne is the games record holder for Indigenous players in the AFL, with 395 games. He’s also on track to become the first Aboriginal player to play 400 games.

The AFL had 87 Indigenous male players and 22 Indigenous female players in 2020, while the NRL had more than 60 male and female Indigenous players that year.

AFL Rd 13 - Port Adelaide v Hawthorn media_cameraHawk Shaun Burgoyne is this year expected to become the first Indigenous player to notch 400 games. Picture: AFL Photos/Getty Images


Sir Doug Nicholls was a Yorta Yorta* man who was not only a standout Australian rules footballer, but also a tireless worker for Indigenous people.

Sir Doug played for Northcote in the VFA and went on to play 54 games for Fitzroy in the VFL.

NWN Library media_cameraSir Doug Nicholls with his wife Lady Gladys.

A brilliant all-round athlete, he also became the first Aboriginal player to be selected for an interstate Victorian team in 1935.

After his football career, Sir Doug worked to promote Aboriginal rights and welfare, and became a church pastor.

The father of five received many honours for his work, including in 1972 becoming the first Indigenous person to be knighted*.

He became Governor of South Australia in 1976 and died in 1988, at the age of 81.


  • significant: of great importance and worthy of attention
  • dedicated: meant for a particular purpose
  • reconciliation: the strengthening of the relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians by recognising past events and improving equality
  • Yorta Yorta: the group of Aboriginal people who traditionally lived near the Goulburn and Murray rivers in northern Victoria and into southern NSW
  • knighted: an honour given by the Queen to a man for his achievements or service to his country


Australia’s Olympic Games uniforms unveiled

New push to change Australian anthem lyrics

Indigenous design first for our men’s cricket team

The day the flag was missing from the big game


  1. What do footballers wearing during Indigenous round matches?
  2. What is the match between Essendon and Richmond called?
  3. Where is this match played?
  4. Who is the AFL Indigenous round now named after?
  5. How many male and female Indigenous players were part of the NRL in 2020?


1. Design your own school Indigenous shirt
The AFL and NRL Indigenous rounds are a great way to celebrate our First Nations peoples and their culture. Design your own school shirt to recognise the Indigenous people from the land upon which your school is built, that could be worn on school sports days or special events.

Time: allow 30 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: Visual Arts, History

2. Extension
Who is your favourite Indigenous footballer? Write up a fact file on this player, where they came from, and what they contribute to the game.

Time: allow 20 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English, Health and Physical education

I Spy Nouns
Nouns are places, names (of people and objects), and time (months or days of the week).

How many nouns can you find in the article? Can you sort them into places, names and time?

Pick three nouns and add an adjective (describing word) to the nouns.

Extra Reading in indigenous news