Being held over two rounds in 2021, the AFL’s Sir Doug Nicholls Round is shaping up to be a blockbuster event. This week, each club has dropped its Indigenous guernsey designed exclusively for the round.
Read on to learn about the artists and the stories behind the guernseys.
Designed by forward Ben Davis, Adelaide will celebrate Torres Strait Islander culture when they wear their 2021 Indigenous guernsey.
The guernsey features a dhoeri, a traditional head dress which is a significant part of Torres Strait Islander culture and represents Davis’ personal story of cultural discovery.
The guernsey honours the country on which Adelaide plays and trains, with a Kaurna shield prominently displayed and connected to the dhoeri.
Davis explained how this opportunity is one that will stay with him forever.
“I can’t even think about what it is going to feel like, but it will be a feeling that will stay with me for the rest of my life,” he said.
“It is one of the proudest moments of my life.”
Proud Gunditjmara man and triple premiership Lions hero, Chris Johnson, has designed this year’s Indigenous guernsey for the Brisbane Lions.
Johnson was the last of the Fitzroy Lions and the first of the Brisbane Lions, and he felt a responsibility to capture the histories of the two Clubs he loved and the many players who represented them, but that it was a “a huge honour.”
“I never had an opportunity to wear an Indigenous guernsey and there has never been a Fitzroy Indigenous guernsey, so this is really special to me,’’ he said.
“It was important to me that the FFC logo be in the middle and that the story of the guernsey circled around that, I wanted to do that for all the Fitzroy people.
“And given it is the 20th anniversary of the Lions first premiership I wanted to acknowledge the significant position that holds in our Club’s history also.’’
Spaced around the Fitzroy logo are representations of Brisbane’s premierships, and the seven red circles, each with four figures surrounding them, pays tribute to the 28 teammates who played in the grand final triumphs.
Carlton Football Club
Gunditjmara woman and Melbourne artist Laura Thompson, has designed this year’s Blues guernsey in consultation with Carlton’s seven current Indigenous players; Eddie Betts, Liam Jones, Jack Martin, Zac Williams, Sam Petrevski-Seton, Madison Prespakis and Natalie Plane.
The guernsey depicts each of the players’ mob names, celebrating and paying tribute to them by highlighting the diverse Aboriginal cultures among them.
The campfires on the shoulders of the jumper are a tribute to the entire Carlton family, signifying the broader playing group, staff, members, and supporters all uniting together and proud to be part of the Navy Blue.
Proud Kija man and Carlton leader Liam Jones said he was privileged to be involved in the design of the guernsey.
“It was a real honour to work with Laura and our six other Indigenous players to create this year’s guernsey, which we all feel a very strong connection to,” Jones said.
“To have been involved in the design process and have the guernsey be representative of who we are and where we have come from is very special.”
Proud Yorta Yorta and Gunnai man, Dixon Patten, designed this year’s guernsey for the Magpies.
“Magpies are very nurturing in nature and guide their young, and the roles of teachers, Elders or respected person(s) are important to Aboriginal communities and families,” he said.
“We learn, listen and adhere to the teachings of our old people. Our cultural practices teach us values that we learn through connecting to stories, song, land, people and community and it guides everything we do.”
“The magpies are flying onwards and upwards, with outstretched wings, reaching new heights and possibilities.
“There are gum leaves in the background pattern which represent cultural and personal growth. They meander like a river formation; signifying pathways and life’s journey. Gum leaves are significant to the Traditional Owners; the Wurundjeri of the Kulin Nation; whose land Collingwood is a part of.”
Dixon Patten has also designed the Bombers Dreamtime guernsey, with the artwork telling the story of Norm McDonald; the first Aboriginal player for Essendon who was a Gunditjmara man from the western region of Victoria.
“The patterns in the background pay homage to Gunditjmara Country, representing the eel traps and lake systems that allowed Gunditjmara to have abundance and prosper for millennia,” Patten said.
“One of the totems of the many clans is the red-tailed black cockatoo.
“The feathers represent people from all races, genders, religions and backgrounds, coming together for the love of the game and our diverse contributions to our community.
“The hands represent the Ancestors guiding us on our journey.”
The Bombers’ guernsey will be worn during the 16th annual Dreamtime at the ‘G match against Richmond on Saturday June 5.
The 2021 jumper combines the heritage of Headland and Morrison, highlights some proud aspects of the Club’s history and acknowledges the tragic loss of at least 373 Aboriginal men at the Wadjemup/Rottnest Island prison camp between 1838 and 1931.
The front of the jumper tells the stories of Headland and Morrison’s families down both sides of the jumper, with the main design feature showing clapping sticks and two no.7 boomerangs to make the shape of the anchor on the jumper that Headland wore in his playing days.
The back of the jumper shows a map of Wadjemup/Rottnest Island above a silhouette of a pre-game photo taken taken by former board member Les Everett in 2003.
Headland said he was incredibly proud to have the opportunity to work with Morrison, his niece, and Bynder, his first cousin.
“We’ve had a lot of great champions of past Aboriginal players that have played at Fremantle, and that’s the best thing about Fremantle, we’ve always had a great representation of culture around this club,” Headland said.
Wadawurrung woman Corrina Eccles designed the guernsey for the AFLW Indigenous Round in February which will also be worn in the upcoming Sir Doug Nicholls Round.
“I wanted to tell the story of Wadawurrung Country, the story of Djilang, and take people back on a journey to what the country was like prior to how we see the built environment today,” Eccles said.
“In the design I have the Kardiniyoo, the sunrise taking place and the two teams coming together to play what we call Marngrook. The Barwon River is a place that our eels would travel down. The eels then meet on our coast, our saltwater Country.”
“Then we have our mountain Country, our big hills and Bunjil. Bunjil watches over this Country he created, he will often fly over the stadium, watching over Country and the river.”
Gold Coast Suns
This year’s jumper is a collaborative design by Yugambeh artist Luther Cora and Larrakia artist Trent Lee.
The art is a representation of both Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and a clear relationship to Country and the connection between Larrakia and Yugambeh.
“I love the design I did — it was about community, different mobs coming together, Reconciliation and also a celebration for the club,” Cora said.
The guernsey features two sea turtles, one on the front representing the Larrakia people and Darwin, and one on the back representing the Yugambeh people and the Gold Coast.
“It’s an honour for me to be able to be a part of the design process and just to be able to express myself and represent our people here in Darwin,” Lee said.
“I’m really excited to see the players wearing the guernsey and it’s really special to have Darwin included on this year’s guernsey.”
The names of all 17 Indigenous and Torres Strait Islander players that have represented the Gold Coast Suns are also displayed on the back of the guernsey.
Whadjuk-Ballardong Noongar man Bobby Hill has designed the Giants’ Indigenous jumper; the young forward has included the totems of Hill, Jeremey Finlayson and former teammate Zac Williams.
The team first wore the jumper in Sir Doug Nicholls Round last year and the boys are looking forward to wearing it again on Saturday night.
This round will bring extra significance for Finlayson this year, as the Giants forward recently learned he is related to Sir Doug Nicholls.
“I ring Dad’s cousin once a week, two times a week and get information off him, but for him to tell me that I’m related to Sir Doug Nicholls, I still can’t get over it. But there is so much more information,” Finlayson said.
Proud Nyarinyin, Pitjantjantjara and Yankuntjantjara woman Justine Ronberg designed the 2020/21 Indigenous jumper after winning a school competition in early 2019.
Her work was selected by Hawthorn Indigenous players Chad Wingard, Shaun Burgoyne, Jarman Impey and Mathew Walker, who felt a strong connection to the stories represented in her design.
The design features footprints signifying the journey players embark on to achieve their AFL dreams and a layer embodying the wider brown and gold family, members and supporters.
It tells a story of deep connection, with the community at the core. The guernsey also recognises the impact every person has on the club and its surrounds.
Melbourne will be unable to wear the guernsey to open Sir Doug Nicholls Round, due to a jumper clash with the Western Bulldogs, but they will pull on the jumper for Round 12.
Yamatji Martu woman Emma Macneill was inspired to design the Kangroos’ Indigenous jumper from the players — Jy Simpkin, Jed Anderson, Tarryn Thomas, Kyron Hayden, and endorsed by Phoenix Spicer and Matt McGuinness.
‘Our Mob’ represents the proud Indigenous men and women of the North Melbourne Football Club, who are currently walking the footsteps paved by previous legends of the game.
“The large kangaroo in the centre, standing strong, represents the men in the club’s playing group, the men in our lives and the men who have supported the club for many generations,” Macneill said.
“On either side of the boomer are our female Roos, our trailblazers; the women who are our pillars of courage and represent the progressive nature of our great club.
“The circle in the centre collectively represents our club; the people who have built it, the families that fill it, our players who represent it, our supporters that carry it.”
PAFC has been granted the go-ahead by artist Elle Campbell to use her design, after her artwork was wrongfully used earlier in the week by a school student claiming the design as her own.
Campbell took to social media to address the situation and wanted only recognition for her work and for the rightful story to be shared behind it.
“I’m glad it’s all worked out, it’s going to mean quite a big deal to see my design out on the field and all my family will be there with me,” Campbell said.
“I’ve always loved the Sir Doug Nicholls Round. I’ve always loved going online and seeing all the guernseys that come out.
“Looking at all the Indigenous designs, I think it’s just an awesome aspect of the game to be able to celebrate Indigenous culture.”
Designed by Arrernte and Luritja woman Michelle Kerrin (Korin Gamadji Institute Program Lead), in conjunction with Arrernte man Shane Edwards and Jack Riewoldt, the jumper tells the players’ story since arriving at Richmond together in November 2006.
The yellow sash has been transformed into a gum leaf, symbolising a pre-game ritual Riewoldt picked up in his early Dreamtime games where he would place the leaf handed to him by Wurundjeri Elder Aunty Joy Murphy into his sock.
The leaf sash is split into two sides, with the white side representing Riewoldt’s story throughout his time at the Club and his learnings of Indigenous communities.
The orange/brown side represents Edwards’ journey, it starts with the rain of a heavy head and clears with the sun coming out, depicting the clarity of learning more about his Indigeneity.
Designed by proud Noongar man and Saints legend Nicky Winmar, the jumper was inspired by Winmar’s famous stance against racism in 1993 at Victoria Park.
Winmar’s family totem, the willie wagtail, features on the front of the jumper to represent both of his parents, alongside a silhouette of his iconic ‘I’m Black and I’m Proud’ pose from that defining day at Victoria Park in 1993.
The stencils on the back of the guernsey feature Nicky’s very own hand, and they represent teamwork and demonstrate his eternal connection to the Club and its current group of players.
“Wearing Nicky’s Indigenous Guernsey over the two weeks of Sir Doug Nicholls Round is just one way in acknowledging and celebrating Indigenous culture, but there’s far more that needs to happen,” said St Kilda chief executive Matt Finnis.
“With ‘Legacy’ the theme of this year’s Sir Doug Nicholls Indigenous Round, there can’t be a better symbol to rally behind as we continue our journey towards Reconciliation.”
The Swans Marn Grook Indigenous guernsey tells the story of the black swan Guunyu, designed by artist Cheryl Davison.
Davison has spoken about the story of Guunyu before for the Swans, who have worn the jumper since she designed it in 2018. Read the story of the black swan Guunyu here.
West Coast Eagles
Yamatji and Nyoongar man Daryl Bellotti designed this year’s Indigenous guernsey which he explains “depicts the Waugul (Rainbow Serpent) as it travels the land and watches over the West Coast Eagles journey to the Grand Final at the MCG”.
“To Nyoongar people, the Waugul is widely regarded and is known as the Creator Spirit and in the Dreaming, what Nyoongar call the Nyitting, only Spirit beings inhabited the land.
“It was the Spirits that gave the world form and meaning. One of these Spirits was the Waugul.”
“It is said that the Waugul journeyed from the east, creating valleys and hills with its body as it travelled.”
“Water gathered in its tracks, creating the creeks and rivers, and the Derbal Yerrigan, otherwise known as the Swan River, where the new stadium is located.
“The white circles and lines represent the journey of the club, and the yellow lines represent the interconnecting pathways and songlines throughout the land.
“The blue patterns represent the land being pushed aside as the Waugul travels.”
Reflections of family history for former Western Bulldogs player Lindsay Gilbee, and the Boandik people of Mt Gambier, feature on the design of the Club’s 2021 Indigenous guernsey.
“On the front of the guernsey, the middle of the design features the Blue Lake (Waawar), with people gathering along its banks,” Gilbee said.
“Below that are footsteps of the Traditional Owners, as they move across waterholes gathering fresh water from the beautiful limestone coast.
“The three gum leaves represent connection to Country, while the boomerangs and spears symbolise traditional hunting practices with kangaroo, emu and goanna tracks.
“The back of the guernsey depicts three meeting places, which represent Lindsay’s family, community and the Club. The possum footprints represent Lindsay’s totem, with gum leaves.”
The Sir Doug Nicholls Round will kick off this Friday when the Bulldogs play the Demons at Marvel Stadium.
By Teisha Cloos