The Illawarra Hawks have turned a push into a shove as several of the game’s best players call for a National Basketball League (NBL) Indigenous round.
The Hawks donned a special edition Indigenous jersey in their match against the Sydney Kings last weekend.
The match didn’t go the hosts’ way but the jersey has had an impact, garnering attention in the USA with San Antonio Spurs star Patty Mills praising the Hawks’ hard work.
Mills stepped in on Twitter to ensure the Illawarra Club received credit for the jersey and work behind the scenes.
The NBL’s original press release was titled ‘NBL to celebrate Indigenous history’ but it has since been changed to ‘Hawks unveil first ever Indigenous jersey.’
Mills noticed the headline and questioned it on Twitter: “NBL to celebrate Indigenous history”??? Just to clarify, this is @illawarrahawks initiative and they are super proud of it.”
The Hawks sent Mills and Cairns Taipans star Nate Jawai replicas of the jersey.
Mills is part of a larger push to instigate an Indigenous round in the NBL.
“As a sport in Australia, it is time to provide recognition and have a significant role in the process to educate because it’s Australian history and we have the power to make a positive impact on communities and generations to come. It’s basketball’s turn,” Mills said.
After the Hawks’ loss to the Kings, Sydney coach Andrew Gaze spilled over with passion while discussing the Hawks’ initiative.
“I love it. I absolutely love it,” Gaze said.
“If you can provide recognition to the Indigenous plight, it is a privilege of playing the game that we can be part of the process to educate.
“We as players, if we can educate ourselves just a little bit on some of the challenges that … we should be very very concerned about, to say we as a nation need to do better.”
The NBL is yet to respond to the calls for a competition-wide Indigenous round.
The jersey was designed by University of Wollongong student Harry Pitt who interpreted the work of Aboriginal Artist Glen Southerland, titled Life’s Journey.
The Illawarra Aboriginal Medical Service worked with the Hawks to pull the project together over the last six months.
The jersey symbolises the work the Club has been doing to encourage Indigenous children in the Illawarra to attend school, and for parents to invest in their kid’s health and education.
The players’ jerseys will be sold to support the initiative. The Hawks will also sell jersey #67 in recognition of the 1967 referendum in which Australians voted overwhelmingly to amend the Constitution to allow the Commonwealth to make laws for Aboriginal people and include them in the census.
By Keiran Deck