Rugby League All Star Game

Like many others I am eagerly anticipating kick-off in tonight’s Rugby League All Stars game at Skilled Park Stadium.

Having grown up on Rugby League, the greatest game of all, tonight holds the answer to a question that has for years flirted with the minds of many Indigenous league fans. “Just how would we go if we rounded up all the best black fullas in the league and put them up against the rest?”

In some minds questions emerge about the value of such a game, particularly around whether or not such a concept does more to create division than unity. Such anxiety must surely be countered by the overwhelming positive opportunities destined to come from this.

Tonight’s match creates an opportunity to showcase Indigenous excellence in a way that is much needed. For many Australians it seems that notions of hopelessness and despair are more synonymous with Indigenous rather than excellence. This does not always have to be the case. We should all be impressed by the efforts individuals like Preston Campbell, Jonathon Thurston, Carl Webb, Scott Prince and the rest of the Indigenous team. Sometimes it is hard going, living in a society where negative perceptions can be so prolific, to the extent that the negative stereotype of Indigenous people can actually appear as some kind of ‘truth’.

Imagine for a moment an Aboriginal child in school, doing his best to be a good student. He does not want to be typecast, like many other Aboriginal children, as a trouble maker and so he might muster all of his strength to ignore other kids teasing him and calling him a ‘black coon’. What is frustrating here is that while he might ignore such teasing 49 times, on the 50th time he has had enough and lashes out to punch someone, those watching on can easily say “You see. They are trouble makers!” It takes incredible strength and resilience to rise above such perceptions. Sometimes it seems easier to just succumb to them.

This is not to say the problem of stereotyping of Indigenous people resides only with white Australians. In many ways we have been our own worst enemy in terms of negatively stereotyping ourselves. I am certain that all of the Indigenous players running on the field tonight will have someone from their own people suggest that they were trying to be too flash, or up town, or like some ‘coconut’, black on the outside and white on the inside, as if it was only white people who could mix it and play in an elite arena.

For me this is what makes their efforts so commendable. Their white Australian team mates and colleagues have worked extremely hard to play at an elite level. Indigenous players in the NRL, and AFL, have had to put in the same effort. In addition though, they have had to put in something extra in order to triumph above the weight of those negative perceptions at play from both white Australia and Indigenous Australia.

It is really great to know that we can make the time to celebrate Indigenous excellence in the NRL, and in Australia. In doing so we must understand that celebrating Indigenous excellence has never been about putting white Australia down, but standing alongside each other at the highest levels. Only good things can come from celebrating Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander excellence. It truly does exist; in the NRL and throughout Australia.

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5 Responses

  1. Excellent and so true!

  2. Chris,
    Excellent article. Covers the field for all murries who have ever strived to achieve excellence. The subject of our being our own worst enemies resonates with any of us who have had a go and tried to ignore the bs from both sides because we see the benefit to our kids and future generations. The most hurtful is “trying to be white”. Nine of us travelled from Cairns to GC for game. It brought tears to my eyes seeing our mob doing shake-a-leg after Dell scored. Beating them at their own game proved what we have all known for many years. We have the talent in any area, we just need access and opportunity.
    Regards
    Kevin Wone – Murrie Accountant(B. Bus. Dip T.)

  3. god job… nice onfo

  4. Marvelous blog! I’ll probably be referencing some of this info in my next assignment.

  5. Hi
    My name is Corrina, 40 something, 4 kids- girls aged 20, 18,15 and a footie mad boy Nick 11. We purchased tickets on line early. We live on the coast and as my 2 oldest are very sporty (rep QLd and Aust) they said ” The best 2 teams are going to play at our back door , Let’s Go”
    Pretty amazing experience for my family to share really. We were a part of history and we all took different feelings away. Myself, I was surprised how emotional I was with the ceremony. I saw the young and elders together in almost prayer, some with tears. And as a “whitie” I thought finally the “sorry” seemed genuine and acknowledgement of the “original land owners” was sincere. Was it because it was on an even playing field, the timing, the universal support?
    Finally, the kids and I got to experience for a small moment what it was to be a minority in a large crowd, totally based on the colour of your skin. Here are my honest feelings: shy,awkward,unsettled,not at home. Oh I thought I was the caring open teacher aide with years of experience and empathy but this was life changing. How ? I don’t know maybe More respect. The kids summed it up best with one observation. They love their footy Mum, why don’t they come to more games? Their assumption was ;money and not feeling welcome cos not all of their mates can come. Interesting still a long way to go.

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