Dubbo's Joe Williams proud to see NRL Indigenous round recognition

HERITAGE ON SHOW: Wellington product Brent Naden helped design the Penrith Panthers' Indigenous jersey for this weekend. Photo: PENRITH PANTHERS

HERITAGE ON SHOW: Wellington product Brent Naden helped design the Penrith Panthers' Indigenous jersey for this weekend. Photo: PENRITH PANTHERS

When the Penrith Panthers run out this weekend it will be that little more special than usual for Brent Naden.

Round 12 of the NRL is the annual Indigenous round with all clubs were specially designed jerseys for the occasion.

Wellington junior Naden helped design the Panthers jersey for Saturday's meeting with Manly.

The jersey includes totems recognising the club's Indigenous players, with goanna featuring prominently in a nod to Naden's Wiraduri heritage.

The same will be on Newcastle's jersey as Dubbo-born Connor Watson played a role in that design.

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The Indigenous round has taken on more and more significance in recent times and Joe Williams, a former NRL player based in Dubbo who has long been a proud advocate of his heritage, is proud to see that.

"More than it being a reflection of the NRL I think it's a reflection of society and the entire country is moving towards a better place as far as first nation representation and there's recognition around the attributes First Nation players bring to the game," he said.

"This isn't something new. It's [Arthur] Beetson, Cliffy Lyons and it's all these players who have been brilliant rugby league players and brilliant Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander representatives of their communities and it's a real reflection of how the country is moving at the moment."

Seeing the jerseys feature so many communities and nations is something Williams has also been pleased to see.

The Panthers jersey alone recognises Wiradjuri, Kamilaroi, and Bundjalung/Yaegl as well as the Darug land where club's stadium stands.

"We are made up of 500 plus separate nations so it's great to highlight that," Williams, who played for the Rabbitohs, Panthers, and Bulldogs in his career, said.

"Rugby league and the NRL have a fantastic reach and the ability to educate the masses."

The jerseys are not only recognition but also inspiration.

Williams pointed to the moment Latrell Mitchell was pictured draped in the Aboriginal flag in the NRL season launch video as something similar.

That image caused uproar in some parts of the community but Williams and many others saw something bigger.

"When Aboriginal kids saw that flag or something that signifies their individual nation they feel represented," he said.

"They are representing me and it's a visual representation of Aboriginal people and their individual nations and I think that's brilliant."

The NRL's Indigenous round starts on Thursday night when the St George Illawarra Dragons take on South Sydney.

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