Learn. Earn. Legend! Indigenous All Stars coach Laurie Daley has taken just one night to establish a tradition that is destined to remain a key part of the Harvey Norman Rugby League All Stars.
For veterans like Gorden Tallis, Wendell Sailor, Daley, Ron Gibbs, Cliff Lyons and Steve Renouf, it was one of the most emotional evenings of their careers.
For the current Learn. Earn. Legend! Indigenous All Stars it was an inspiring call to arms as prominent Indigenous leaders including sporting champions Evonne Goolagong Cawley, Kyle Vander Kuyp, Patrick Johnson; educators Dr Chris Sarra and Mary Graham; medical professionals Dr Ngaire Brown and Dr Kelvin Gordon; entertainers Christine Anu and political and community leaders Linda Burney, Professor Mick Dodson and Josephine Bourne put their support behind the team.
Performers from the Aboriginal Centre for the Performing Arts and Deadly Award winning musical act Busby Marou provided the entertainment and will each perform at this week’s Bumehla Festival at Broadwater Parklands and at Skilled Park in the lead-up to the All Stars match.
Two-time Wimbledon champion and one of Australia’s most loved sporting personalities of any era, Evonne Goolagong Cawley, shared her inspirational story of once dreaming of “a place called Wimbledon” while hitting a ball against the wall with a piece of fruitbox in the tiny town of Barellan.
She talked of how people of the town chipped in to fund her trip to Sydney and of the simple domestic challenges of arriving in the city, seeing a tea bag for the first time and "trying to get the tea leaves out".
“I wanted the players to meet these people and to hear their stories,” Daley said.
“I wanted them to understand what they can achieve and the impact they can have in Indigenous communities.
“It is the opportunity to make a difference, to positively influence the lives of Indigenous Australians and that is what I wanted to explore.”
Just as Goolagong Cawley is today placing her focus on developing Indigenous tennis talent, the Learn. Earn. Legend! Indigenous All Stars are this week involved in an Indigenous Youth Summit, an Indigenous Employment Expo and a two-day free public festival and Daley is keen that they establish a long-term legacy.
“The commitment these players have shown over the camp has been a real credit to them,” he said.
NRL Chief Executive David Gallop said that the All Stars was destined to remain a key feature of each rugby league season and a powerful recognition of rugby league’s Indigenous athletes.
“The people who attended the dinner are recognised nationally and internationally for promoting Indigenous culture and for providing inspiration to Indigenous communities,” Gallop said.
“It’s a credit to Laurie that he wanted his players to meet with these leaders and to understand the ways in which they can play leadership roles themselves.”
The Australian Rugby League Indigenous Council Chairman William "Smiley" Johnstone, said the dinner provided an important reminder as Australia approached the third anniversary of the Federal Government’s National Apology to the Stolen Generations, this Sunday.
“Their presence last night was a strong reminder to the Indigenous All Stars players that there are no boundaries to what can be achieved for Indigenous communities and in the lives of individuals,” he said.