The annual Indigenous players camp, aimed at bringing together Indigenous players from across the game to focus on the importance of Aboriginal culture, history and the current challenges, has been received strong support from attendees.
Rabbitohs fullback Greg Inglis said the camps are all about building bonds between the senior players and younger players.
“When you come into camp it’s not all about who you are or the achievements you’ve got in the game, it’s about bringing each other together and making sure that we all go back to our clubs and knowing that we’ve got the support of each other,” he said.
Newcastle’s Timana Tahu said the camp is all about cultural awareness and getting some education from people like NSW Labor MP Linda Burney, who was the first Indigenous NSW MP.
“They were our old leaders back in the past, they’re powerful people and their stories are really interesting, it gets you feeling good about yourself,” Tahu said.
Eels half Luke Kelly said it had been good to catch up with Indigenous players from other clubs.
“Guys like Greg [Inglis], Timana [Tahu], Willie Tonga, they’ve done it all in the game, they haven’t forgotten about who they are and where they come from and I think that’s something that’s really big, especially for Aboriginal people - where you come from is very important to us and these guys are living proof of that. The way they conduct themselves is not only a credit to themselves but Aboriginal people in general.”
NRL welfare and education officer Dean Widders said the camp was aimed at making the players feel more comfortable in their own skin about their indigenous heritage, and to teach them a little bit about their history.
“Knowing where they’re from, knowing what they represent, it gives them strength and motivation to realise their roles as mentors and role models for our people,” Widders said.
“Hopefully it means they go back and they behave better in their clubs, they play better, they train harder, and they also think a bit more about putting more into their life and doing more for our community and putting better pathways into the game for indigenous people.”
During the camp the players also took time out for a touch football match and were taught the first stages of a war cry by Stephen Page, the Artistic Director of the Bangarra Dance Theatre.