Why Indigenous Round matters
Arthur Beetson. Ricky Walford. Steve Renouf. Ronnie Gibbs. Cliffy Lyons.
Growing up as an Indigenous kid in Cairns who loved his rugby league, these were my heroes and the people who I idolised but it probably wasn't until later in my career that I began to fully understand the power we had as athletes to influence young people for the better.
You knew that young kids, both Indigenous and non-Indigenous, looked up to you as a footy player but probably not to the extent that you realise once you're out of the game when you can get a clear picture of what impact you do have.
I now see my son and how much he loves watching rugby league and watching Uncle GI running around the football field and it gives you a really clear vision of how much these kids idolise their sports heroes.
When I think about the responsibility of setting a good example for Indigenous kids I think about those players who came before us and paved the way for people such as myself to make a career out of playing rugby league.
The expectation to inspire the next generation and generation after that to play rugby league and make sure that their pathway is a lot easier than even what we had is massive.
Since I began working with the Beyond the Broncos program and the travel that I do around Queensland I have noticed the confidence that our young Indigenous people now have to speak up and to attack anything that they want to do.
We try to give them that power to look at the opportunities that are available to them in so many different careers and to go down any pathway that they want with the belief to know that they can achieve it.
All the great players they see on the football field, guys like Johnathan Thurston and Greg Inglis, were once shy kids just like them but they got thrown a lifeline to pursue a career in rugby league and blossomed and they're now showing the next generation coming through that they can also become great leaders when they grow up.
I think it's an important time in our history that all Australians are taught about Indigenous culture, what it is like and what our people are like and rugby league can play a big part in that.
We have so many different and wonderful cultures within our game that if we can be inclusive and share in each other's cultures then that can send a really powerful and positive message to the rest of society.
There are many people who love Indigenous art, Indigenous dance, Indigenous culture, Torres Strait dancing; we've got a rich history and culture but we do tend to keep it to ourselves.
This is why Indigenous Round is so important and means so much to the Indigenous people.
It's great that all the teams get behind it and design special jerseys featuring Indigenous art and it means a lot that the game acknowledges our people, who we are and the fact that we have wonderful and powerful Indigenous leaders not only in sport but in all areas of life which in turn empowers our youth to strive to also achieve great things.
Like the All Stars concept, hopefully Indigenous Round is a way we can start to share the great things about our culture with the rest of Australia.
I've got no doubt that Jesse Bromwich and Kevin Proctor made a silly mistake in what they did last weekend and while missing a World Cup may be a harsh penalty it's the penalty they now have to cop.
That one bad decision will cost them dearly but they have to work hard now, pay the price and rebuild and get back the trust of everyone that they have let down.
They're grown men, they know they made a bad decision on the night but we've got to get tough and if they're the consequences then that's what they've got to take.