Knights star Pearce hails Indigenous Round
Injured Newcastle Knights halfback Mitchell Pearce has lauded the contribution Indigenous players have made to rugby league at Monday's launch of the Indigenous Round.
Players from all 16 clubs will this weekend wear jerseys with Indigenous-inspired designs.
As pointed out by NRL.com in this week's Winning Starts Monday column, 12 percent of NRL-contracted players are Indigenous compared with the just 2.8 percent of Australians who identify as having Aboriginal heritage according to the latest Census in 2016.
At the launch in Brisbane, Pearce spoke in awe of the contribution Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have made to the game.
"You look at the elite players in our game and many of the greatest players of all time, and they are Indigenous players," Pearce told NRL.com.
"So Indigenous Round is a great thing for the community.
"I have been blessed to play with a lot of Indigenous players in my career and they are all so gifted and just natural footballers. They are ambassadors who are leading the way in rugby league."
The Knights will host the Penrith Panthers on Friday night and wear a jersey designed to cover all eras of Newcastle's rich Indigenous history
The jersey is a team effort, designed by past and present Indigenous stars Ashley Gordon, Owen Craigie and Timana Tahu along with rising talent Connor Watson. Each player contributed a piece of their history to local Indigenous artist Elise Randell.
"I played with Timana Tahu for NSW and everyone speaks about the grand final in 1997 that Owen Craigie played in when he was just 19," Pearce said.
"Owen is spoken about as one of the best players to have ever come through in the juniors.
"There have been a lot of proud Indigenous players come out of Newcastle and the surrounding areas.''
As well as praising Knights utility Watson, Pearce pointed to his former teammate Latrell Mitchell as another phenomenal Indigenous talent on the rise.
The Sydney Roosters will wear a jersey against the Warriors in Auckland on Saturday night which has the image of Aboriginal superstar Arthur Beetson, who won premierships in 1974 and 1975 with the Roosters, on the front of it.
The late Beetson is an Immortal of the game and appropriately his niece, Bianca Beetson, designed the 2018 Roosters Indigenous Jersey.
The NRL has worked closely with Reconciliation Australia for more than a decade and again will use the round to promote and facilitate respect, trust and positive relationships between the rugby league community and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
Australian Rugby League Indigenous Council Member, Joshua Creamer said the NRL "was the first national sporting organisation to commit to a Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) back in 2008".
"As an Indigenous man and rugby league fan, I'm proud to see the game continually using its positive influence to drive social change in Indigenous communities throughout Australia and beyond," he said.
"Not just this week, but every single day."