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Indigenous Round provides a fitting recognition

Isn't it great that all 16 clubs will this weekend wear jerseys with Indigenous-inspired designs.

On top of them all looking marvellous, it's exciting to see how our game recognises and is proud of our country's Indigenous people.

This Indigenous weekend isn't just a themed round, but more of a celebration of all the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians involved in rugby league.

Our game means so much to many Indigenous Australians. As mentioned on this week, 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. And on top of that, 17 percent of grassroots players are Indigenous.

Speaking to this week's edition of Big League, Cronulla winger Edrick Lee shared how proud he is of the NRL for recognising his culture and his family's history this weekend. He is also blown away with how many Indigenous players there are in the NRL.

Having grown up in Brisbane during the 1990s, Lee said there were only a handful of Indigenous rugby league players to look up to – but now there's an abundance of Indigenous players, including himself.

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Lee's role model was Queensland and Australia winger Wendell Sailor, who played 189 games for Brisbane and 33 for St George Illawarra. There are many Indigenous players past and present who continue to inspire the rugby league community.

Preston Campbell is one of them. Weighing 70-odd kilograms and standing at 167cm, "Presto" matched it with the big boys and inspired a generation of kids. The 2001 Dally M winner played 267 first grade games for Gold Coast, Cronulla and Penrith. In 2016, the Preston Campbell Foundation was established.

The foundation supports Preston's vision of developing programs and opportunities which inspire and mentor participants to achieve their aspirations and dreams by connecting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples with their culture, sense of place and well-being.

George Rose is the ultimate embodiment of the term "cult hero". "Gorgeous George" was one of the lovable characters in rugby league. He may have lacked a bit of fitness at times and never had a chiselled body, but he was a gutsy prop who got the job done.

After retiring, he took was an NRL ambassador and took on a position as an Indigenous Community and Player Engagement Manager with the NRL.

Not only will he be a future Immortal, Johnathan Thurston will be remembered for the work he did off the field. Named Queensland's 2018 Australian of the Year, he was recognised for using his profile to help Indigenous people reach their potential.

He has championed Indigenous education through Achieving Results Through Indigenous Education Academy (ARTI).

He is also the face of Synapse's campaign to prevent acquired brain injury in Indigenous communities. The list goes on, including being an ambassador for the Queensland Reconciliation Awards and for the Apunipima Cape York Health Council's anti-ice campaign.

What a great role model. Enjoy the footy this weekend.

Who's your favourite Indigenous player?

Acknowledgement of Country

National Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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