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Renouf: Legend Frank Fisher blazed the trail for Indigenous All Stars

With the All Stars clash upon us I want to pay tribute to Frank "Big Shot" Fisher, a deadly footballer who put Indigenous rugby league on the map.

The players in the Indigenous All Stars team represent a wonderful legacy and I am sure they would want to hear about a Cherbourg legend who is often referred to these days as the Aboriginal Wally Lewis.

Frank Fisher was named in the Indigenous Team of the Century in 2008 and it is important in All Stars week that his legacy is remembered because unfortunately he didn’t get the opportunities that us modern-day players did.

When I was a young boy growing up in Murgon I knew him as "Uncle Frank" and I was fortunate to see him at footy games. He was a trailblazer for all Indigenous players from the Cherbourg and Murgon area. He was very much an icon. I was in awe of him.

He passed away in 1980 when I was only 10 but I was fortunate to grow up with all the Fishers and they are a good family, and a big family. My mum was from Cherbourg and she would talk about "Big Shot". We all knew him, and for good reason.

Indigenous All Stars v Maori

Uncle Frank played for Barambah and Cherbourg back in the 1930s and he was a legend. He played twice for Wide Bay against a touring Great Britain team and their captain Jim Brough was quoted as saying he was the best regional player they came up against.

Frank Fisher played five-eighth and was quick, had wonderful ball skills, a deadly sidestep and a real whack in him in defence. It was his complete mastery of the game that most impressed the Poms.

He had an offer to go to England to play for Salford but because of the Aboriginal Protection Act that was in force at the time, he wasn’t allowed to.

Sadly that is what it was like on the Barambah mission back then where the free movement of Aboriginal people was restricted by the Queensland Government.

The legend of Uncle Frank lives on. He has got the "Frank Big Shot Fisher Bridge" named after him on the only road into Cherbourg from Murgon.

Cherbourg went on to become a rugby league powerhouse. We’ve seen guys like Chris Sandow and Willie and Esi Tonga play NRL in recent years.

I was very into my local footy and I’d watch my brothers and brothers-in-law like Frank Malone, who was also a legend.

Ronny Watson was a Redcliffe winger and another champion of his day. Because of Uncle Frank’s legacy that area became a breeding ground for aspiring footy players. "Big Shot" started it all and it fed down from him.

I was one of those young kids who wanted to follow in his footsteps too.

Frank Fisher was, like the great fast bowler Eddie Gilbert in cricket, so important to Indigenous sport. Both of them had to deal with hardships that were imposed on them in Cherbourg by the Aboriginal Protection Act at the time which limited the opportunities they would otherwise have had.

The Indigenous All Stars Team of the Decade

The players today have a great opportunity to embrace and understand their culture thanks to the Indigenous All Stars team and the All Stars concept.

I didn’t get that opportunity in my career and it would have been great to be a part of.

I played all my Australian first grade footy career in Brisbane and my family was the Brisbane Broncos. I didn’t get the same penetration from my own culture that these boys are.

What I enjoy the most about the Indigenous All Stars players is how they embrace who they are. Latrell Mitchell is a proud Aboriginal and one of many. Jimmy Roberts, you couldn’t get any man prouder than him of being an Aboriginal.

These boys have a big influence on their community and will no doubt inspire the next generation of stars. Frank Fisher was certainly a star. He kept the flame alive for all of us. Uncle Frank will never be forgotten.

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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