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Sunday, July 25, 2021

HUNTER RUGBY: Griffins proud of indigenous ties

There’s an air of excitement around the Griffins’ training sessions this week.

And, while it might have something to do with a winning feeling within the organisation, that’s not the main reason.

The Hunter Rugby divisional club will host its inaugural indigenous round this weekend, kicking off a series of unique matches throughout the Newcastle union fraternity.

The Griffins are primed to don their specially-designed jumpers in their showdown with the Cooks Hill Brown Snakes from 1pm at Heaton Park, Jesmond, on Saturday 10 July.

Afterwards, the jerseys will be auctioned off to the highest bidder at The Lemon Grove, Wallsend.

Two, however, are expected to go to artist Jakeob Watson and Aunty Theresa Dargin.

“As we have several indigenous players, and a lot of multi-cultural players from various locations around the world, we are embracing the opportunity to ‘see past the colour’ and promote the brotherhood that comes from rugby, without the impaired vision that is grown from racism,” president Nigel Mifsud said.

“The NAIDOC theme for 2021 is ‘healing’.

“As a group, led by our coach Dylan Coe, we’ve come up with a concept for a jumper.

“We then contracted a professional Aboriginal artist to design the jersey, which embodies our interpretation of ‘healing’.

“So, it’s original and meaningful to our cause.

“Before the match, we’ll also stage a smoking ceremony and Welcome to Country, conducted by Aboriginal elder Aunty Theresa Dargin.”

Coe admitted it was “definitely important” to acknowledge the indigenous round at the club.

“Just the cultural aspect, to our players, means a lot,” he said.

“Even though I’m only new to the district, having come from Dubbo, in terms of the area, many of our guys are from different regions.

“But, we all call here ‘home’ now.

“It’s good to get in touch with the indigenous aspect of the Aboriginal culture around this area as well.”

With the Griffins in fine form at the moment, Coe is pretty confident the side will lift even further this weekend.

“We’ve got blokes who will go out there and wear their hearts on their sleeve, just find that inner beast that’s inside them,” he said.

“It’s really a special time (indigenous round).

“It is also great to share that connection with the community.

“In fact, I think that’s the main aspect of this fixture.”

Coe praised the collaboration between many parties to design the historic jumper.

“I had a conversation with Nigel [Mifsud] earlier in the year and said it would be awesome to have a NAIDOC round and, even better, to tie it in with NAIDOC Week,” he told the Newcastle Weekly.

“He was all for it.

“We’re proud the club’s put its hand up to support us 100%.

“So, I then reached out to a few of the boys I know – like Jay Blackie, he’s part of the Aboriginal community here and a terrific bloke.

“He put me onto Jakeob Watson, who’s an up-and-coming artist, who designed the Manly Sea Eagles’ NRL indigenous jersey this year.

“He’s also doing a couple of local projects for Maitland City Council.

“Jakeob gave us a design, which incorporated a lot of communities coming together to form one big community.

“That’s the basic gist of it.

“The premise, Heal Country, is there [on the jumper] with the green on the shoulders, representing the country.

“The “hands” are featured on the back.

“That’s us putting ours up to say we’ve got to start looking after the country a bit better.

“You can understand why it means so much to the Griffins.

“I’m from Wiradjuri country, we’ve got Gamilaroi and Gomeroi people here, too.

“So, we’re from different communities making one community – that’s the Newcastle Griffins.

“Hopefully, we’ll get a good crowd here to help us celebrate the occasion.”

Hunter Rugby divisional

Round 12 draw:

Saturday 10 July –

  • Griffins v Cooks Hill
  • Cessnock v Easts
  • Singleton Army Lions v Pokolbin
  • Merewether Carlton v The Waratahs
  • Bye: Muswellbrook

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