It will be a special moment for the Thornton Beresfield Bears Rugby League Club’s under-15s when they run onto Somerset Sports Field this weekend.
The youngsters are not just participating in their initiative, Steps Forward Together, on Saturday 12 August, they’ll also unveil a unique Indigenous jersey, which the players themselves helped to design.
And, they will wear them with pride against Valentine in a match that could decide their minor premiership aspirations.
Adding to the atmosphere is the fact all Bears’ teams stepping onto the ground – the under-8s (v Mallabula), under-9 Gold (Raymond Terrace), under-9 Blue (Cessnock), under-10s (West Maitland) and under-13s (Valentine) – are also scheduled to don the outfit.
“The boys have worked hard together both on the field and off it by creating an Indigenous playing strip for their side… and the whole organisation,” coach Vince Lawler said.
“Since it’s their last home game of the regular season, they’ve also attached an allocated day of recognition known as Steps Forward Together.
“It gives them an opportunity to wear the jumper with messages of unity, understanding and acknowledgement.
“The Steps Forward Together theme links directly with the goals and inspirations set by the under-15 team members, too, before they join up with our pathways affiliate Maitland Pickers.
“It represents the players’ leadership, skills, mateship and growing culture, building a platform and legacy for Thornton Beresfield for years to come.”
Lawler said the lads liaised with Indigenous artist Warren Sherwood, Chantal Tanna and Newcastle Knights NRLW coach Ron Griffiths, who boasts close ties with the Bears, to create the jersey’s concept.
“They wanted to embed their own story in the design, including representation of journey, heritage, preparation of battle and the geographic scope significant to Country,” he told the Newcastle Weekly.
“And, they achieved it brilliantly.
“In fact, Warren turned the boys’ design into the jumper, with the help of Chantal and Ron, who played for the club when he was younger and is still local to the area.
“Anyone who knows him is aware how much culture means to him.
“Ron’s instilled that into the Knights’ squad… and he does great things for the community and rugby league in general.
“As a result, the guys are excited to be wearing them this weekend.
“The jerseys look great; and the boys are really, really happy with the way they came out.
“Thornton Beresfield also gained sponsorship partners to fund the jumpers for the players to both wear and keep in the inaugural season of the Steps Forward Together event.
“So, we’ve got everything to play for on Saturday.
“And, if we win, we’ll be minor premiers… that’s a good incentive as well.
“Hopefully, a few of the Newcastle NRLW stars will make their way here, too.”
Sherwood admitted the jersey had significant meaning for all the players and the Bears as a whole.
“I had a few discussions with the under-15s at training, over a couple of weeks, where we looked at what they would like implemented in the design,” he said.
“You can clearly see a rather large blue area through the middle of it, which represents the Hunter River and where we live on Wonnarua Country.
“There are parts around the outside that have the same blue in them.
“That signifies the wetlands here [at the back of these fields].
“The bottom piece shows their meeting places and where the boys have come from.
“Also, there’s an arrow between them.
“That’s representing a spear… where we’re going off to war.
“It’s what we do on the rugby league field.
“When we get there, we kick off, we’re going to war.
“On the top half of the jersey, there are some semi-circle shapes, which represent the different footy fields that we travel to.
“And, the footprints, that’s obviously where we leave our mark.
“Last, but not least, the boys’ personal story is on the bottom.”
Sherwood said he was impressed by the players’ creativity.
“They were a great bunch of boys,” he explained.
“Honestly, they were awesome.
“I can’t fault them at all.
“I think they were a little bit shy at first.
“However, it all fell into place.
“The jersey’s been received very well by not only the boys, but the club, too.
“That Thornton Beresfield went and got sponsors to look after the entire club, well it became more than just about a single team.
“It enveloped the Bears and coming together as one.
“I think the story’s beautiful… it’s great for the club and the sport.”
Gates open from 8.30am, with fixtures kicking off from 9am.
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