Indigenous Round is one of the most iconic rounds of football in the AFL. It is a round where the AFL celebrates its Indigenous players, highlighted by a feature clash at the MCG.
The MCG is in full colour on Saturday night for the historic ‘Dreamtime at the G’ clash between Richmond and Essendon. The match has pre-game entertainment provided by the indigenous people of Australia. It is into its ninth season and it is a massive success for the AFL. There have been 195 known Aboriginal players to play AFL, with 68 on current lists. Since 1980, 156 indigenous players have made their debut and the trend is set to continue.
It is a round where the AFL pays homage to the traditional owners of the land and remembers past indigenous identities.
Former St Kilda and Western Bulldogs player Nicky Winmar was made famous for lifting up his jumper and pointing to his chest at Victoria Park in 1993. He directed this to the crowd after being racially discriminated during the game. This stance which is iconic in Australian photographic history, has proudly inspired Indigenous players to stand up for their identity.
Essendon champion Michael Long has been a long time ambassador for the Indigenous round and is one of the founders of the Long Walk charity. Current players such as Sydney star Adam Goodes and Hawthorn stalwart Shaun Burgoyne are idols that young Indigenous children look up to.
But Indigenous Round is not the only round which supports different groups of football. There is an Umpire Appreciation Round (round six), Women’s Round (round 14) and Multicultural Round (round 16). All of these rounds have been developed to promote the different cultures within the AFL game.
The umpire’s round looks at promoting umpire awareness and appreciates the umpires for the extraordinarily difficult job that they do. Women’s round is to promote the women’s game and to also help raise awareness for breast cancer.
This year in a one-off game, there will be a match between two womens clubs before the clash between Melbourne and the Western Bulldogs on Saturday June 29. The players representing each team have been drafted by each side, and the AFL has grand aspirations to have a national womens league in the future.
Multicultural Round was designed to promote awareness of the different cultures that play AFL. There are 11 current player ambassadors and 121 players that have at least one parent born overseas. There are 23 players that were born overseas, and players have come from across the globe to play the AFL game.
While there are four themed rounds, it is important to note that the AFL has not promoted awareness to every group.
‘Pride Round’ has been strongly suggested by fans and players. This round would tackle the problem of homophobia in football, something made public by openly gay Yarra Valley footballer Jason Ball and backed by many current AFL players, and the need to introduce it to give recognition for gay footballers is growing.
The support for Indigenous Round has increased massively over the last nine seasons, and other themed rounds are gaining rapid support. These are areas of the game which need to be promoted and the AFL has so far been able to help promote these themes.
If you are at home or at the football this weekend, don’t just watch the games, but also think about what Indigenous Round is all about.