Ahead of the Sir Doug Nicholls Round this week, Jono Baruch takes time to look at the special factors behind this incredible round.

After thinking we might not even get a footy season, season 2020 is rollicking along.

Just as we have enough time to stop and catch our collective breath after the Footy Frenzy of the past 20 days, we get ready for the next one, to finish it all off.

Now, for an all too brief moment, we have some sense of normality amongst the carnage.
This football season has been anything but normal and has taken away a lot of the things that we love and usually associate with the game.

While it’s a normal week from a fixturing point of view, it’s also a very special week.

It just so happens to have become my favourite week of the year and amongst all the things we have to be grateful for this year, this week is definitely one of them.

Whilst there are aspects of this year’s Sir Doug Nicholls Indigenous Round that will be different, there are the elements of it that are the same every year and will make it special.

Clubs will wear their Indigenous designed jumpers, which continue to get better every year, and share the unique stories connected to them.

We have legends of the game celebrated, and every year we learn a little bit more about our land and what makes this game so special.

I’m a man of a tribe, but I’m not an Indigenous man.

The only Indigenous studies I did at school was a project in Year 5 where we had to research an elder in in the Koorie community.

My person to research about was Oodgeroo Noonuccal, Kath Walker as she was more commonly known as.

A proud Minjerribah Woman who was an artist, poet and political activist who fought for Aboriginal rights.

Most notably, her leadership in favour of the 1967 referendum in which Australians voted to change the constitution to allow Aboriginal people to be included in the census.

Recognising the true first Australians.

Looking back, it saddens me that this was the only module of learning about my home country’s history that was included in my schooling curriculum.

How as an Australian was this one five-week block in Year 5 the only Indigenous studies?

14 years of school learning about my own culture, language and traditions of my people that only touched briefly/superficially on the culture and the
native people of the land in which we lived in.

Almost as if it was an oversight. A token gesture to say it’s done.

Amid the backdrop of the events thus far this year, this Sir Doug Nicholls Round feels more poignant and significant than in years gone by.

Australia has been tested like never before in 2020.

The devastation of the bushfires welcoming in the year and still fighting its way through the COVID 19 pandemic.

In the midst of all that, the uprising of the Black Lives Matter movement across the world which is intrinsically linked to this week.

This is why the links to this week’s round plays a role in what is happening here in Australia.

A question that we are constantly asking ourselves as an Australian people.

Are we able to say that we are an equal nation and that our Black Lives Matter?

Are we able to allow our native people to walk side by side us in the street and not view them as a lesser person?

Are we really going to have a flag locked away under copyright?

A flag that is a powerful symbol for our nations people. A flag that they stood, fought and continue to fight for their rights under.

It’s not a commercial scheme. Not something as important as that.

The AFL has been lauded from all areas for not paying to use the flag this year because it should rightly be free for everyone.

But it’s clear that we still have massive issues with racism in this country.

Week in, week out we’re still seeing players get targeted on social media by faceless trolls with abhorrent, abusive messages.

The common question every time it happens is when will it end? When will there be a world without racism?

Every year we seem to want to grow and educate ourselves more about the Indigenous people and their culture and all they bring to our game and the wider society.

Their traditions, their rituals, their stories, their physical connection to the land and all the living creatures.

It’s why I love this week so much.

It’s a week that showcases everything that the Indigenous community gives to us…and how much more they are willing to share.

Our Indigenous stars give us so many reasons to smile and enjoy this game.

After all, it is their game that they invented. Marngrook.

A game that has given us names such as Rioli, Franklin, Betts, Farmer, Jackson, Matera, Goodes, O’Loughlin, McLeod, Burgoyne and Wanganeen.

Household names that bring a smile to your face whenever they grace the field of play.

They enrich and enhance our game more than any run of the mill player and leave legacies that last a lifetime.

As the years roll by and we turn to Sir Doug Nicholls Indigenous round, take the opportunity to learn a little bit more.

Listen to those leaders within the game who put smiles on your faces and
allow them to teach you more about their life and where they come from.

We feel so connected to what we know and what we are brought up with within our four walls and every day we try to live the values that are instilled in us through the learning from our culture, religion and environments.

To move forward, we must be willing to be open to learning a little more. Learn about the people. Learn about their culture, their traditions, and their history.

Be open and empathetic to their trials and celebrate their triumphs and what makes it great with them.

I believe it’s part of the way forward, and an important step for humanity, particularly in these times.

I love the Jumpers. I love the artwork. I love the celebrations. Most of all, I love the passion that the Indigenous players, men, and women, bring to our game.

While we might not get Dreamtime at the ‘G this year, Dreamtime in Darwin will be a special sight and moment for everyone involved in this

A centrepiece moment in a year and Indigenous Round we will never forget.

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