A weekend filled with culture and celebration, there is nothing quite like the AFL’s Indigenous Round.
A staple in the men’s competition for the past 15 years, the game’s Aboriginal representatives are given a chance to show off their unique and proud heritage to a national audience.
Now, four years since its inception, the AFLW will finally introduce this fantastic tradition to its season with this weekend’s matchups dedicated to the indigenous community and their impact on our game.
Whether it be the X-Factor of a Stevie Lee Thompson and Dakota Davidson or determination of a Kaitlyn Ashmore, Aboriginal players have had an extraordinary impact on the rapid growth of women’s football.
One of these Indigenous stars, Gold Coast Suns forward Kalinda Howarth detailed the importance of this weekend to her through a recent media kit professional questionnaire for the AFLW.
“It is the most amazing addition to the competition this year,” Howarth said.
“Personally I feel a great sense of pride being able to wear my Indigenous Guernsey and represent my family and culture when I play.
“Indigenous Round is an exciting week to engage in cultural activities and spark conversations that otherwise may not happen.
“It’s a great opportunity to celebrate and further educate the competition and wider community about our culture.”
A great feature of the round is its ability to provide the games indigenous players a platform to speak out about crucial issues surrounding their community and have an impact on Australian society.
One campaign that will feature heavily throughout the weekend is the “Free The Flag” movement as team’s across the league will come together and shed light on this important topic.
Howarth speaks of her passion for the movement and what the indigenous flag represents.
“The Aboriginal Flag represents more than just a piece of material and money – it represents our culture, the people and the land,” she said.
“It represents the past, the present and the future, it represents our pride and identity and we should not have to pay to represent that.
“The flag should be treated like every other recognised official flag in the world, but it’s not – and that needs to change.”
Starting her journey in football at the age of 13, Howarth instantly fell in love with the game and began to show real promise progressing through the ranks before being selected into the Suns inaugural AFLW squad.
When asked about her role models growing up as a football fan she highlights two of the game’s premier indigenous talents.
“When I was 13 I went to an open training session at Hawthorn and met Lance “Buddy” Franklin and he quickly became someone I idolised and is the reason why I wear the number 23 now,” she said.
“In that same year I met Jarrod Harbrow and he got me tickets to my first ever AFL game as apart of his academy, he kicked a goal that day and turned to us in the crowd and that’s something I will never forget.
“Harbs [Jarrod Harbrow] has always been super supportive and a really big role model not only for me at the Suns but the greater Gold Coast community.”
The introduction of Indigenous round to the AFLW gives players such as Howarth a chance to become the role model that inspires their community and get’s the next generation of aboriginal girls involved in the game of football.
This weekend symbolises just how far the AFLW has come in its four years and the impact its players have on Australian society.
AFLW Indigenous round begins on Friday, February 26 and runs until Sunday, February 28 with all 14 teams set to sport celebratory guernseys for their respective matches.