The Indigenous Round celebrations have seen people from all corners of the community unite to celebrate Indigenous success with the Newcastle Knights.
The Indigenous Round is a unique opportunity to appreciate the positives Indigenous culture offers to rugby league and the wider community.
From the Club’s proud Indigenous players who stand tall as role models in their communities, to those who work to see young people reach their potential, this weekend’s round offers a forum to acknowledge these contributions to rugby league and beyond.
Newcastle Knight Dane Gagai’s success on the field has rocketed in 2015 with the 24-year-old capturing attention with stellar representative performances.
While his career highlights begin to mound, opportunities to acknowledge and reflect on his Indigenous culture are moments deeply special to him.
“It’s all about raising awareness and recognising,” Gagai said.
“We have the RECOGNISE symbol on the chest of our jersey so I’m just going to do everything I can to make Indigenous people proud and create awareness.”
Tyrone Roberts believes the Indigenous Round is a special occasion for all of Australia to reflect on the rich history of its first peoples.
“This round is a big round. Apart from the All Stars, which is a big week that we look forward to, this round is the same,” Roberts said.
“It’s a chance to recognise our culture in the community and to give back and educate the young that we are proud of who we are and where we come from.
“The biggest part of this Round coming up is to be recognised.
“The way we can do that is to give back and let everyone know who we are and where we come from.”
Roberts shares a special bond with his fellow Indigenous teammates like Dane Gagai, his brother Jacob as well as Jaelen Feeney who are proud to stand as positive role models for others.
“It’s easy for us to come together because it’s our culture,” he said.
“We want to educate the young not to be ashamed of who they are and where they come from stand for who they are and to be recognised.”
Lillian Gordon, director of the Aboriginal Learning Circle at Hunter TAFE can attest to the positive influence Indigenous Knights players have on young Aboriginal students.
“Role models play a huge part in what we do,” Lillian said.
“From an Aboriginal perspective it’s always been about role models and where our young people can see people having success, whether that be in football, politics or art with Daren Dunn, it’s something they can see as possible.
“It’s about seeing real people and what they can achieve.”
Newcastle Knights Aboriginal Welfare Officer Ashley Gordon’s role at the Knights is focused on bringing the most out of gifted Indigenous players.
“For me it’s about looking after the Aboriginal players in our system and they can be 13-14 year olds right through to first grade,” Gordon explained about his role.
“I don’t think young people realise they are very similar to the boys.
“They have come from disadvantaged backgrounds and have had to overcome a lot of obstacles to get where they are.
“I think young people should be able to look at where they are at the moment, the obstacles they have and come through the other side.
Dane and brother Jacob Gagai, Roberts and Feeney attended the launch of the Deadly Skills Workshop on Thursday and offered motivation and inspiration to young students at Hunter TAFE.
“The stories in there are really powerful and the young people are listening really well,” Dane said.
“I just think we have top celebrate Indigenous history in all facets of life.
“To acknowledge it in rugby league is very important as we have a long history and the first captain of the Australian side was Aboriginal in Arthur Beetson.
“Here at the Newcastle Knights we have a long history of players coming through.”
There have been many notable Indigenous players who have excelled in the red and blue like Timana Tahu who held the record for the leading try-scorer more almost a decade, the naturally skilled Owen Craigie as well as current Knights Tyrone Roberts and Dane Gagai who gave impressed on the representative stage.
“For me it’s acknowledging the adversity and disadvantage many have come through to get to where they are, and they are really good role models for our young ones,” Dane said.
“That’s helping them come through and to aspire as well.”
At Sunday's triple-header at Hunter Stadium, Windale Public School will perform an Awabakal and English version of the national anthem. The Millabah Dancers will also perform in the lead up to the NRL match.