The NRL is encouraging the rugby league community to come together in Newcastle on Friday night to raise awareness of the significant social challenges Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people face every day.
Now in its eleventh year, the NRL’s Indigenous Round is scheduled the week leading into the National Reconciliation Week. The theme for National Reconciliation Week in 2019 is "Grounded in Truth. Walk Together with Courage".
In partnership with the Preston Campbell Foundation, nib Newcastle Knights and The Long Walk, Indigenous icons Preston Campbell and Michael Long will lead a group from Ford Oval in New Lambton towards McDonald Jones Stadium prior to kick off to the Newcastle Knights Round 11 fixture against the Sydney Roosters.
It marks the first time the game has worked with The Long Walk, a charity inspired by AFL legend Michael Long’s walk to Canberra to get the lives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people back on the national agenda.
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Both The Long Walk and the Preston Campbell Foundation have proven instrumental in bringing communities together to raise awareness, improve and support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island health, wellbeing and opportunities.
“To have two Indigenous icons from rival sporting codes walking together into McDonald Jones Stadium on Friday night in Newcastle will be truly special moment,” NRL Senior Manager of Indigenous Strategy Mark Deweerd said.
“I encourage as many people as possible, especially Newcastle Knights fans to come and be a part of history on Friday night.
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“This round, above all others, showcases how our players, coaches, fans and everyone in the rugby league community has the ability put their sporting differences aside for the greater good of all Indigenous Australians,” NRL Senior Manager of Indigenous Strategy Mark Deweerd said.
“By bringing people together we are providing opportunities for communities to greater explore how each of us can contribute to achieving true reconciliation and equality within Australia.”
Registrations for The Long Walk commence at Ford Oval from 4pm with fans and locals encouraged to arrive early to secure tickets, merchandise and enjoy cultural performances and entertainment by local artists.
The Long Walk will depart for McDonald Jones Stadium at 6.30pm, with the first 100 people registered to take the field and walk the fence line prior to kick-off to further raise awareness to those at home unable to attend themselves.
Newcastle Knights CEO Philip Gardner was delighted the Club could be a part of history during Indigenous Round.
“The Newcastle Knights are proud to be the first NRL club to hold The Long Walk in an effort to improve Indigenous health and wellbeing and celebrate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture," Mr Gardner said.
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“Our Club has great indigenous roots going back to our first indigenous player in Ashley Gordon, first Knights Indigenous premiership winner in Owen Craigie and first Indigenous Knights Test representative in Timana Tahu.
“So, it’s fitting we will run out on a jersey designed by these Club legends with the Long Walk a very special way to kick-off a fantastic Round.”
The Newcastle Knights NRL squad will also be wearing Indigenous inspired boots designed by young local artists through Cultural Choice Association (CCA). The boots will be auctioned off and the proceeds going back to CCA and participating organisations.