In 2021, the nib Newcastle Knights will once again wear a special jersey for Indigenous Round, designed by talented local Aboriginal artist Tyler Smith.
A collaborative production which took place in early 2020, Knights NRL players Connor Watson, Edrick Lee and Gehamat Shibasaki also provided ideas and feedback towards the final design.
"It's our history. It's our culture. It's an opportunity to educate."
In creating a deeper bond to the region and its people, Smith enlisted the assistance of four young Indigenous detainees through his art program at Frank Baxter Youth Justice Centre.
The design of the jersey represents the local landscape of Newcastle, the wider region and also incorporates the handprints of the three players.
This varied environment, from extensive forested areas to the south-west and north-west of the greater Newcastle area, to the beautiful coast and beaches that stretch from the Hawkesbury River to the Queensland border, are all a feature of the design.
Central to the design is the implementation of three totems, representing players - Watson, Lee and Shibasaki.
It is common for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to associate themselves with a specific totem, usually an animal, plant or flower, representing who they are and the country they come from.
The totems within the design are the Goanna (Watson), Turtle (Shibasaki) and Saltwater Crocodile (Lee).
On the back of the jersey, the player’s hands are imprinted over their totems as an indication of their responsibility to protect that animal and carry on these traditions for future generations.
This is why these totems are also encapsulated within a circle at the centre of the design, representing a barrier from the weapons depicted on the outside.
This collaboration with the NSW Youth Justice Department and the Newcastle Knights aims to not only raise awareness of the over-representation of Indigenous youth in incarceration but to progress awareness into action and for organisations to be involved within the Aboriginal community.