When East Gambier and Millicent face off in their round 5 Western Border battle this Saturday afternoon, it will be more than just a game as clubs comes together to celebrate First Nations culture.
The inaugural Indigenous game at McDonald Park will be a spectacle not to be missed with numerous ceremonies, artworks and tributes recognising First Nations players and everything their culture brings to the world.
There will be scenes reminiscent of what is seen each year at the Sir Doug Nicholls Round which has been conducted by the AFL since 2007 and shades of the annual Dreamtime match at the G which has taken place since 05.
Not only will both the Bulldogs and Saints teams conduct a Welcome to Country, they will also run onto the ground through smoke, whilst wearing stunning Indigenous themed playing guernseys.
East Gambier will be proudly playing in a jumper designed by Marcus Wanganeen, while the equally impressive Saints’ strip was the work of Lorna Sutherland.
The Welcome to Country will be conducted by Boandik local Auntie Michelle, while Uncle Dougie will travel from the Coorong to hold a special smoking ceremony with the captains also expected to be involved.
Everyone will be part of the celebration with the netballers also wearing specially designed bibs for the occasion while the juniors will mount the Australian and Aboriginal flags.
It is not the first time an Indigenous game has been played within the Western Border Football League with Heywood and Portland conducting a celebration back in 2011.
But 11 long years later, the contest makes a more than welcomed official return and Wanganeen hopes it becomes an annual event.
“This year’s theme for Reconciliation Week is Be Brave, Make Change, which describes what East Gambier has done by starting this,” Wanganeen said.
“I hope all clubs will follow their lead so that all Aboriginal players and past players, from all clubs are able to celebrate their pride in culture and inspire all younger Aboriginal players to do the same.”
Millicent has also fully jumped on board and club president Joel Redman is honoured to play a helping hand.
“Millicent Football Netball Club is proud to be involved in this initiative,” he said.
“We hope that it becomes a permanent round for the league in the future.”
It took a team effort across many months to get the game up with East Gambier, Millicent, the Western Border Football and Netball leagues, agspec, Little Rippa Brewery and Xpress Signs all playing pivotal roles.
Part of the organising group was former East Gambier player and Luritja Nation man George Beck who said Saturday will be a big moment.
“The idea had been floating around for a couple of years and it was brought up by the playing group and Giancarlo Cooper just said ‘let’s make it happen’,” Beck said.
“I got involved with Giancarlo, Marcus, Nathan Stratford and the club, which then branched out to Millicent and it’s probably been about three months.
“I am very proud to be involved and happy to see it taken on and hopefully it becomes something every club can participate in the future.
“There was a self-determination aspect for not only the players or aspiring players, but also spectators and community members to see their culture and people celebrated locally.
“The more these things are adopted in sport and schools, the more we are heading down the right path.
“It makes people feel quite special to see it celebrated at the local level and everyone being inclusive.
“Football can be a fantastic pathway for not only the sport itself, but clubs are great places and communities which lead to opportunities that help people out for the rest of their lives.
“It will be a great cause, a great day and a very proud moment for the East Gambier Football Club.”
Ceremonies will begin at 2.05pm at McDonald Park this Saturday afternoon.