Saturday 24 March 2018 / 05:51 AM


Rugby league has never been very good at remembering what it is all about, too caught up in the news cycle and petty politicking and worry about a dollar to actually step back and shine a light on what the game has actually achieved.

There has been the usual show made about Indigenous Round. Jersey designs are changed. We talk to current players about what being an indigenous Australian who has made it to top-grade rugby league means.

What the game doesn’t do is actually show how the game has been more embracing of Indigenous Australians than any other code.

For nearly all of rugby league’s 110-season history in Australia, an Aboriginal has been playing premiership football. The first was George Green, who debuted for Eastern Suburbs in 1909 and enjoyed a 14-season career predominantly with the North Sydney Bears. He was one of the game’s first cult heroes.

Such was the regard he was held in by the game, Green enjoyed a long career in administration and coaching after his time playing came to an end.

There was Glen ‘Paddy’ Crouch, the first Aboriginal to tour overseas with a team. Crouch was selected from Cooparoo to play in the famous 1925 Queensland team that toured New Zealand, a side that featured players of the standing of Jimmy Craig, Tom Gorman and Herb Steinohrt.

Then there was another Queenslander, Lionel Morgan, the first Indigenous Australian to represent the country in a team sport. Morgan was called-up to the Australian Test team in 1960 to play France, scoring two tries in his three-Test career.

There is the incomparable Arthur Beetson, rugby league Immortal, member of the Team of the Century and arguably the greatest forward the game has ever known. In 1973 Beetson became the first Indigenous Australian to captain Australia in any sport, a remarkable landmark in not only Australian sport, but world sport.

Today, of course, we have Johnathan Thurston, universally recognised as the best back of the last decade, among a plethora of Indigenous superstars that grace the NRL. Thurston is beloved by the game and has been honoured with a record four Dally M Medals.

Rugby league has a long history littered with incredible landmarks when it comes to Indigenous Australians. It would be great if the game actually recognised them on such an important week.

[YouTube – TenQueenslandNews]

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About the author

Nick Tedeschi

You will not find a more passionate rugby league man than Nick, whose Making The Nut column has garnered a huge cult following over the last decade. The Sydney-based raconteur co-authored The Book of NRL Lists with CBS stablemate WILL EVANS in 2014 and has penned several other books; he joined the CBS team with his weekly Six Up The Middle feature in 2016.

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