Sport / Football

Footy jumper spreads message of reconciliation

Club celebrates Indigenous women’s resilience with special guernsey

Natarsha Bamblett performs during a ceremonial Acknowledgement of Country watched by Renegades players before the start of Saturday’s match.

Mark Phillips
Monday, May 30, 2022

BRUNSWICK Football Club’s women’s team, the Renegades, have unveiled a stunning special guernsey to celebrate their own Indigenous Round. 

The team wore the guernsey for the first time when they clashed with the Parkdale Vultures at Gillon Oval on Saturday after plans to use it last year were foiled by a COVID-19 lockdown. 

While an Indigenous Round has been a fixture in the AFL’s men’s and women’s competitions for years, there is no official Indigenous Round in the Victorian Amateur Football Association. 

In its absence, the Renegades – who play in the VAFA’s Premier C competition – adopted the theme for National Reconciliation Week, which began on Friday. 

The new guernsey has been designed by Yandruwandha-Yawareawarrka artist Uncle Les Stanley who describes it as showing “the strength and resilience of women and girls and their footprints are forever remaining”. 

Samantha Arthur, a member of the Brunswick Football Club committee who oversees sponsorship and merchandise, said it has taken well over 12 months for the guernsey to see the light of day, including the design and gaining approval from the VAFA.  

She discovered Les Stanley through her day job as marketing and digital co-ordinator of the Sacred Heart Mission in St Kilda. 

“I knew him from a project I worked on in 2019 where he did some mural painting for us in the alley way of our St Kilda op shop and I really liked working with him, so I bumped into him in the op shop and said would you be interested in designing our Indigenous jumper?” she said. 

“I explained who the Renegades were, that we’re a team that has a lot of Queer and ally people in the team so we wanted something that was really inclusive and reflective of the diversity of the club and the area of Brunswick, and also represented that we have a lot of strong people in our club.” 

Brunswick reserves players Lydia Bell (front) and (from left) Trelawney Edgar, Dani Hagan and Eva Mellors model the new Indigenous themed guernsey.

The guernsey retains the club’s trademark purple as the dominant colour, but the usual green yoke has been replaced by a trail of green and blue dots forming a V. 

A spiky echidna dominates the lower third of the guernsey. The echidna was chosen because it is a strong native animal that covers vast distances in all types of weather and seasons. 

Two large red dots above the echidna are surrounded by a pattern of multi-coloured smaller dots to represent women sitting around a waterhole. Long lines of red and white dots fan out from the waterholes to four gathering places. 

The back of the guernsey features a painting of a Balga grass tree set against the red and yellow of the Aboriginal flag in the form of a bush sky. 

Only the Seniors were able to wear the guernsey onto the field on Saturday as the Reserves’ match was cancelled due to their opponents being forced to forfeit because they could not field a team. 

Before the first bounce, the two teams lined up facing each other for a ceremonial Acknowledgement of Country address from Yorta Yorta, Kurnai, Walpiri and Wiradjeri woman Natarsha Bamblett, aka Queen Acknowledgements. 

Bamblett herself is a talented footballer and was the first player signed by Richmond when it made its debut in the VFLW in 2018. 

Unfortunately for the Renegades, the Indigenous guernsey wasn’t enough to inspire them to victory on Saturday, going down to Parkdale 2.1 (13) to 3.3 (21). 

The Renegades Reserves will get their chance to wear the guernsey in a match next weekend when they host Hawthorn at Gillon Oval. 

Arthur encouraged more VAFA clubs to adopt the Indigenous Round concept. 

“We’re the only club that we’ve seen in the VAFA who have done an Indigenous Round,” she said. 

“We’d really like more clubs to do it because while it is hard to organise, it is really rewarding in the end and more clubs should embrace those kinds of things like NAIDOC Week and Pride Week.”  

She said Brunswick was now looking forward to Pride Round in the middle of July when both men’s and women’s teams again wear a special guernsey. 

The Renegades were formed in 2014 and are always open to new players even if they have no previous experience. 

“We really welcome people who have never played footy before and want to learn and we’re really happy to teach you and play with you,” Arthur said. 

“We’re an inclusive club that has a lot of social events. We’re really supportive of the Queer community as well and the ally community and everyone’s welcome to come and play with us.”