This weekend the football community celebrates its Indigenous roots with the aptly named Sir Doug Nicholls Indigenous Round.
Nicholls was a trailblazer for Indigenous footballers playing in the VFL/AFL, and it is his imprint that has allowed us to marvel at the sublime skills of the Krakouer brothers, ‘Polly’ Farmer, Andrew McLeod and Lance Franklin, just to name a few.
From the Yorta Yorta people, Nicholls played 54 games for Fitzroy from 1932-37.
He was not only a prominent footballer and indigenous man, but a revered Australian.
The 28th Governor of South Australia, he was knighted in 1972 – the first Aboriginal person to receive both honours.
Reflecting on just how important men like Nicholls are to the composition of our country and our game is what Indigenous Round is all about.
And the mind always wanders: who is the best Indigenous footballer we have seen?
Old-timers say the pint-sized Nicholls ran rings around his opponents, as did Essendon champion Norm McDonald. Both were sprinting champions.
Sam Newman insists Polly is the best he’s seen while for some of us born more recently, it’s hard to go past Franklin.
Whoever it is, watching these players – and proud Indigenous men – exhibit their skills and culture has been a joy to watch. Long may it continue.
The Weekend Preview
North Melbourne’s credentials will be tested at the SCG against Sydney on Friday night. Despite being unbeaten after nine rounds, you sense this is the game that will make or break the Kangaroos season.
Most at stake
Port Adelaide. They’re unbeaten at Traeger Park in Alice Springs, where it has played Melbourne in the past two seasons. They must repeat the dose if they are to be any chance of playing finals footy.
Collingwood will upset the Bulldogs. Expect towering forwards Mason Cox and Darcy Moore to kick seven goals between them, as the Pies puts their season back on track.
There will be no furore if an indigenous player kicks a goal and celebrates with a ‘war dance’.
One to watch
The son of former Melbourne club champion Steven, Billy Stretch is starting to show some of his old man’s attributes. In a young and emerging midfield, Stretch tallied 31 disposals against Brisbane last week – and at 82% efficiency. Could he be the fourth Demon to be awarded with a Rising Star nomination?
West Coast have won their last five games at Domain Stadium by an average of 66 points. Expect this trend to continue on Sunday against Gold Coast as the Eagles win big again.
Feeling the heat
Queensland footy. Both sides face last year’s Grand Finalists, and both are facing potentially huge defeats. But the manner in which they perform will be heavily scrutinised, regardless of the outcome.
West Coast youngster Tom Cole was handed his jumper and set to play last week, before Josh Kennedy replaced him at the 11th hour. The smooth-moving defender is due for a call-up very soon.
A former Fremantle rookie is being courted by a number of clubs who are in the market for a tall forward.
Don’t set the IQ
Brisbane vs Hawthorn. The last time Hawthorn played at the Gabba, it was at the tail-end of a 17-year premiership drought, Shane Crawford was wearing number nine, and the Indian Premier League was in its first season. Things could get ugly for the Lions. Get to some local footy instead.
Alex Paull also writes for footyprophet.com – football and fantasy analysis unravelled.