FORMER Melbourne Demon Aaron Davey will make a one-off appearance for Kilcunda-Bass in its June 6 clash with Korumburra-Bena as part of the region’s first indigenous match.
The concept – led by Wonthaggi’s John Murray – sees local matches including Inverloch-Kongwak v Phillip Island at Inverloch on Saturday, July 4 and Wonthaggi Power v Leongatha at Wonthaggi on Sunday, July 5 played as indigenous matches.
All of the teams will wear indigenous-inspired jumpers for the day, specially designed by local primary school students.
At each match a smoking ceremony with a ‘Welcome to Country’ and traditional indigenous dance will take place before the opening bounce, with 25 local kids practicing to be part of the ceremony.
Mr Murray said the initiative is a non-threatening way of promoting indigenous culture in a friendly environment.
“The (AFL) footy year has all the key games, whether it’s the heritage round or rivalry round – hopefully on the calendar locally it will be the indigenous round,” he said.
“We’re looking at the grassroots involvement and what we’re envisioning is that a lot of people that come through the gate might not necessarily go to the footy so it’s giving us the opportunity to draw and pull people into that space.”
Football jumper templates were sent to local schools for a student competition to design special jumpers for their local teams’ indigenous matches.
With more than 470 entries from eight schools, the final designs were chosen and jumpers are currently being produced for the matches.
Mr Murray said the support for the concept has been phenomenal.
“What we’re hoping to do is correlate all the pictures and they’ll be displayed at the different grounds on the days,” he said.
“It will expand next year; we’ve got six teams playing this year and we’re hoping for eight or 10 next year. I think it will be successful and something significant in this area.”
Since retiring in 2013 after 178 AFL games with the Demons, Davey has taken up a role with AFL Sportsready and works with AFL Indigenous talent pathways.
He currently pulls on the boots for All-indigenous team Rumbalara in the Murray Football League and said he is looking forward to playing the one-off game in Panther colours.
“I was presented a great opportunity to come down here, have a kick and promote the indigenous round which I think is very special,” he said.
“I’m absolutely pumped and I think it’s great. It’s going to be a lot colder but it’s all for a great cause and really driving awareness and celebrating the contribution that indigenous players bring to the game.”
Davey said he’s excited and looking forward to the experience.
“Now I’ve been able to play at the highest level, it’s all about what I can do to help in grassroots footy. If it’s something small like playing a special round then I’m always up for it,” he said,
“I’m just enjoying my footy now; it’s great to have a beer after the game with the boys as opposed to protein shakes. They’re the special things that I enjoy and I’m extremely excited about it and look forward to it. Hopefully we can have a win and the weather’s good with a bit of sunshine.”