I was there. The crowd was screaming, sitting right up against the sideline in fold-out chairs. There was lots of catching up and discussing the state of play, and lots and lots of family and kids.

NSW Aboriginal Rugby League Knockout: now in its 40th year. Photo: NSWALC website.

All in all, there were over 15,000 spectators, more than some NRL games and certainly a better crowd than our Commonwealth Games athletes have been getting in Delhi. 
So what is a white woman’s view of the NSW Aboriginal Rugby League Knockout? Well, it’s a bloody awesome weekend. This was not my first and will not be my last.

As we know, the mighty Northern United lost in the first round to the Newcastle Yowies. After a week of arguments in the media about whether or not Yowie’s player Timara Tahu called Caleb Binge a ‘black c…,’ one reaction might be to tell Chris Binge and his Northern United players to ‘suck it up boys, you got knocked out by a better team.’
In a case of team against team, word against word, isn’t there a better way than an ugly row in the paper, to sort this out? I can tell you for sure, it was hard to hear the person next to you, let alone what was said on the field.

What most people don’t know is that the 40th year of this great event attracted 67 men’s teams from across the state and there was also a ferocious women’s competition.
Teams such as the Mungindi Grasshoppers, Goodooga Magpies, Toomelah Tigers, Wellington Wedgetails, Moree Boomerangs and Boggabilla Warriors came to Woy Woy to battle it out. Have a look at a map of NSW and find out exactly where some of these tiny communities are – out past Lightning Ridge, nestled up against the NSW/QLD border. Some lost in the first round and, like Northern United, faced a very long and disappointing drive home.
Other teams boast language names like Kalatteen, Nulla and Mindaribba, conjuring up not just a deep sense of community pride but also of tribal warfare. What could be more League than that?
Rugby League runs through the veins of Aboriginal people in NSW. League is a force for good in many far flung communities and those far flung communities reward the game by producing stars like Preston Campbell and Nathan Blacklock, both from Tingha. Nathan Blacklock was at the Knockout this year playing for the Tingha Tigers.
And there were other former NRL players out there, guys who have let themselves go since the disciplined days of professional sport. This was certainly the case for Nulla Dolphin, Troy Robinson who was once with Souths. I couldn’t take my eyes off him. He seemed to defy the laws of physics. How did a man that shape move so fast?
The teams that contested the grand final, Walgett and Mindaribba, had played 300 minutes of football by the end of the three days, a Herculean effort!
The eventual winners were the Walgett Aboriginal Connection with a magnificent forward pack made up of Manly’s George Rose, his brothers and mates. Another NRL player, Ben Barba from the Bulldogs, was cast out to play centre as his younger brother, Marmot took over the play-maker duties. Marmot, who looked 13, was amazing and in my eyes, the future of the game.
Surely, League devotees should be salivating at the prospect of such a festival of footy, rallying behind the event and rushing to be involved.
As for that remark, we have annual awards for sexist remarks called the Ernies and men including Andrew Johns have won for using the term ‘black c…’. It’s not just racist, it’s also sexist, and thanks to statements made to the media this week where they admitted to using or condoning the remark, Daine Laurie and Anthony Mundine now face being nominated for an Ernie. Tahu’s use of the phrase remains unsubstantiated and therefore not eligible for nomination.
However, in terms of a racial slur, I am certainly not qualified to judge what is or isn’t OK to be said between two Aboriginal players on a footy field.  But I would like to ask why the media is fixated on one alleged incident in what was overall a fantastic event. Is it a backhanded way of letting Andrew Johns off the hook? Instead, why not ask Brad Fittler what he thought of the actual footy that was played. He was there.
As Nulla player, Cameron Blair said with a sense of resignation, “This stuff about Northern United and Timara is in our local paper. It’s sad. We had a great event. But all you read about is the bad stuff, there’s nothing good.”
In fact, some members of the media even struggle to get the name right. It is the NSW Aboriginal Rugby League Knockout, not ‘an Indigenous football carnival.’ It’s an important name and sums up the event perfectly. Let’s use it. And let’s see those with an interest in Rugby League – the NRL, the clubs and News Limited pay proper attention to an event the people of NSW should be proud of.

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    • Peter says:

      10:45am | 15/10/10

      Were not where….doh

    • Peter says:

      01:29pm | 14/10/10

      I would have thought a sporting competition in which eligibility to compete is based on race was….well racist.

      It wasn’t that long ago there were protests and sanctions against South Africa for this very same thing.

    • Peter says:

      10:31am | 15/10/10

      Why did the world exclude South African sporting teams during the 70’s and 80’s? Their teams were restricted to whites only. Where they racist?

    • iansand says:

      02:10pm | 14/10/10

      I think Russia and America should be in the Commonwealth Games.  And why can’t blokes play in girls netball?  Talk about sexist!!  And family tickets really discriminate against people without a spouse and 2 kids.  It’s everywhere.

      If you think about it, the essence of racism is assuming a particular characteristic about a person based on perceived membership of a “race” and not based on an individual assessment.  If you accept that definition, why is this carnival racist?

    • nic says:

      12:11pm | 14/10/10

      It was a good article about a good topic until you brought your own politics into the equation. Agreed, calling someone a B.C. is inappropriate. But oops, when two Aboriginal players do it to each other, its not appropriate for you to judge or comment? Get real.

    • T Brown says:

      12:06pm | 14/10/10

      It’s great to read some positive articles about the NSW Aboriginal Knockout. Instead of reading the negative views of the media. Thanks Punch.

    • RJB says:

      07:58am | 14/10/10

      Yvette, I see that you use the gay and Lesbian method to calculate crowd size. I was also at the carnival, being a local it drew my curiosity to attend on the last day (Monday) . I was impressed with the standard of refereeing but disappointed with the unecessary aggression by many players. A particular female player from Redfern All Blacks is in need of anger management throwing punches at her Tamworth opponents. It was not the fairy tale carnival you would have us believe.

    • S.L says:

      05:00pm | 14/10/10

      Spot on RBJ I’m a coastie too and I wasn’t going anywhere near Woy Woy while that circus was in town!

    • BK says:

      03:56pm | 14/10/10

      There is more than one reason why the carnival is called a “knockout”.

    • Barry says:

      07:40am | 14/10/10

      The event conjures up community pride and tribal warfare?  Well, I guess community pride is a good thing, but tribal warfare . . . .

    • T.Chong says:

      06:40am | 14/10/10

      Geez, Yvette, why not practice what you preach, and let the footy do the talking.
      Great to see the kiddies, boys and girls, having a great time. Why not leave it at that?
      But, it appears you also have to wear the cloak of ever watchful martyr, bearing the burden of fighting sexism, in promoting your own sexist bigottry via the ernies.
      Troy Robinson has let himself go? but you were in awe of “how did a man that shape move that fast ” what an outrageous sexist, elitist comment.
      Any man who wrote such about any out of form female would be gaing an Ernie. Hypocrite? Show your not by self nominating for an Elaine.

    • Eric says:

      05:18am | 14/10/10

      Even in an article about Aboriginal rugby, you have to drag in your little pet feminist project.

      “As for that remark, we have annual awards for sexist remarks called the Ernies ...”

      These are, of course, sexist awards. They only recognise sexist remarks against women - not the much greater number of sexist remarks about men. I’ve also heard that the ceremony is female-only.

      “However, in terms of a racial slur, I am certainly not qualified to judge what is or isn’t OK to be said between two Aboriginal players on a footy field. “

      Why? Because you’re white? By that argument, you’re not qualified to judge what is or isn’t OK between male players on a footy field, either.


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