Adelaide SANFL forward Isaya McKenzie says the importance of hosting rounds dedicated to celebrating Indigenous culture across all levels of football should not be underestimated.
McKenzie, who signed with the Crows’ state league side this season, is a proud Ngarrindjeri and Adnyamathanha man.
The Ngarrindjeri people are from the lower Murray River, eastern Fleurieu Peninsula and the Coorong of the southern-central area of SA, while the Adnyamathanha people are from the Flinders Ranges.
McKenzie has grown up knowing all about his Indigenous background and is continuing to learn more about his culture.
The 23-year-old spoke to AFC Media ahead of the AFL’s Sir Doug Nicholls Round - which celebrates the contributions of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples to Australian Football and the country.
He said being culturally aware of his own heritage not only ensured it was not lost on the next generation but also helped with educating non-Indigenous people.
“I was always around my Indigenous culture and it was embedded in me, so I guess I have a strong connection to culture,” McKenzie said.
“It’s my identity and who I am.
“I take a lot of pride in being part of the longest living culture on earth and to be able to share our culture and know the language and it’s pretty important to me.
“Whatever background you are, we all have a different story, a past and a history.
“We need to learn and understand why people are the way they are and accept everyone’s differences.”
Adelaide’s AFL side will wear its Indigenous guernsey for the first time this year, following in the footsteps of the SANFL and AFLW teams which have already donned the jumper in 2022.
The Club’s SANFL side will, however, also wear the jumper in its Friday night blockbuster against Woodville-West Torrens.
Eastern Arrernte man Pat Caruso designed this year’s guernsey, which was officially launched in January.
The design highlights the coming together of the men’s and women’s teams on their reconciliation journey, as well as acknowledging the impact that the many members of the Crows family have left on the Club since 1991.
Growing up, McKenzie idolised Indigenous AFL players because of the “magic” they brought to the field.
The small forward, who works as an Aboriginal Youth Mentor at Mark Oliphant College, says Sir Doug Nicholls Round is a great way to honour the past and present Indigenous stars.
“I think it’s great for the AFL and the SANFL to recognise Aboriginal people, players and the culture. It’s a bigger thing than just footy,” McKenzie said.
“To recognise and appreciate the Aboriginal people who have been through the game and what they’ve given to the game is really important.
“I loved watching Cyril Rioli - just some of the magic he produced and Eddie Betts and Andrew McLeod back in the day.
“The way they played, their identity on the ground and no one can do what they did, it was unreal.”
Adelaide’s SANFL side will face Woodville-West Torrens at Woodville Oval on Friday night, with the first bounce at 7.40pm.