Indigenous Rugby legends Glen Ella and Jim Williams gave visiting HSBC Sydney 7s teams a cultural memento as they touched down on Monday.
With both former Wallabies and Ella a former Australian Sevens coach, the presentation was especially significant.
The teams have flown in from last week’s tournament in Wellington to compete in the HSBC Sydney 7s this weekend.
The message sticks, designed by Jim Simon, the father of Women’s Sevens Indigenous player Tarleena Simon were gifted to each of the team captains by Ella and Williams.
The message sticks represent all the teams coming to meet together.
Ella said it was an important gesture recognising Australia’s Indigenous heritage.
“I think it’s a great initiative, just to give them a little bit of a taste of our Aboriginal culture,” Ella said.
“They wouldn’t know that we are over 40,000 years old and probably the first mailmen in terms of the message sticks.
“It’s important just to let them know they’ve come onto Aboriginal land and our heritage is very proud.”
Currently there are three Indigenous players across the Australian Men’s and Women’s Sevens programs, in large part due to development opportunities like the Lloyd McDermott Indigenous Rugby program.
The quick nature of the sport rewards and highlights the speed and impressive ball skills that many Indigenous athletes possess.
“Sevens is great for Aboriginal people coming into the game,” Ella said.
“Sevens is not so restrictive, not so structured and there’s a lot of room. It’s like playing touch Rugby.”
Williams was similarly glad to be a part of welcoming the International sides, who he hopes can learn a little bit about Australian Indigenous culture.
“You’ve got so many teams coming in from so many countries so I think it’s important to have the ability to share the Indigenous culture and do it by a way that is really simple, really basic but certainly straight to the point,” Williams said.
“The message stick is a great initiative.”
Excited to see Indigenous involvement in the sport, Williams still believes more can be done to engage Indigenous kids from a young age to play Rugby.
“Rugby Union needs to take much more of a concerted effort to get more of our Indigenous people,” he said.
“There are some great athletes out there and I think if we can get more of them involved at a younger age and certainly progress through and see a pathway, we’ll be a hell of a lot more competitive.”
Williams believes events like the Sydney 7s are a great launching pad to further encourage Indigenous involvement in Rugby, particularly Rugby Sevens.
“I think it’s vital that the Australian Rugby Union…is able to use a tournament like this to promote the sport.
“(We should) also make sure we’re promoting the Aboriginal players because there are not a lot of them and we certainly need more.”
The sold out HSBC Sydney 7s will take place at Allianz Stadium on Feb 6 and 7.