Kurtley Beale couldn’t hide his feelings when showing off the Wallabies Indigenous jersey in the flesh for the first time.
Beale, who returned to Aussie shores last Thursday, choked up when speaking about his role in developing the jersey, the first of its kind to be worn by the Wallabies or any national sporting team, which will be worn in the final Bledisloe on October 21.
“I’m a very proud Indigenous man,” he said.
“We’ve got a lot of young Indigenous talent in this country and for me to be the person to reveal it to everyone out there, it’s just a special, special feeling.
“You don't understand how important it is for myself and the other Indigenous players past and present to stand up and be role models for young Indigenous kids out there who are aspiring to be professional athletes.
“It’s something that I hold close to my heart and I think it’s a great step forward.”
The jersey incorporates symbols of the 14 Indigenous players who have played for Australia, of whom four were at the ceremony - Beale, Lloyd Walker, Lloyd McDermott and Gary Ella.
Beale is the only current Indigenous Wallaby and said he knew he had to take the lead on initiatives around his heritage when seeing the impact that Indigenous rounds in the AFL and NRL had.
“I see the other codes have an Indigenous round and I can just see the reaction from the Indigenous communities when Indigenous Round is up and it’s always a special day - the Welcome to country, the smoking ceremonies, the dancers out on the field,” he said.
“It’s a very powerful thing and that’s when I tried to put my foot forward to really try and get the ARU behind it and the idea and I’m just thankful that we’ve come to it and we’re able to do it.”
The 28-year-old said he was proud to try and be a sporting role model for the next generation, expressing his disappointment that rugby has had so few Indigenous representatives, compared to the over-representation in other codes.
“It’s something I’m very passionate about to be able to influence young Indigenous kids, not just Indigenous but non-indigenous as well,” he said
“Professional athletes are in a very special role in the world and we’ve got responsibilities and to be able to inspire, advise and mentor these kids, it’s something we’ve got to do
“Being Indigenous it makes it extra important.
One of those whom Beale has inspired is U20s halfback Harrison Goddard, who was at Monday’s launch.
“I think it’s been a long time coming, to bring it in is definitely the right move and it’s definitely more motivation to get up there too,” he said
“Since I was about nine I’ve looked up to him, the way he played the game and sitting next to him, having a yarn was pretty special.”
The Wallabies Indigenous jersey is available for presale at wallabyshop.com.au.