Indigenous jersey just one part of embracing culture: Ella

Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

Wallabies great Glen Ella hopes Indigenous Australian culture can be embraced in Australian rugby like New Zealand embraces its Maori heritage.

The Wallabies donned an Indigenous jersey in last year’s third Bledisloe Test in Brisbane, an historic mark paired with a stirring Welcome to Country at Suncorp Stadium.

That sparked calls for the side to don the specially-designed strip more often and Ella said the move was certainly one that made an impact.

It is believed the jersey will be worn again this season but Rugby Australia is yet to confirm in which Test the Aussies will don it.

Ella was at Rugby Australia for the unveiling of a new collection of Indigenous paintings donated by Patrick Corrigan AM, to be hung at the organisation's headquarters.

The former Wallabies skipper said the Indigenous jersey should be just one part of a wider acknowledgement of Indigenous culture in Australian rugby.

“The jumper last year when they beat the All Blacks in Brisbane was fantastic,” Ella said.

“This is a good thing  they're acknowledging the Aboriginal community and it should be right through the ARU as part of their culture as well.”

“I did text Michael Cheika after the game they won up in Brisbane, saying, 'Mate that might be the secret to beat the All Blacks, having that jumper',” he said.

“Any recognition of the Aboriginal culture on any national jumper is an honour and it was an honour especially last year.”

The All Blacks have long embraced their Maori side, with the Haka performed before every Test and Ella said it was something Rugby Australia CEO Raelene Castle was well-acquainted with.

Castle is Australian-born but for former Netball New Zealand CEO lived much of her life in New Zealand and has seen first hand the way the country acknowledges its cultural background.

“They've (Rugby Australia) still got a long way to go, there's no doubt about that but they are making an effort,” Ella said.

“I think having Raelene there who's got a history - born in Australia obviously - but with a Maori history and now coming in there and wanting to progress Aboriginal participation in the game is great.”

Kurtley Beale is the only current Indigenous Wallaby, while the Sevens program includes three players with Indigenous heritage - Maurice Longbottom, John Porch and Dylan Pietsch.

The Wallabies play the first Bledisloe Test against New Zealand on August 18 in Sydney.