'This is about honouring our Indigenous people': Why the Wallabies won't take a knee during Bledisloe III

International
by Christy Doran

The Wallabies won’t take a knee before Bledisloe III, instead preferring to leave the focus on supporting Australia’s First Nations people as they wear the Indigenous jersey for just the second time on home soil on October 31.

The Black Lives Matter movement returned to the headlines in Australian sport on Wednesday, after a reporter asked Wallaby Dane Haylett-Petty whether he would take a knee before the match.

On the spot, Haylett-Petty said he would.

But on Friday, Wallabies coach Dave Rennie, with the support of Rugby Australia, confirmed they would not take a knee and said his side wanted the focus to be on their Indigenous jersey.

“No, we won’t,” Rennie said.

“The key thing is, this is about honouring our Indigenous people and we want the focus to be on that.

“Everyone’s got their own opinions around the other situation, but we want the focus to be on reflecting on our history and our past.

“All I’ve said is that our focus is around the First Nations People and the Indigenous jersey. We’re not looking to make a political statement.”

Be there for the third Bledisloe Cup clash at Sydney’s ANZ Stadium, Saturday 31 October. Tickets HERE

It’s just the second time the Wallabies will wear their Indigenous jersey on home soil and fourth in total since unveiling it in 2017. No other national team in Australia wears an Indigenous playing strip.

Rennie added that the Wallabies wanted to see an Indigenous element incorporated permanently on their jersey.

“We’ve certainly talked about the Indigenous jersey and as a group we’d like to see that represented every week on our jersey, not just a one off, and I think that this is the first step in regards to embracing that part of our history,” he said.

“What we’re trying to highlight is that First Nations is part of our DNA. It needs to be reflected in what we do each day, not just one or two times a year, so we think having that reflected on our Test jersey every week is really important.

“It’s a great opportunity for us to embrace our history. We’ve talked a lot about who we are and who we represent – we’ve got a lot of different cultures within our group – but we’ve spent a lot time talking about past, present and future in regards to our First Nations People and it’s a great opportunity to honour that next weekend.”

Rennie added that the decision not to take a knee was supported unanimously.

“We met with the leaders and then the leaders met with the rest of the team and it’s a unanimous decision,” the first-year Wallabies coach said.

Rugby Australia interim CEO Rob Clarke added: “Rugby Australia and the Wallabies condemn any form of racism or discrimination and also acknowledge that we are still on the path to reconciliation.

“The First Nations jersey is a strong statement in itself. It has a truly global impact in raising awareness and in recognising the issues facing First Nations people. Rugby Australia and the Wallabies are incredibly proud to wear it, what it means and who it represents.

“I’m really pleased the players and management have come together to speak about this, as they would with other important social issues. It was measured, appropriate and mature and I congratulate the team as they explore more opportunities to recognise issues facing First Nations people and all Australians."

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Former Indigenous Wallaby, Gary Ella, also backed Rugby Australia's response.

"The Wallabies First Nations jersey is a proud celebration of Aboriginal culture; the longest surviving culture on earth," he said.

"Wearing the jersey is an act of reconciliation and a reminder that rugby is an inclusive sport for all people to participate in. I support the Wallabies in their decision and it’s important that we continue discussions about race and remind ourselves that reconciliation is not just one act but millions of small ones that serves to heal all Australians."

After two days off to recharge the batteries following their two Tests in New Zealand, the Wallabies reassembled in the Hunter Valley on Thursday ahead of the Tri Nations.

The Wallabies will play back to back Tests against the All Blacks on October 31 and November 7, before finishing the year with two matches against Argentina’s Pumas.