Wallabies' Indigenous-inspired jersey for October Test
ARU boss Bill Pulver says the Wallabies' new Indigenous-inspired jersey is a crucial step in the right direction towards reconciliation and achieving more diversity in the game.
The jersey, designed by Sydney artist Dennis Golding, incorporates symbols of the 14 Indigenous players who have represented Australia and will be worn in the Wallabies' third Bledisloe Cup Test against the All Blacks in Brisbane on October 21.
Pulver, who was in attendance at Monday's jersey launch in Redfern, hoped the Wallabies could, at the very least, incorporate elements of the Indigenous jersey in the future.
"It's wonderful that we've got a Wallaby jersey which acknowledges our Indigenous heritage,” Pulver told foxsports.com.au.
"I think this is one step in the right direction for us.
"Let's wait and see how people respond to the jersey that we've produced.
"Bear in mind in both the 15-man game and the sevens game, we have both home and away jerseys, so I think there's ample room to consider those options.
"I think that will certainly be on the agenda to discuss further.”
Returning Wallabies playmaker Kurtley Beale was on hand to unveil the jersey at the National Centre of Indigenous Excellence in Redfern.
Beale is one of just 14 men of Indigenous origin to play for the Wallabies and the 28-year-old said that figure was far too low given a high representation in other codes.
"It's pretty disappointing,” Beale said.
"I love sport in Australia, and to be able to see a lot of Indigenous players playing in the AFL and rugby league, you kind of wonder what's going on.
"But I think where we can really get involved and make it accessible is in the grassroots.
"I think this is a great step forward because there will be a lot of young indigenous kids - boys and girls - to be able to see this jersey displayed at Bledisloe game three, and hopefully that can influence them to play this game.”
Beale added that the ARU should follow the lead of the NRL and AFL and introduce an Indigenous round, which would be a "very powerful thing.”
Pulver agreed and said there was scope to introduce those initiatives, while adding that at each home Test match a "Welcome to Country” was performed.
He also highlighted the efforts that the ARU have made in recent years to make rugby a game for all with the introduction of the "Deadly 7s” program.
"One of the most successful initiatives in the last 12 months has been a sevens series known as the Deadly 7s for Indigenous players,” Pulver said.
"We set out a target last year to have 400 Indigenous players, we achieved 2500.
"There are some things that are going very well and it was terrific this morning to see Harrison Goddard there.
"He was one of two Indigenous boys in our Australian under-20s program, so I think we're making progress.
"We've got an awful long way to go and all of those options will be on the table.”
It's hoped that programs like the Deadly 7s will address the low representation of Indigenous Australians that have played for the Wallabies.
"Where we've had trouble in the past - and this is not only with Indigenous kids - is that kids that have excelled in rugby during school, sadly a lot of the league scouts are all over their school career and then offer them money to go and play rugby league and that's not a space we want to go into,” Pulver said.
"We don't want to have to offer 18-year-old boys and girls money to stay in the game.
"We want them to stay in the game for the love of the game and all of the great things that rugby has to offer.
"But historically we've lost some kids coming out of school that have gone to rugby league for what I think are probably the wrong reasons.
"Because if you become an elite rugby union player you probably earn pretty similar money to a rugby league player, but they take a lot more kids out of school than rugby can.
"That's one of the problem areas.
"Hopefully we can use the Kurtley Beales, the Harrison Goddards and Mahalia Murphys of the world as examples for young kids that want to build a lifetime career.”
Pulver added that the ongoing drama associated with the Super Rugby cull - and the likely hefty legal fees attached - wouldn't impact on grassroots funding.
"Grassroots clearly is the priority we're trying to take care of, just to get the balance right between the investment in the professional game and the investment in the grassroots game.
"And part of our initiatives today, we're very focused on getting rugby into public schools.
"Legal fees are not desirable clearly.
"But they're not relevant in the broader scale of the type of economic changes we're trying to make to the game.”