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In the know with Nos: Reconciliation and respect

It’s a very significant time – not just in rugby league, but across Australia.

This week is National Reconciliation Week, with Friday June 3 marking the 30th anniversary of the Mabo decision. It is also 30 years since the Torres Strait Islander flag was presented to First Nations people.

Not only is this a historic time for us to reflect, but also a chance for us to acknowledge that more needs to be done within that reconciliation space and to show respect to our Indigenous people.

For all Australians, it’s a time to be brave and make change.

Within rugby league, it’s a chance to get out within your clubs and communities, to attend any National Reconciliation Week events and to be community-orientated.

Reconciliation is a journey and we’re all on that journey.

I don’t believe we’ll get true reconciliation until the majority of people understand the challenges our First Nations people have had. But that’s why it’s important to acknowledge that past and work towards a better future together.

National Reconciliation Week, National Sorry Day and Mabo Day have also come off the back of the Queensland Rugby League’s Respect Round, which further highlights what people within footy circles can do for one another – from the grassroots right to the very top of our game.

Billy Slater speaks to the media on Monday. Photo: Jorja Brinums/QRL
Billy Slater speaks to the media on Monday. Photo: Jorja Brinums/QRL

And that includes our Queensland Maroons.

Because - speaking of significant periods - it is also time for State of Origin again – the pinnacle of our game and a place we can look to for examples of respect, unity and inclusivity.

After the Queensland team was announced on Monday, I sat down and listened to coach Billy Slater talk and the way in which he spoke about his team and his approach to the game.

He had respect for his players, for the Blues team, for the game as a whole. It was really refreshing to listen to.

Media conference: Billy Slater

Here we had a coach at the top level who talks about how good our game is, where our game is going and the opportunity at Game I next week to showcase this.

Being a proud Queenslander, it was also exciting for me to read that team list and see players from all backgrounds, from all across the state named in that side.

From the far north to the bush and down to the southeast coast.

It reflects the width and breadth of this great state.

These are men that kids can look up to.

Imagine being a young Indigenous kid in this National Reconciliation Week and seeing the likes of Selwyn Cobbo and Reuben Cotter get named for their Origin debuts.

It’s great to see so many young Indigenous men who are coming through the ranks and it’s a massive achievement for their families and communities.

So, there is plenty people can take from our Maroons over the next few weeks, with the main message being about respect.

Origin is a game, something for everyone to enjoy and I hope across this period, people show that respect not just at the footy or when watching the games, but at home, to our loved ones, or to strangers when we’re out and about.

Reuben Cotter keen to 'get to work'

Respect the people around us and respect the game.

And as I mentioned earlier, this is from the top level like Origin, down to our grassroots.

I’ve had the opportunity to watch local footy in Townsville for the past few weeks as my son is a match official.

Last week I went and watched Townsville Brothers play Western Lions.

The respect the crowd showed towards opposition players and match officials, it was really good to see.

The two games I watched, both A grade and reserve grade, to see the players shaking the hands of the match officials, whether they won or lost, was a positive for our game.

That’s what our game should be like all the time.

Showing respect regardless of whether people get it right or wrong or we agree with their opinions or not.

Respect that people have done their best.

Acknowledgement of Country

Queensland Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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