For Julian Christian, it doesn’t matter what he accomplishes as a footballer or in life in general.
All that really matters to him is that he always remembers where he’s from and the community he is representing.
The proud Yidinji and Erub man will play this week’s BMD Indigenous Round in front of a home crowd, donning his Northern Pride jersey with immense pride as they prepare to take on the Brisbane Tigers at Barlow Park.
For Christian – who grew up in Cairns and signed with the Pride last year after five seasons with Ipswich Jets – this round is one he counts down to each and every time.
“I was talking about this to my coach (Ty Williams) and the boys this week, but this is probably the most important game on the footy calendar for me,” Christian said.
“Being a proud Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander man – I get the best of both worlds - I really look forward to this round all year, every year.
“This one is especially important being back home and playing for the Northern Pride, getting to play in front of all my family and friends.
"You can be good at your job or a good footy player but if you’re not known in your community or don’t know who you are, it doesn’t mean as much.
“Community, culture, where I’m from, and family, that’s everything to me.”
Christian has very fond memories of growing up in Cairns, learning about his culture, family history, and, of course, football.
And his return last year to his home and his community has seen him thrive on the field.
The star fullback – who is also an educational tutor at the AFL Cape York House, helping young kids transition from remote communities - is right where he belongs, back where it all started.
“I was very lucky,” Christian said of his childhood.
“My family are very big on culture and where we’re from.
“Returning home, it all speaks for itself. I came back last year. It was my first year and coming back home for the Northern Pride and it was just the support, having the family there.
“I was really enjoying my football last year and we made the finals for the first time in a few years. That then led to me having a pre-season with the North Queensland Cowboys.
“Now we’re on track to making finals for a second year in a row. I’m really enjoying my football and having the support of my family.”
The Northern Pride will go all out for their BMD Indigenous Round, with plenty happening on the day, as well as community visits in the lead up.
As well as a BMD craft station, the club will play host to a number of matches and celebrations on game day.
Gates will open from midday at Barlow Park, with the FNQRL women’s semi-final between the Ivanhoe Knights and Yarrabah Seahawks kicking off at 1pm.
From 2.25pm there will be under 7s League Tag and then Hastings Deering Colts at 3pm, before under 8s games are played from 4.35pm.
A Welcome to Country will start at 5.20pm before the Pride and Tigers kick off at 5.30pm.
Match: Pride v Tigers
Round 16 -
Venue: Barlow Park, Cairns
Across the day there will be activities including basket weaving and face painting, while all the music was personally selected by Christian and his fellow First Nations teammates, selecting sounds that remind them of home.
They will also wear new jerseys, designed by Marcus McGregor Cassidy.
Christian said the club spoke to the entire playing group, in particular the Indigenous players, to get their feedback on what would make it as special as possible.
He said he was particularly looking forward to seeing the young kids in action.
And, as Saturday approaches, he is grateful to be at a club that celebrates and highlights his culture.
“I’m looking forward to watching the under 7s and under 8s running around,” Christian said.
“That was me once. I was always walking around with the footy so watching the little fellas run around in front of mob, I’m really, really looking forward to it.
“Since coming home, I can see the Pride are really proud of the Indigenous culture and other cultures at the club.
“A large majority of the squad are Pacific Islander and Indigenous boys. Each fella is very proud of where they come from and we like to represent and show that in our own ways.
“The Pride is good with that. They like us doing that and support us in that.”