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'It gives you another gear': Burns raring to go for BMD Indigenous Round

Gerome Burns’ whole family will be in attendance this Sunday when the flashy Ipswich Jets five-eighth runs out to face Mackay Cutters.

He’s not achieving any milestones or chasing any records, but that is just what BMD Indigenous Round means to Burns and his loved ones.

The Jets will play host to the Cutters at North Ipswich Reserve for this all-important weekend, with the clash also the Round 16 broadcast feature game, to be shown on, Kayo Freebies and 9Now from 2pm.

Burns – who has been one of the Jets’ strongest all year in a tough season for the club – especially loves BMD Indigenous Round, not just because he is a proud Wiradjuri and Barunggam man, but because football, family and his culture are all beautifully interconnected.

“This round, it means a lot to all players but Indigenous players in particular,” Burns said.

“Rugby league is such a big part of Indigenous peoples lives and it gives us a chance to showcase our culture in a sport we love.

“I was born into rugby league. My mum and dad were right into it. As soon as I got my hands on a footy, I jumped into a junior club in Toowoomba and that’s where it all started.

“Dad played in the Toowoomba competition here at Valleys and that’s where myself and my brothers all played our junior footy as well.

“It was sort of everything. Rugby league probably brought our family closer together.

“It was something we all got around to do on the weekends, whether it was go on a Saturday to watch each other play or sitting in the lounge room watching NRL.”

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Burns’ father’s family – the Wiradjuri people – are from Dubbo in New South Wales, while his mum’s family – the Barunggam people – are from the Western Downs region, near Dalby and Roma.

Alongside his memories of watching football together as a family, Burns also remembers the days spent sitting around the kitchen table as his parents told their children the stories of their respective homes and their culture.

Not only did this childhood and family environment instil Burns with his love of football, but an immense pride in his culture and a desire to give back to the next generations.

The 25-year-old works for the Clontarf Foundation at Wilsonton State High School, helping to prepare young Indigenous men for life beyond school.

“It’s just making sure that young Indigenous men are at school and just getting them ready for life outside of school and making sure they’ll play a role in society when they leave school,” he said.

“We’re not really a rugby league academy or anything but it’s a big thing we use to get the boys to come to school, whether that’s morning trainings or going away on camps to play in rugby league carnivals.

“Most play rugby league at a club so I suppose me playing in the Hostplus Cup shows you can go onto bigger things.

“It teaches a lot of life skills and that’s the main things - discipline, communication, also looking after their wellbeing. All of those life skills that you need when you leave school.

“It’s been a passion of mine for a long time, just giving back to my culture, my community as well. Knowing a lot of the families here in Toowoomba, it’s like helping their younger brothers, their sons out. It’s a really rewarding job.”

As part of Ipswich’s BMD Indigenous Round, the Jets will have Indigenous dancers, a smoking ceremony and a BMD craft station.

The Jets are also still chasing their first win for 2023 and Burns knows it’s coming soon, with the talent in the side finally starting to gel together.

But whether or not Ipswich get the two points on Sunday, Burns knows he will be a proud man, from the moment he gets to the field to the moment that final hooter rings.

“It means everything to me,” he said.

“It’s who I am. I’m so proud to be an Indigenous person, given that we are oldest living culture in the world. Being part of that is pretty special.

“This weekend, it’s a chance that you get to represent not just yourself but your community, your family, your culture. It gives you another gear and that’s why it’s so special.

“For myself moving forward, I just want to keep playing my role within the school, within footy and just making sure I’m the best role model I can be.

“I know a lot of kids probably look up to me with what I’m doing so I have to keep putting my best foot forward to inspire these young kids.”

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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