The second Festival of Indigenous Rugby League will kick off the 2018 Australian Rugby League season on 10 February next year, with the NRL revealing that there will be a week-long celebration and matches to be played at Redfern Oval.
Next year’s Festival will follow a similar process to the inaugural Festival that occurred at the start of 2014, with the aim of providing an opportunity for the next generation of players outside the NRL to showcase their skills and talent.
Six teams will play as part of the Festival, with an emerging men’s and women’s Maori team participating for the first time.
Popular Indigenous All Stars elements will form part of the Festival, including the Youth Summit and NRL Indigenous Players Cultural Camp.
A wellbeing and employment summit will also take place, thanks to a partnership between the NRL and the Australian Government.
Current Indigenous All Stars coach, Laurie Daley will take charge of the emerging Indigenous men’s team – the First Nation Goannas – and he said the week would be a culmination of combined Indigenous and Maori celebration.
“There are some incredibly gifted Indigenous and Maori Rugby League players amongst our communities that are on the cusp of NRL and representative Rugby League, and fans of our game are in for a real treat when the men’s and women’s teams take to the field,” Daley said.
“This is more than just about the matches though, with the whole Festival being a chance for our communities to come together and celebrate the inclusiveness that exists throughout Rugby League.”
Australian Rugby League Indigenous Council Chairperson, the Honourable Linda Burney MP, welcomed the announcement of the Festival and the inclusion of the Maori teams.
“I can’t think of a better way to commence the 2018 Rugby League season than with two of the world’s oldest cultures coming together to showcase the best our game has to offer, both on and off the field,” Ms Burney said.
The Festival has the proud support of the Australian Government, with Minister for Aged Care and Indigenous Health, the Honourable Ken Wyatt, AM MP announcing funding for the delivery of resilience and mental health workshops to participating teams and Youth Summit attendees, together with the distribution of mental health resources to all game day attendees.
NRL Head of Government and Community Relations, Jaymes Boland-Rudder thanked the Australian Government and Minister for their ongoing support of Indigenous health and mental wellbeing programmes within the NRL and said the Festival would be another chance to engage with local communities and ensure additional support and care for those most in need.
“Rugby League plays a significant role in the lives of many Indigenous and Maori communities and the message that the Government and our game will deliver together during the Festival, with the support of players, will go a long way to ensuring that we continue to look out for one another and strive to live happy and healthy lives,” Mr Boland-Rudder said.
Tickets to the Festival of Indigenous Rugby League matches will go on sale prior to Christmas at www.nrl.com/tickets.
Teams playing at Redfern Oval on 10 February include:
Men – First Nation Goannas vs. New Zealand Maori
Women – First Nation Gems vs. New Zealand Maori Ferns
Interstate Challenge – Newcastle Yowies (NSW) vs. Dhadin Geai Warriors (QLD)