Everything You Need to Know About the Significance of the AFLW Indigenous Guernsey
Before this year, I don’t think I watched sports very often — in fact, if there was a sports game on, you’d likely find me in the furthest corner from the screen, scrolling TikTok and glancing at the screen from time to time, with absolutely no idea what was going on.
Now, I’m finding myself becoming more and more intrigued with the excitement and community the games can bring — and my latest obsession has to be AFLW.
Not only are these players inspiring, powerful and unbelievably skilled in their craft, but the sports league is taking huge steps to accelerate progress in diversity and inclusion within the sporting world and beyond. One of the many ways it champions and supports underrepresented communities is through its Indigenous Rounds.
Every year, the AFL embraces and celebrates the immense impact and influence of Indigenous Australians on the sport. During these rounds, players don specially designed guernseys (a.k.a jerseys worn by AFL players, for those of us who are unfamiliar) with deep-rooted stories and cultural significance that make it more than just a piece of fabric.
Each design is a labour of love, carrying deep meaning for both the players and the communities they represent and they capture the essence of each club’s journey and values. They’re not just guernseys — they’re symbolic representations of unity, growth and a commitment to inclusivity in AFL. Last year’s guernseys told stories of change, rebirth and new beginnings for the respective clubs that donned them.
From the Adelaide Crows’ celebration of reconciliation through a shared design — to the Brisbane Lions’ reflection on a new beginning — every guernsey was a powerful testament to the importance of Indigenous culture in the sport. The Collingwood Magpies’ design marked the dawn of a new era, while Essendon Bombers’ guernsey, designed by students from Thornbury Primary School, incorporated Waa the Crow — a protector spirit and moiety totem of the Wurundjeri Woiwurrung people of the Eastern Kulin nation.
The Narrm Football Club (The Melbourne Demons) guernsey paid tribute to the region and told a story of community, connection and everlasting spirit that represents Wurundjeri culture, and The St Kilda Saints’ design reflected their Indigenous playing group and connection to local land, while the West Coast Eagles’ guernsey signified their strong connection with community.
Each guernsey carried a unique message, highlighting the significance of Indigenous culture in the AFLW, and 2023 is no different.
Adelaide FC’s 2023 Indigenous guernsey, designed by April Napangardi Campbell, beautifully embodies the theme of connection. This guernsey holds more than just a design — it carries a family story. AFLW player Danielle Ponter’s connection with her Aunty April was rekindled through this artwork — having only spoken on the phone after their family lost contact when Ponter’s maternal grandfather was forcibly removed from traditional lands. The theme of connection with this guernsey is extra powerful when you learn and understand the depth and complexity of each story.
Proud Kerrup-Mara Gunditjmara and Yorta Yorta man Jason Walker designed the 2023 guernsey for the Bulldogs. The design is a representation of Mirring (country) on Gunditjmara and was inspired by the Lake Condah Possum Skin Cloak. An eel, intricately woven into the team’s red, white and blue, symbolises the Gunditjmara people’s resilience,
while also paying tribute to the Western Victoria’s Eels Aboriginal Football Club, where many Indigenous families — including AFL star and proud Gunditjmara, Balardong Noongar and Whadjuk Noongar man Jamarra Ugle-Hagan, have left their mark.
The West Coast Eagles’ guernsey was designed by player and proud Kija and Jaru woman, Krstel Petrevski, is a beautiful expression of unity. It incorporates circles, feathers and boomerangs to symbolise not just unity but also the strength of mind, body and spirit. The guernsey also features a striking depiction of the Waalij (eagle) spreading its wings.
This year, the Sydney Swans proudly showcase their first Indigenous Round guernsey designed specifically for the AFLW team. Designed by current player and proud Ningy Ningy woman Aliesha Newman, this guernsey represents community and connection. After speaking with some Elders in Sydney, Newman came up with a design that brilliantly represents the 29 clans within NSW through 29 yarning circles. The circles also represent the AFLW team and all the people who’ve helped them get where they are.
Indigenous artist Jade Kennedy of the Noongar Nation designed the St Kilda Saints’ guernsey. It represents the yawa, or journey, of the club and its First Nations players and their families. The guernsey showcases family totems of current senior listed players, encircling the names of all First Nations Saints who have played a senior game for the club, symbolising the collective past and present.
The Hawthorn Hawks 2023 guernsey, is named “Ballerrt Ngawan – Strong Sun”, and was designed by designer, Indigenous artist and proud Woi-Wurrung Wurundjeri and Yorta Yorta woman Simone Thomson. It features Bunjil Bagora, the Eaglehawk, guarding over Country, while the rising sun represents Bunjil’s creation of land and waterways and figures on the sides symbolise female warriors coming together for Ceremony. The ‘u’ and ‘n’ symbols above the sun represent the Hawks male and female players, emphasising that they’re ‘One Club’, connected and united.
The Geelong Cats’ guernsey, designed by Michelle Searle, a proud Awabakal woman, is a colourful representation of unity, connection and support among players and communities. It showcases stars, a central gathering point and bands that symbolise unity, banding together and learning from one another’s experiences.
Not only are these guernsey’s incredible works of art, but they tell stories of heritage, unity and community connection for the players and the sport itself. With each and every design, the clubs pay homage to their Indigenous players and the rich cultures they represent — and these are just a handful of the designs from a selection of clubs. There are plenty more stories and artworks to explore.
The AFLW players will be donning their team’s Indigenous guernsey for the upcoming Indigenous Rounds — and you may have even seen them already. Find out if there’s a game on near you, or discover and shop your team’s design on their website.