The Country vs City Origin game is one of the oldest institutions in Australian rugby league, having first been played all the way back in 1911. The match pits a representative team drawn from players brought through in the greater Sydney area (City) against a team comprised of players from the rest of New South Wales (Country) in a one-off game that often acts as something as a trial match for the NSW State Of Origin side
As with NSW’s Origin side, the Country and City team jerseys are produced by Classic Sportswear, and this year the jerseys have a unique and very unconventional Indigenous spin, created by noted Aboriginal artist and Gamilaroi man Daren Dunn.
As with all the best jerseys of this type, the Aboriginal designs used on the Country Rugby League jersey are more than just striking patterns that accentuate the traditional maroon-chevron’d look – each part of the design has a distinct meaning and tells a story.
The primary motifs on the jersey relates to the geography of the Tamworth Gamilaroi area of New South Wales – namely the Peel, Namoi and Gwydir rivers – and the area’s traditional animal totem, the kangaroo.
There are five kangaroos on the jersey in total, and they represent different things. The two kangaroos on the front above the chevron are supposed to reflect a gathering ceremony of Indigenous and non Indigenous people coming together as one in a ceremony of respect and harmony as ‘One Culture’. Meanwhile on the back there are three more kangaroos, that “pay respect to our past, present and future elders”.
The striking pattern on the side panels has special significance, too. The design represents ‘Shake a leg’ – a welcome dance from the local traditional people of the Goonoo Goono, Gunnedah Manilla and Moonbi clans – while the red, white and yellow dots reflect those worn in ceremonial Dance-coorobeerees around the Gamilaroi Country.
Like the Country jersey, the City Rugby League design is again resplendent with Aboriginal art, and this time the various motifs of the design comes together under one theme, “Wallay” – which means ‘meeting’ in Gamilaroi language.
The patterns on the body of the jersey represent four significant meeting places in the area, Manilla, Barraba, Bendemeer and Burrabeedee – acknowledging and honouring the sacred sites and unique history of the ancient Gamilaroi Country and the people who live there.
The inclusion of these sites on the jersey represent a welcome to the City team from their Country Rugby League hosts – as the artist himself puts it, a hope for “positive engagement and journey in these lands”.
The back of the jersey is continues this theme, with a depiction of the large Australian monitor lizard, the sand goanna. This totem doesn’t represent just any lizard, however – this is Thuli, the leader of the Gamilaroi clans and a protective guardian. The position of Thuli on the back is shows how he protects the wearer, as Dunn states, “May he cover your back as you walk and play on this land.”
The final points of interest are the intricate patterns on the sleeves of the design, which represent the past and present Aboriginal educators and respectable leaders.
We’ve looked at a variety of unique and interesting Indigenous jersey designs over the last few years, but these two might be our favourites yet – not only for the way that they blend the traditional City and Country shirt designs with the Aboriginal art, but also for the stories they tell and the concepts they represent. Nice.