More than just a rock
When you’re young, the problems Indigenous communities have to deal with are things that you’re not really aware of, growing up in Sydney or Melbourne.
We’re influenced so much by the media that it’s hard for us to really have an understanding, because this stuff just doesn’t get spoken about often.
I’ve been working up there and I probably only understand half of what I should. In many ways, I have more questions now than I did before.
More of us should open ourselves up to having these kinds of experiences. As a country we’re still ignorant, in many ways. That was really obvious in the public discussion about the ban on people climbing Uluru.
It’s not for me to say what’s right. Or anyone else. It’s for the landowners and the people who protect the traditions of the land.
A lot of people in Australia think it’s just a rock. They don’t understand Uluru’s significance to Indigenous communities.
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Amazing experience at Uluru recently with the Mutijulu community and @illawarrahawks79 player @kevoooo22 Was an honour to meet the community and hear their stories in such an incredible place. Check out the story and photos online. Link in bio. #standtall #inspiringpositivechange
There are so many parts of our history and our Indigenous history that we have cast aside as if it’s nothing. It’s not until you sit down with someone like Audrey and have a conversation that your eyes begin to open.
You walk away and think, ‘I don’t know exactly how we got here but we’ve done an awful lot wrong.’ Those errors need to be reconciled somehow, some way.
We make a lot of good steps forward, but we often seem to follow those up with a couple back – a dumb decision or by letting uneducated opinions go unchallenged.
I hope we can open our eyes and ears to what the traditional custodians of our land have to say. They’re a big part of us finding a solution to many of these problems, so we can move forward and celebrate the Indigenous culture as a united country.
I made it four years into a teaching degree before my basketball career took off. But as I got further along with those studies, I realised that teaching isn’t really what I want to do when I finish playing. I’ve found social work and community work to be much more rewarding.
When I retire, I want to expand my capacity to work with Charity Bounce, doing more work with remote communities and running programs as a social worker.
I might go back and finish my degree, just to get the piece of paper, but I don’t think I’ll ever be a teacher in a classroom. That doesn’t feel right to me now, after the experiences I’ve had in the outback.
Mending relationships in the Philippines
I made a huge move in the off-season, leaving the Illawarra Hawks to join the 36ers in Adelaide. The city is very similar to Wollongong, a coastal town with down-to-earth people. I feel right at home.
On the court, you tend to figure out your role in the team as the season goes on. While I was at the Hawks the media called me the glue guy. At the 36ers we’ve got Brendan Teys, who is amazing in that role. He holds everyone at the club together.
Joey Wright has brought me in to help Teysy. I’ll be an old head, available to help the younger players like Alex Mudronja.
Playing for the Hawks, my job was to take skilful players like him out of the game. Now I want to help Alex learn how to deal with in-game situations where he might be targeted.
The 36ers finished just one game outside the finals last year, and it was the Hawks that cost them that spot, so the boys were hanging plenty of shit on me during the off-season.
This time around, our aim is to win the championship. If you haven’t got that as your top goal for the season, you’re probably not playing for the right reasons.
During our pre-season trip to the Philippines we mapped out our plan for how to achieve that, looking at what it will take for us to be successful. We’re going to hold people accountable against that plan, for the betterment of the team. We also laid out our non-negotiables; the things we won’t put up with as a team.
It was a great trip, although it was pretty interesting being over in the Philippines after everything that happened when the Boomers last played over there.
Anthony Drmic was pretty scared, because he was involved in that game. Before we left, he thought we might not make it home! What we ended up discovering, is that in the Philippines they have one of the nicest cultures you’d ever come across.
We played two trial games against their national team, to prepare them for the World Cup. As we got around their team, with functions the night before each game, we found that a lot of their players were apologetic and maybe even a little embarrassed about what had happened before.
They pulled Joey and Brendan up on stage one night and questioned them about it, something about how tensions were between the two teams. Joey did a pretty good job at putting the issue to bed, saying that we were only there to mend the relationship.
That attitude showed on the court. Neither team was up and about, trying to start fights. There were no illegal hits. Both teams respected each other and ended up walking away a little surprised at how well the whole thing went down.
That was important because there’s no place for fighting in sport, unless it’s boxing or the UFC.
I don’t know if the Philippines will have us back for a tune-up game any time soon though. They ended up being beaten by about 40 points in all their games at the World Cup!