Timana Tahu thrilled Indigenous Round is uniting Australia through power of sport

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Indigenous Round is a special time on the NRL calendar but for players it can be daunting.

With Australia’s troubled history in dealing with First Nations people and Indigenous issues, the importance of representing your culture can be significant, as players want to celebrate their heritage but still have a job to do on the field.

Timana Tahu, a proud Indigenous man who enjoyed a stellar career with Newcastle, Parramatta, NSW and Australia, is now the NRL’s senior manager of Indigenous Elite Pathways. Among his many duties, he is highly involved in the organisation of the All Stars clash, as well as everything that goes into Indigenous Round.

He empathises with the current players’ responsibilities in this round

“I think for me, representing Indigenous people, it’s not that there’s a lot of pressure, but regarding what has happened in the past and the things still happening today, as well as how we are moving forward as a nation – it does weigh a little bit on the players,” he told The Roar.

“It gets emotional and they don’t want to disappoint. That’s probably the thing that I felt too, that I never wanted to disappoint my family or my friends and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people – those who we represent during this round.”

Indigenous Round is important for many reasons. It educates and helps everyone understand more about Indigenous history and culture, it brings to the forefront the issues and challenges that many Indigenous people face – not only in sport but in society – and provides the chance to come together as one to help build a brighter and more united future.

It enables players from all Indigenous backgrounds to embrace their heritage and represent their people.

The NRL and all the clubs do a phenomenal job and put in an extraordinary amount of effort to give this round the recognition that it deserves.

Each team has their own specially made jersey to wear for their game, created by members of the Indigenous community, designed with artwork full of stories and meaning. We also get to witness traditional welcome ceremonies, performances, and celebrations of Indigenous culture before the start of each match.

And, of course, we celebrate our wonderful Indigenous players like Nicho Hynes, Jack Wighton and Josh Addo-Carr.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - APRIL 10: Nicholas Hynes of the Sharks passes during the warm-up before the round five NRL match between the Cronulla Sharks and the Wests Tigers at PointsBet Stadium, on April 10, 2022, in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

(Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

During the launch earlier this week, Peter V’landys said the round “reminds us that we need to continue learning about, celebrating, and enhancing Indigenous culture in our game”.

“It’s a time to celebrate what Indigenous players have given to Rugby League, but also to recognise and understand the challenges Indigenous communities have faced – and continue to face,” the ARLC chairman said.

The theme of the weekend is, once again, ‘Pass Back, Move Forward’.

Tahu is from two Indigenous cultures.

“Firstly, my mum who was born in Bourke, she is a Barkindji woman. The Barkindji nation is out towards the Wilcannia and Broken Hill areas, and Barkindji means ‘River People’,” Tahu said.

“My father comes from New Zealand, and he is an Indigenous Maori from the Ngapuhi tribe.

“I’m very blessed to come from these two strong cultures, it’s probably why I’ve done so well in sport. I am so grateful for who I am and who I represent.”

He says the theme works on many levels:

“The concept of ‘Pass Back, Move Forward’ that we are promoting for this round is so good. The ‘Pass Back’ meaning relates to footy terminology and a footy action, but also looking backing on the past, seeing how we have stumbled, but also seeing what we have done well as a nation as both non-Indigenous and Indigenous people.

“The ‘Move Forward’ part, looking at where we are today and seeing what our leaders are doing. We always look up to our leaders, and the leaders in the NRL and the commissioners, and Andrew Abdo, and Peter V’landys, they have been real allies for Indigenous Round and wanting to improve it, bring awareness about it to the forefront. I feel like they have done a really good job.

“But also, outside of the NRL, seeing what our government is doing moving forward with Indigenous issues. It was great to see our new Prime Minister, in his first conference as Prime Minister, having the Torres Strait Islander and the Aboriginal flags behind him – it was such a proud moment.

“Seeing our leaders wanting to make change, it just trickles down. It seems that there is a bright future for the Indigenous and non-Indigenous people moving forward as one.”

Moving forward as one is exactly what Indigenous Round is about.

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