Australian star Kurtley Beale calls for indigenous shirt at Rugby World Cup

Posted at 8:19 AM, Oct 17, 2018
and last updated 2018-10-17 10:19:48-04

Australian rugby union star Kurtley Beale has called for the Wallabies to wear an indigenous-themed jersey at the 2019 Rugby World Cup.

The shirt, which Australia wore in last October’s win over the All Blacks, is designed to symbolize unity in the country.

Rugby Australian announced Wednesday the Wallabies would wear the shirt again in November’s clash with England in London, and Beale hopes it can make another appearance on the global stage in Japan next year.

“I think it’s a special jersey to be able to wear and I know a lot of the playing group are fully behind it and support it and would love to continue such a special thing,” Beale said.

“I think that recognizes our first nation’s culture. It’s a special thing to be able to pay such a tribute to the past players who’ve represented the Wallabies.”

Under World Cup rules, nations must have both a primary and alternative kit for the tournament in Japan. Teams will flip a coin ahead of the competition for the right to decide which of their kits they get to wear in each of the pool matches. They will do the same ahead of the knockout games.

For Beale, the shirt’s symbolism sends a strong message.

“It holds a close spot to my heart. I know that it’s very important for a lot of our families that have supported us along the way,” Beale told CNN in February.

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Not a political symbol

Australia has long been embroiled in controversy over its treatment of its indigenous peoples, immigration and race, but Beale wants to avoid politicizing the shirt.

“I don’t want to go down the politics side of it but it’s just a huge thing and it would make a huge statement to the rest of the world (about) how we’re travelling down under,” said Beale, one of 14 indigenous players to have represented the Wallabies.

Australia’s captain Michael Hooper said the entire team was behind the message.

“The whole team was really honored to run out in the indigenous jersey last year to recognize not only the role of indigenous players in the Wallabies throughout history but as a broader recognition of indigenous culture and its importance in our country.”

‘We did face a lot of racism’

Rugby Australia chose indigenous artist Dennis Golding to design the shirt but the student initially thought his selection was a prank.

“I needed to look at the trail of the emails, who it was from,” he told CNN. “I couldn’t believe it, I was shocked.”

Like Beale, Golding hopes his design can promote the importance of harmony.

“I’ve always been influenced by my family, my community and being able to share stories,” he continued.

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“We did face a lot of racism by other kids. There was always a division between aboriginal kids and white Australians.”