The AFL has revealed it will host an extended Indigenous round this season across rounds 11 and 12.

An AFL season staple, the Sir Doug Nicholls round celebrates the contributions of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men and women to Australian Rules football.

Each year, the clubs engage players and artists to create Indigenous round guernseys that reflect each club’s connection to their Indigenous players and Indigenous Australia.

Opening the Sir Doug Nicholls round will be premiership hopefuls the Western Bulldogs and Melbourne Demons at Melbourne’s Marvel Stadium on Friday, May 28.

On Saturday, May 29, the Gold Coast and Hawthorn face off at Darwin’s TIO Stadium, host of last year’s Dreamtime at the G — aptly renamed Dreamtime in Darwin. On the afternoon of Sunday, May 30, Carlton will take on Sydney at the Swans’ annual Marngrook game at the SCG.

The following Friday night Melbourne is up against Brisbane at Traeger Park in Mparntwe/Alice Springs in the Northern Territory — the first time the Territory town has hosted a Friday night game — kicking off round 12.

Dreamtime at the G will return to the MCG for the traditional Essendon and Richmond clash on Saturday, June 5, after being held in Darwin last year due to COVID-19 restrictions.

“Rounds 11 and 12 are not only a major celebration on the AFL calendar but the match-ups are looming as blockbusters across both weekends,” AFL head of broadcasting and scheduling, Marcus King, said.

Mr King said it’s great to be able to have games in the Territory for another year. NT Government Minister for Major Events Natasha Fyles said having games in the NT helps Australians to “truly celebrate the contribution Aboriginal Territorians have made to the game”.

“Many talented Aboriginal Territorians have donned a guernsey for AFL teams, and it is fitting the Sir Doug Nicholls rounds will take place in the Territory,” Ms Fyles said.

The Indigenous round’s theme this year is “Our legacy. This is us”, with Syd Jackson continuing as the 2021 Sir Doug Nicholls round honoree after being unable to attend Dreamtime at the G last year because of COVID-19 travel restrictions.

A legend among  legends, Jackson was a star at WA’s East Perth Football Club before being drafted to Carlton and winning two VFL premierships with the Blues in 1970 and 1972.

He was also recognised at the 2020 WAFL Indigenous Round by the Royals, who held a special ceremony for Jackson before East Perth played Swan Districts.

AFL executive general manager of inclusion and social policy Tanya Hosch said the notion of legacy is “one of persistence and rising to challenges both on and off the field”.

“Legacy highlights the contributions from First Nations Elders of the game, such as  Indigenous Team of the Century member Syd Jackson, who has once again been named as the Sir Doug Nicholls round honoree in 2021 as a result of not being able to appropriately celebrate Uncle Syd in the 2020 season,” Ms Hosch said.

“We are also encouraged to celebrate the legacy of contemporary players, like Shaun Burgoyne who is on track to play his 400th AFL game this season, making him the first Aboriginal player in our history to reach this significant milestone.”

This is the sixth year the AFL Indigenous round has been named in honour of Yorta Yorta man, Sir Doug Nicholls. He played for Northcote and Fitzroy football clubs and became the first Aboriginal player to be selected for an interstate Victorian team in 1935.

He later became governor of South Australia in 1976 — the only Aboriginal person to have held vice-regal office.

By Hannah Cross