Ahead of the NRL’s Indigenous round, the league has encouraged fans to use the ceremonies and celebrations as a learning opportunity.

The league launched the round with South Sydney and the West Tigers on Tuesday.

All matches of the national competition include traditional welcome ceremonies, performances and celebrations of Indigenous culture before kick off.

Each club has also donned Indigenous guernseys for their games.

Spectators and home viewers have been asked to engage with the round, to learn the land and learn the history and show respect to traditional custodians throughout the weekend.

Smoking ceremony at Indigenous round launch.
image: NRL Facebook

Australian Rugby League Commission chairman Peter V’landys said the round celebrated the impact of First Nations people on the game, and raised awareness of challenges Indigenous communities face.

Indigenous activist, lawyer and ARL commissioner professor Megan Davis said the rugby league has played a part in the journey towards equality for First Nations people.

“As a game we bring communities and cultures together,” she said.

“We are breaking down barriers and we are leading the debate for equality.

“The Commission understands the importance of this role and will never undervalue it.”

Former NRL player Dean Widders understands the importance of making steps in the right direction.

Widders was the subject of racial vilification during his career.

Now the NRL’s Indigenous pathways manager he appreciates Indigenous Round’s 2022 theme of pass back, move forward.

“The game has always been a front runner and a real force in society for positive change for Indigenous people,” Widder said.

“We must recognise that past and look at ways that we can move forward.

“This is our way of expressing that to all of our fans and educating people about how we can create a better Australia for Indigenous people.”

Among the school programs backed by the league, Widders said the pathways for roles and employment opportunities within the structures of the game plays a part in influencing a positive environment for mob.

“We’re trying to get as many Indigenous coaches into NRL clubs and into NRL pathway systems as we can, making the clubs culturally appropriate and safe for our players.”

He said the NRL does “fantastic things” for young Indigenous people looking to do well in the game.

The NRL’s Indigenous Round kicks off 7:50pm Thursday night as the Storm take on Manly at AAMI park in Melbourne.