The National Basketball League (NBL) has announced plans to run an Indigenous Round in 2019 after the Illawarra Hawks’ successful independent Indigenous game.

Australian basketball stars Patty Mills and Andrew Gaze led a strong chorus calling for the NBL to recognise Indigenous players and staff, and to join the effort to help educate the public on the issues Indigenous people face in Australia.

Mills was vocal on Twitter in the days after the Hawks’ successful Indigenous match against the Sydney Kings.

“As a sport in Australia, it is time to provide recognition and have a significant role in the process to educate because it’s Australian history and we have the power to make a positive impact on communities and generations to come. It’s basketball’s turn,” Mills said.

Sydney coach Andrew Gaze chimed in as well, telling reporters, “If you can provide recognition to the Indigenous plight, it is a privilege of playing the game that we can be part of the process to educate.”

“We as players, if we can educate ourselves just a little bit on some of the challenges that in this society that we should be very very concerned about, to say we as a nation need to do better,” Gaze said.

The NBL responded just a few days after the match in Wollongong, saying they would begin work to incorporate an Indigenous round in 2019.

“They showed tremendous leadership to stage a game that was not only embraced by fans, but was also a celebration of the game’s Indigenous players and their important contribution to the NBL and Australian basketball,” NBL CEO Jeremy Loeliger said.

“It’s important we consult with clubs, players, the Indigenous community and Basketball Australia to look at ways we can appropriately acknowledge Indigenous Australia. We want it to be meaningful and impactful.”

“We will also work with the New Zealand Breakers to celebrate Maori players and the significant contribution they have made not just to the NBL but also basketball in New Zealand.”

The jersey used during the Hawks’ game was designed by University of Wollongong student Harry Pitt who interpreted the work of Aboriginal Artist Glen Southerland, titled Life’s Journey.

The Illawarra Aboriginal Medical Service worked with the Hawks to pull the project together over the last six months.

The jersey symbolises the work the club has been doing to encourage Indigenous children in the Illawarra to attend school, and for parents to invest in their kids’ health and education.

The details of next season’s NBL Indigenous Round are yet to be revealed.

By Keiran Deck