DESIGNING Sydney's guernsey for 2023's AFLW Indigenous Round has given Aliesha Newman a far greater understanding of what it means to be a First Nations footy player in New South Wales.
The Ningy Ningy woman, whose mob hails from the coast just north of Brisbane, grew up as part of a family of Swans supporters in Melbourne. The mixed influences have had a significant impact on her art, but for this – her first guernsey design for Sydney – Newman knew she had to dig a little deeper.
"Sydney allowed me to come up and sit down with some Elders and people in our community to discuss the jumper and get a better understanding of what Sydney is all about, their culture," Newman said.
"It was really humbling to come back and understand what it means to be an Indigenous Australian in New South Wales.
"That was nice, learning more about our culture because it exists everywhere in Australia, not just my clan or where I am born."
Newman’s design weaves in places and people, nodding to both the heritage of the club and the AFLW program’s emergence.
"The yarning circles up the top, there are 29 yarning circles that are the 29 clans that make up Sydney," she says.
"Then the centerpiece is us as players and everything that comes off that is the admin staff, supporters, family and friends. Everyone that makes you the person you need to be to walk into the footy club.
"The process is always difficult - they give us three weeks to get this done but for me and my designs I want to incorporate not just the players but everything behind the scenes as well."
Newman has been ruled out of Sydney's round seven Marn Grook game against Hawthorn with a concussion but will watch as fellow First Nations teammate Jaide Anthony wears the guernsey on Gadigal land at Henson Park.
The team’s round four win over West Coast broke the ground’s attendance record for an AFLW fixture and these fans have been given a special place on the design in one of the circles that orbit and feed back into the player’s circle – the focal point of the guernsey.
Newman had previously designed the 2020 Indigenous Round jumper for former club Melbourne.
From it, she’s taken a small, yet significant design feature.
“My past club, Melbourne, on their indigenous guernseys they have every indigenous player that has ever played the game on their jumper and it stays on there forever," Newman said.
"I wanted to do something very similar for the W so I have myself and Jaide (Anthony) on here and a little bit about our journeys and the names of the inner Sydney clans."
Newman and Anthony are the first two Indigenous players to don the red and white in the AFLW, adding their names to the 19 First Nations men to have played at V/AFL level for the Swans.
Newman hopes names will continue to be added for generations to come, as she looks to pass the mantle to Anthony and those who come after the pair.