IT WILL be a new-look Dreamtime clash this weekend when Richmond and Essendon meet at Perth's Optus Stadium in front of a full house.
This is the second year in a row that the much-anticipated fixture will be played away from the MCG. Last year's match was held in Darwin, also due to COVID-19 restrictions in Victoria.
From humble origins in 2005, the annual clash showcases the contribution that Indigenous players and communities make to the game and our country.
And what better way to celebrate the culture and players than with a look back at 10 magic moments from past Sir Doug Nicholls Rounds.
Eddie picks his pocket
The only Indigenous player to kick more goals than Eddie Betts is a certain Lance Franklin, but the Carlton and former Adelaide goalsneak has claimed the Goal of the Year award on four occasions. Betts was awarded his second GOTY in this round in 2015 after he picked up the ball in a left pocket at Adelaide Oval, then from 50m out near the boundary dropped an inside-out left-foot barrel that landed on the goal line and dribbled through.
Betts betters his Goal of the Year
Betts defended his 2015 GOTY crown with another extraordinary Sir Doug Nicholls Round effort the following year against Greater Western Sydney. Betts slid onto the ball as it bounced where the 50m arc meets the boundary line, jumped up to his feet before evading two Giants players, and finally kicking a right-foot snap from 40m out. Betts pounded his Indigenous jumper in celebration.
Epic welcome to Dreamtime in Darwin
Dreamtime at the 'G is regularly played in front of more than 80,000 fans but a first ever Dreamtime in Darwin was a more exclusive event with around 6000 people able to watch the game at TIO Stadium. A powerful pre-game ceremony broadcast to many more ensured the occasion more than lived up to its usual spectacle, starting with a musical performance from Yirringa Yunupingu. That was followed by a stirring Welcome to Country delivered by Richard Fejo, an elder of the Fejo Family group and one of the families that make up the Larrakia People. Indigenous player Shai Bolton then went on to win the Yiooken Medal for his best-on-ground performance for Richmond.
The Tigers transform the sash
It has been 10 years since Richmond players embraced the 2011 Dreamtime at the 'G match by wearing specially-themed guernseys. The Tigers decorated the traditional yellow sash with artwork designed by local Indigenous artist Jirra Lulla Harvey to represent iconic Victorian landmarks mixed with Indigenous football themes. All of the clubs now have their own stunning and specially-designed Indigenous jumpers and it has become a key feature of Sir Doug Nicholls Round each year.
War dance celebration has the Goodes
Two-time Brownlow medallist and Sydney great Adam Goodes provided numerous highlights in his 372-game career, but a 30m set shot to put the Swans 47 points up against Carlton in 2015 really wasn't one of them. What followed, however, certainly was. Goodes performed an eye-catching war cry dance that had been taught to him by the Flying Boomerangs (a football development and leadership program for First Nations teenagers). As was often the sad case with Goodes during this period, backlash was fierce, he was somehow misinterpreted, and vilification followed (the AFL and the 18 clubs would issue an apology to Goodes four years later). Later in that 2015 season, speedster Lewis Jetta performed the same dance in a strong show of support for Goodes. Variations of the dance and other cultural expressions are on display from First Nations players across the season, and particularly during Sir Doug Nicholls Rounds.
Young gun joins Tigers' war cry
A proud Noongar man lining up in just his eighth game lit up the MCG when Sydney Stack joined the Tigers' war cry dance before the marquee match in 2019. Stack was only 19 years old at the time and playing in his first Dreamtime clash but jumped at the opportunity when asked to lead a group of traditionally dressed Indigenous people in an animated dance directed towards the enemy of the day.
Michael sets off on a Long Walk
Michael Long won two flags with Essendon, earning a Norm Smith Medal with the first premiership, but has contributed much more off the field as a spokesperson for Indigenous rights. As part of his post-football efforts, Long walked halfway from Melbourne to Canberra in late 2004 to raise awareness of the issues facing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. The Long Walk is now a charity and annual event that continues this work as participants walk from Federation Square to the MCG before the Dreamtime game. With the iconic match set to be played in Perth this year, the Walk will start at Victoria Gardens and proceed along the Swan River before arriving at Optus Stadium.
Players change their numbers to remember referendum
Lance Franklin was one of 10 Indigenous players to wear the No.67 on their backs for Sir Doug Nicholls Round in 2017. Buddy, who has kicked more goals than any other Indigenous player and was the first to reach 100 goals in a season, a mark he passed in 2008 when still playing for Hawthorn, faced his old teammates in 2017, ruffling the feathers of plenty and kicking five goals. He did it while wearing No.67 rather than the usual 23, while several others changed to No.50, to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the 1967 referendum that included a question on whether to include Indigenous Australians in population counts.
Krakouer makes his mark for the Magpies
Andrew Krakouer capped a remarkable return to the competition with a huge leap and Mark of the Year in 2011. In his first season with the Magpies, the son of 1980s star Jim and nephew of Phil soared above a pack of Crows and onto the shoulders of Adelaide's Luke Thompson to pull down the spectacular grab.
League's best leapers inspired by Sir Doug Nicholls Round
It isn't only Indigenous players who have claimed Mark of the Year in this round, as perennial contender Jeremy Howe (2012) and star ruckman Nic Naitanui (2015) also won the award. Howe took his screamer while still playing for Melbourne, climbing onto Sydney’s Heath Grundy’s shoulders to reach the ball. The 202cm Naitanui rose above a group of big men in Mark Blicavs, Jared Rivers and then-teammate Callum Sinclair to snatch the award.