WEST Perth legend Bill Dempsey has spoken of his pride in being recognised as the 2022 Sir Doug Nicholls Round honouree as the game prepares to celebrate its Indigenous stars and history over the coming fortnight.
Dempsey, who played 343 games for West Perth and was selected in the AFL's Indigenous Team of the Century, was acknowledged at the WA launch of Sir Doug Nicholls Round on Monday at Optus Stadium.
The champion ruckman, who will also be inducted into the Australian Football Hall of Fame next month, said the annual celebration of the game's Indigenous stars and history meant a lot to him.
"It's a big honour, not only for me but for my family and my people," Dempsey said.
"Football gave me so much, so when I retired I thought I'd give something back to football and especially to Aboriginal people.
"My job was to pass on what I can and help out where I can."
Dempsey, who travelled from Darwin in 1960 to join West Perth, won three premierships with the club (1969, 1971 and 1975) and played in 14 state games for Western Australia.
With the AFL celebrating its Indigenous players with a dedicated round for the 16th year, he said it had taken the game some time to recognise their contribution.
"Aboriginal players have been around for a long, long time and I'm glad that now we're starting to be recognised," he said.
"It's taken a long time.
"When I grew up in Darwin and started playing football, players there were so good but never had an opportunity to get away.
"I was lucky that I did, and I made the best of it."
Still a regular at matches, Dempsey said a defining trait of Indigenous players was the support they have for each other and the friendships that cross club allegiances.
West Coast forward Samo Petrevski-Seton unveiled the Eagles' Indigenous guernsey designed by artist Darryl Bellotti on Monday.
Bellotti, who is relative of former Eagle Laurie Bellotti, said the guernsey depicted "the Waugul (Rainbow Serpent) as it travels the land and watches over the West Coast Eagles journey to the Grand Final at the MCG".
Fremantle forward Bailey Banfield sported the Dockers' jumper, designed by star Michael Walters, who remains in health and safety protocols until later this week.
The Dockers' jumper, which was also designed by Peter Farmer Junior, depicts the strength of the club's playing group and "the mountains the Club has had to climb over its journey".
Walters hoped to be able to wear the jumper in Sunday's clash against Collingwood at Optus Stadium.
"This is an exciting opportunity for me and hopefully it does the club proud, as well as my friends and also my family," the experienced Docker said.
"I love this round, the whole AFL community embraces it and it’s something special. It will be incredible for me to be a part of that."