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Indigenous Leaders & Awards

The Australian Football League (AFL) has seen numerous Indigenous players leave their mark through exceptional achievements and records. These athletes not only showcase immense talent on the field but also serve as inspirations off it, highlighting the rich cultural heritage and resilience of Australia's Indigenous communities.

Shaun Burgoyne, affectionately known as 'Silk' for his smooth and skillful style of play, is one of the most respected figures in AFL history. His illustrious career spanned over two decades, during which he played for Port Adelaide and Hawthorn. Burgoyne's tenure in the AFL is highlighted by his record as the highest games player of Indigenous descent, amassing an impressive 407 appearances. As of May 2024, it is the third-most games ever played, behind only Brent Harvey (432) and Michael Tuck (426). Renowned for his versatility, leadership, and clutch performances, he was a premiership player for Port (2004) and then played a pivotal role in Hawthorn's dominant era, contributing to a further three premiership victories (2013, 2014, 2015). Off the field, Burgoyne is also recognised for his advocacy for Indigenous players and his commitment to promoting Indigenous culture within the sport.

Another notable record holder is Eddie Betts, who is famed for his spectacular goals. Betts has scored some of the most memorable goals in the history of the League, earning him multiple nominations for the Goal of the Year, which he won in 2006, 2015, 2016 and 2019. His ability to perform in clutch moments and his infectious enthusiasm have made him a favourite among fans.

Lance Franklin, also known as 'Buddy' Franklin, is another iconic Indigenous player who has made significant contributions to the AFL. Franklin reached the 1000-goal milestone in round 2 of the 2022 season, a feat achieved by only five others in VFL/AFL history. His commanding presence on the field and ability to turn games single-handedly have cemented his place as one of the game’s greats.

Finally, Gavin Wanganeen made history as the first Indigenous player to win the Brownlow Medal in 1993, recognising him as the fairest and best player during the AFL season. Wanganeen's career included two premiership wins and more than 300 games with Port Adelaide and Essendon. His legacy extends off the field as well, with his involvement in various community and youth initiatives.

These players, among others, not only broke records but also paved the way for future generations of Indigenous athletes in the AFL. Their accomplishments reflect their extraordinary skills and dedication, contributing to the rich tapestry of Australian sports and culture.

Record Holders and Award Winners