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An Indigenous History in Red, White and Blue

Family ties, accolades and success are at the forefront when it comes to the proud Indigenous history of the Sydney Roosters, which features Premiership winners, representative players and loyal clubmen. 

Of the 44 players with Indigenous heritage to have donned the famous Tricolours, six have won Premierships in the Red, White and Blue, seven have played over 100 games for the Club and eleven have represented New South Wales, Queensland or Australia while at Bondi. 

Ron Saddler holds the distinction of being the first player on record with Indigenous heritage to wear the famous Tricolours. Debuting in 1963, the talented centre went on to play 118 games for the Club, representing Australia and becoming New South Wales' first Indigenous captain in 1967. 

In 1970, Bruce 'Larpa' Stewart captained the Club to their first title in 21 years when he led the third-grade side to victory after kicking a pressure goal in the Grand Final to seal a memorable victory. An entertainer, a character and a beloved teammate, his son Corey Stewart also played briefly at the Club in the early 1990s. 

Then came Arthur Beetson - need we say more? Affectionately known as 'Big Artie', Beetson was a catalyst for the Club's turnaround in fortunes in the 1970s and is revered as one of the greatest players of them all. 

Hall Of Fame | Arthur Beetson

His achievements at clubland were replicated at representative level as he created history in the second Test against France in 1973, by becoming the first Indigenous person to captain Australia in any sport. 

At the end of his final season with the Roosters in 1978, Beetson had played 131 matches, scoring 17 tries, captaining 2 Premierships in 1974 and 1975 and etching his name into Club folklore.

To this day, Beeton's legacy is stronger than ever and immortalised within the Eastern Suburbs community, featuring on the famous Legends Mural in Bondi, as well as Artie's Sports Bar at easts

The 1970s also introduced brothers Terry and Kevin Stevens, who headed to the big smoke from Grafton with Kevin - a tenacious five-eighth - playing a role in the Club's 1975 Grand Final victory under the Jack Gibson-coached side alongside Beetson. 

Other players to feature in the 1970s included Peter Flanders, Eric Ferguson, Greg Townsend and David Grant, cousin of Beetson. 

The 1980s saw a number of excitement machines don the Tricolours, starting with fan-favourite Terry Fahey, who scored 15 tries to lead the competition in his first season with the Club in 1981 as the Roosters claimed the Minor Premiership. The great career of try-scoring sensation Ricky Walford also began in Bondi when he debuted in 1983, going on to play thirteen games with the Club.

Ron 'Rambo' Gibbs made his first-grade debut in 1983 and was an occasional captain in his tenure at the Club, while John 'Chicka' Ferguson played 31 games between 1984 and 1985, making his State of Origin and Australia debut in the Red, White and Blue.

Another pair of brothers, Brett and Scott Gale debuted together in Round 1 1984, and are the siblings of Tarsha Gale - the first captain for NSW in Women's Rugby League and the namesake of the Tarsha Gale Cup (Women's U19s) - the competition which Sydney Roosters Indigenous Academy currently compete in.

Talented outside back Wilfred Williams, father of Joe Williams (who kicked the winning field goal in the Club's 2002 Jersey Flegg Grand Final) appeared in seven matches in 1985.

Eastern Suburbs junior Craig Salvatori began his esteemed career the following season, with the fiery front rower eventually going on to captain the Club and represent NSW and Australia in a glittering ten-season career in Bondi. Rod Silva also made his first-grade debut at the Club in 1988, playing seven seasons for the Red, White and Blue and claiming the 1993 Dally M Fullback of the Year in the process. 

The 1990s saw a number of talented Indigenous players suit up for the Roosters, which included brief stints from Richie Allan, halfback John Simon, Test and State of Origin veteran Dale 'Rowdy' Shearer and Damien Mostyn.

Rugby Union convert Andrew Walker burst onto the scene after arriving from St George, becoming a fan favourite as he lit up the competition in a career that saw him play over 100 games in the Tricolours all the while spearheading a reversal in fortunes for the Club.

Few remember that Nathan Blacklock's debut season in the ARL was with Sydney City, which kick-started a memorable career for one of the game's favourite try-scorers. State of Origin and Test star Matt Sing played a prolific role in the Club's charge to finals football alongside Walker, playing six seasons in the Tricolours and scoring 72 tries in 135 matches which included an appearance in the 2000 Grand Final.

Who can forget the contribution of flying outside back Shannon Hegarty, who featured in four Grand Finals in the famous jersey at the turn of the century? A Premiership winner and centre alongside Justin Hodges - who also enjoyed three fruitful years at the Club - Hegarty went on to score 52 tries in 109 games while representing Queensland and Australia, and appeared in four Grand Finals during his tenure at Bondi. 

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Rugby League cult heroes Dean Widders and George Rose also began their careers as Roosters in the early 2000s, while tryscoring sensation Amos Roberts lit up the field with 17 tries in 2005 and 18 in 2006, finishing with 300 points for the Club in a memorable four-year-stint.

Premiership-winner Jamie Soward's success began at the Club in 2004 where he kicked two late field goals to seal the Jersey Flegg Grand Final, before making his NRL debut the following year. Queensland representative John Doyle briefly resurrected his career as a Rooster in 2006, while Michael Lett and cult hero Ben Jones began their careers at the Roosters as teenagers, with the latter becoming the first Rooster to represent the Indigenous All Stars in 2010.

Justin Carney and Anthony Mitchell both spent 2011 and 2012 at the Club, with Mitchell representing the Indigenous All Stars in both his seasons in Bondi.

Boom youngster Connor Watson was named Player of the Tournament in the 2017 NRL Auckland Nines as the Roosters held aloft the trophy, while Northern Territory product Chris Smith also had a brief stint at the Club in 2016-17.

Success also came in the form of the 2016 National Youth Competition title, with the Roosters claiming an emphatic victory thanks to the leadership of captain Grant Garvey, who made his NRL debut in 2016.

Journeyman Reece Robinson enjoyed a stint at the Club in the 2018 season, scoring the Club's 1000th try in the process, while the following year young backrower Josh Curran made his first appearance in the NRL in the unforgettable 21-20 victory against the Melbourne Storm.

But no doubt two of the biggest contributors to the Club's recent success have been Premiership-winners Blake Ferguson and Latrell Mitchell who were prominent in the Club's back-to-back titles in 2018 and 2019.

The 2018 Dally M Winger's heroics on the wing earned him a special place in the hearts and minds of the Roosters faithful, with the backflipping sensation scoring many memorable tries in his four seasons at the Club.

His most notable and crucial four-pointer came in the 2018 Preliminary Final, which propelled the Roosters to the Grand Final - and showed incredible courage to play with a broken fibula in the final half-hour of the contest as the Club claimed their 14th title. 

Dean Widders on Artie and the Roosters

Mitchell stamped his mark as a threat on the Roosters' left edge in his four seasons in Bondi, while also starring for NSW and Australia. He topped the competition's point-scoring in 2018 and 2019 en route to the Premiership - and played a significant role in the try that sealed the 2019 decider, putting Daniel Tupou through the defence with a monumental flick pass that saw James Tedesco go over for the match-winning try. 

As a plethora of talented Indigenous athletes currently make their way through the Sydney Roosters' numerous pathways systems, and with a proud partnership with the KARI Foundation, our Indigenous history in Red, White and Blue will proudly continue into the next decade. 

Sydney Roosters Indigenous First Grade Honour Roll

Name Roosters Player No. Indigenous Player No. Debut Year
Ron Saddler 529 1 1963
Bruce 'Larpa' Stewart 574 2 1967
Arthur Beetson 615 3 1971
Peter Flanders 626 4 1972
Terry Stevens 635 5 1973
Kevin Stevens 637 6 1973
Eric Ferguson 645 7 1974
Greg Townsend 660 8 1975
David Grant 678 9 1977
Terry Fahey 720 10 1981
Ricky Walford 727 11 1982
Ron Gibbs 746 12 1983
John Ferguson 762 13 1984
Brett Gale 763 14 1984
Scott Gale 764 15 1984
Wilfred Williams 783 16 1984
Craig Salvatori 804 17 1986
Rod Silva 842 18 1988
Corey Stewart 870 19 1990
Richie Allan 923 20 1994
Andrew Walker 931 21 1995
Nathan Blacklock 944 22 1995
John Simon 949 23 1996
Matt Sing 950 24 1996
Dale Shearer 962 25 1997
Damien Mostyn 967 26 1997
Shannon Hegarty 983 27 1999
Dean Widders 996 28 2000
Justin Hodges 1009 29 2002
George Rose 1039 30 2004
Amos Roberts 1046 31 2005
Jamie Soward 1049 32 2005
Michael Lett 1051 33 2005
John Doyle 1064 34 2006
Ben Jones 1085 35 2008
Justin Carney 1114 36 2011
Anthony Mitchell 1121 37 2011
Blake Ferguson 1146 38 2015
Latrell Mitchell 1153 39 2016
Connor Watson 1160 40 2016
Chris Smith 1163 41 2016
Grant Garvey 1164 42 2016
Reece Robinson 1175 43 2018
Josh Curran 1186 44 2019

 

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