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Watson Looking to Inspire Change Through Indigenous Jersey

After playing a hand in the creation of the Club's 2022 Indigenous Jersey, proud Gamilaroi man and Roosters utility Connor Watson is hoping to inspire Indigenous youth through this year's design. 

Following the tragic passing of his cousin in 2017, the Watson family established Cultural Choices Association, a non-profit charity looking to combat youth suicide in Indigenous communities. 

Now the 25-year-old has brought together his Club and foundation to create the 2022 Indigenous Jersey, a collaboration that the 25-year-old is undoubtedly proud of. 

“It’s pretty special,” he said of the process. 

“Basically the Roosters came to Cultural Choices Association, the charity which I run with my mum, dad and my brother.

“They said they wanted to collaborate with this year’s Indigenous Jersey and sat down with us, and we came up with an idea.

“In the past, we’ve used the juvenile detention centres around New South Wales for the Boots For A Brighter Future campaign, which is also on again this year, but we went down the school route and the youth hostels.

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“We came up with the idea that we’d get the Indigenous artists up in Frank Baxter juvenile justice centre to paint their own message and we got Jordan Ardler in. She’s an Indigenous artist from La Perouse and she put her jazz and magic behind it and put it all together.

“The piece of art is titled ‘New Growth, New Hope’ and it’s all about these guys in juvy turning a new page and aspiring for more and wanting to make change in their life.

“I think the message behind it is pretty cool and it’s pretty cool to get those guys to paint something like this and to be really proud of what they were able to do.”

Watson cited his family as the inspiration to establish CCA, and is hoping to use his role as an NRL player to have a lasting, positive influence on the Indigenous community.

“It sort of came at a young age,” he said.

“The plan was always that if I did make it to the NRL, it was one of the things that we always spoke about, that I wanted to start a charity.

“Those beliefs were pushed onto me from my mum and dad about giving back. It sort of just made sense when everything happened with my cousin passing away.

“I’ve always known how lucky I’ve been to grow up the way I did. Mum and dad were always there for me and I know some kids don’t get that opportunity.

“Some kids are born into situations where it’s almost impossible to make it out of. I’ve heard stories when I sat with some of the guys in the juvies and the things that they’ve had to deal with as fourteen and fifteen-year-olds, you wouldn’t want anyone to go through that.

“You understand why some of those people have to go down that path to survive. Knowing that always pushed me to give back and I’m in a very fortunate position where I get to do what I’ve dreamt of doing as a kid.

If I didn’t use my voice and my profile to promote this message, I feel like it would be a waste. It was a moment for us to see that something needed to be done with Indigenous youth suicide and mental health.

Connor Watson On establishing Cultural Choices Australia

“If I didn’t use my voice and my profile to promote this message, I feel like it would be a waste. It was a moment for us to see that something needed to be done with Indigenous youth suicide and mental health.

“We saw it as a good opportunity to start something so that other families don’t have to go through what ours did in 2017.”

PRE-ORDER YOUR 2022 INDIGENOUS JERSEY HERE

Thrilled after receiving a positive reception from his teammates, the talented utility called for more action in the continuing bid to close the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians and provoke further education. 

“It’s been really cool,” he said of the reception. 

“Two weeks ago my brother and Marlee Silva, who’s one of the board members of the charity, and the director of the program, they came in to present to the boys.

“I missed it because I had the flu and I was a little worried about those two going into a big footy meeting room, I didn’t know how the reception would go.

“But as soon as it finished, all the boys were texting me just going ‘how good were those two’, ‘awesome message’, ‘so keen to be part of the program and represent your culture’.

“With Indigenous Round this week, the buy-in from the boys has been awesome. It’s a really good chance to educate everyone about our culture. They were frothing on it so that makes me happy.

“But I think we can always do a good job of it, especially in the smaller communities, the rural towns out there. I feel like as a society we can do more from everyone to buy in and learn more about the culture and actually do your own part.

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“It shouldn’t take just a week like this for us to learn about it and want to be educated. You can do your own research; Google’s there, there are books out there and it’s up to everyone to really buy into it and learn about the first peoples here in Australia.

“I think the game does a pretty good job with the Indigenous All Stars. When those weeks are on we do a good job of actually getting out into communities and doing more workshops and being out there and giving back.

“It’s sort of easy for us to give back on the east coast where all the teams are and where everything’s based, but I reckon we can do a better job of getting out into the community and go and visit people out there – that’s where a big chunk of Indigenous people and the culture out there.”

Acknowledgement of Country

Sydney Roosters respect and honour the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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