Sir Doug Nicholls Round

21 May 2019 | General Interest

The AFL will celebrate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture this weekend with Sir Doug Nicholls Round.

The week was fittingly renamed after Yorta Yorta man Sir Doug Nicholls a decade ago to celebrate one of the most iconic figures in the history of football and Australia.

This year the AFL will also honour Michael Long, who organize the “Long Walk” in 2004, a protest which involved a 325km walk to Canberra to discuss Indigenous equality with then Prime Minister John Howard.

Long becomes the second individual to be honoured during the Sir Doug Nicholls Round, following Australian Football Legend and Geelong champion Graham “Polly” Farmer, who was acknowledged for his significant contributions to both football and the community during the dedicated round in 2018.

Festivities and ceremonies will be paired alongside Reconciliation Action Week which kicks off on Saturday, May 27.

The hallmark ‘Dreamtime at the G’ fixture will be hosted by Richmond against Essendon on Saturday night and the 18 AFL sides will wear specialised guernseys designed by Aboriginal players, communities and artists.


One of the forefathers of equality and inclusion arrived in the form of Sir Douglas Nicholls who was a Yorta Yorta man born on Cummeragunja Reserve before relocating to Melbourne.

Uncle Doug attempted to start his career with Carlton, but unfortunately couldn't work his way into the side due to a lack of inclusion and support for Koorie players at the club. Nicholls eventually found a home at the Northcote Football Club in the VFA before earning a place on the Fitzroy Football Club in 1932. He was the first ever Aboriginal player to be selected for the Victorian interstate team ultimately playing four games for the Big V.

During this timeframe Sir Doug Nicholls encountered fierce opposition and un-relenting racism as a pioneer in football. He was often subjected to taunts or ostracised by his team-mates but persevered nonetheless.

The most inspiring influence that Nicholls had however, was off the field, providing a voice for the under-privileged and struggling Koorie community at a crucial time. He was a minister and a field officer for the Aborigines Advancement League, campaigning for Aboriginal and Torres Strait peoples to be included in the nations’ identity.

Uncle Doug was the first Aboriginal person to be knighted, appointed Knight Commander of the Royal Victorian Order in 1977. The official week dedicated to the Aboriginal presence in AFL is called Sir Douglas Nicholls round and iconic local football team the Fitzroy Stars proudly use his name for their home ground.

“The public does not realise what our people have suffered for 150 years … Put on reserves, with no proper education, how can Aborigines take their place as equals with whites?”

“Now is our chance to have things altered. We must fight our very hardest in this cause. After 150 years our people are still influenced and bossed by white people. I know that we could proudly hold our own with others if given the chance.” – Sir Douglas Nicholls