When the New South Wales Blues attempt to claim their first State of Origin clean sweep in 18 years on Wednesday night, as always, they’ll have a throng of strong women behind them.
And for some of the proud Indigenous stars of the Blues team, the game takes on even more significance — it’s smack bang in the middle of NAIDOC Week, which celebrates the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
The players know they wouldn’t be representing their people and state in rugby league’s showpiece event without the women in their lives who have enabled them to pursue their dreams.
Kempsey-born centre James Roberts has a number of “mother figures” in his family that have had a huge impact on his life.
“I have quite a few strong black women in my family, especially my grandmothers and a lot of my aunties as well,” he said.
“They have always been there for me when I have needed them the most.”
“I am forever trying to repay them and to be able to make them proud and run out in a Blues jersey on NAIDOC Week will be awesome.”
He said growing up, his family was very close and his aunties would take him to sporting events.
Even now, through tough times, he said he could always count on his aunties for advice and to “calm me down”.
“They play a really important role in my life.”
Roberts’ tough upbringing and his past troubles have included a battle with alcohol and drugs.
If not for the presence of these supportive women, he says he would not be representing his state.
“No I wouldn’t be able to. Add in my girlfriend as well — she is a strong black woman and she has helped change my life so I am forever grateful for her, she makes my life easy.”
‘Mum raised us to be the best we can be’
Josh Addo Carr wants to teach his daughter Shakirah the same family values his mum instilled in him and his sister. (Instagram: @joshaddocarr)
Joshua Addo Carr, a proud “Redfern boy” from inner Sydney, said he looked forward to telling his five-year-old daughter Shakirah stories of how he and sister Kiarah were raised by their single mother Mel, and the example she set for their lives.
“I can tell her how mum has been through a lot,” he said.
“My mum was a single mother and she raised us to be the best people we can be,” he said.
“She always told us to work hard whatever you do and she definitely shaped us into the people we are today and we are forever grateful.
“My goal was always to play football and she has always helped me every step of the way.”
Tyrone Peachey’s mother Annette took a risk relocating the family from their hometown of Wellington in central NSW to Sydney when he was much younger.
Peachey said that although it was years ago, he continues to benefit from her fearlessness as the move allowed him to develop a flourishing professional football career.
“She didn’t know anyone in Sydney, she moved up here for the better of me and my brother,” he said.
Tyrone Peachey (rear) credits his mother Annette’s decision to move the family to Sydney with helping him succeed in rugby league. (Instagram: @tyronepeachey)
“If I was back in Wellington it would have been tough leaving home [to play football], because young Koori kids they get homesick and want to go back to where they are from.
“Luckily I had all my family here and it helped out so much.
“I love her and she still does everything for me, and I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for her.”
All three young men stressed the significance of celebrating the efforts of Indigenous women from all walks of life, and now they will pass on these stories to the next generations.
“It’s very important. Being a young Aboriginal boy growing up your mum does everything for you,” Peachey said.
“I have a little daughter as well so I want her to know about my heritage.
“I am going to teach her to be proud of her Aboriginality and not be ashamed of where she is from, because that’s the way I grew up.”
This year’s NAIDOC Week theme is ‘Because of her, we can’, which celebrates the contributions made by past and present Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women to their communities.