Cheryl Davidson with the guernsey she designed featuring Guunyu, the black swan. (Supplied: Sydney Swans)
When the Sydney Swans take to the field against Carlton tonight in a battle for the Marn Grook Trophy, it will be a special moment for NSW south coast woman Cheryl Davidson.
She has designed the team’s new AFL Indigenous Round guernsey featuring Guunyu, the black swan.
According to Ms Davidson, a Yuin-Monaro woman who now lives in Central Tilba, Guunyu was a beautiful white swan who was attacked by other birds who were jealous of him.
They scratched him, pulled out his feathers, and left him in the reeds to die.
An old black crow watched the ordeal, and when the other birds left he flew down and comforted Guunyu.
The crow wiped away the blood and gave him his feathers until Guunyu had a full body of beautiful black feathers.
For Ms Davidson, being chosen to design a guernsey featuring Guunyu helps keep the traditional story alive.
“Our stories are ancient. These are stories that we’ve been able to keep from the Dreamtime,” she said.
“We’re still telling those stories today and now they’re being promoted on football jerseys so all of Australia can see.”
The black swan, Guunyu, features in many of Cheryl Davidson’s works. (ABC News: Kerrin Thomas)
Her works featuring Guunyu have been exhibited nationally and internationally, but the guernsey brings her work to a new audience.
“Not everyone walks into those galleries and sees my work there,” she said.
Cheryl Davidson works out of her studio at Central Tilba in southern New South Wales. (ABC News: Kerrin Thomas)
“This work that I did on the football guernsey, all of Australia will see it, so that’s really special for me.
She will attend tonight’s game surrounded by 30 members of her family, including young nieces and nephews.
“I keep getting asked ‘How will you feel when Lance Franklin comes out on the field with your design?’ and I don’t really know until the night. But I think it’s going to be unreal,” she said.
“It’ll be something for me to be there and see them all run out on the field with it. But also see the faces of my little nieces and nephews.”
Lance ‘Buddy’ Franklin was one of the first Sydney Swans players to see the guernsey at a meeting of the Reconciliation Action Plan Committee.
“I just remember when [Buddy Franklin] first saw the design — his eyes lit up — and just how passionate and excited he was to have the opportunity to throw that jumper on and go out and represent his community,” secretary Scott Dalby said.
“A number of other players have commented on how much they’re looking forward to throwing the jumper on and really embracing that Aboriginal culture which runs so rich through our footy club.”
Mr Dalby said the response from the public for the design has been “overwhelming”.
“Sales have been phenomenal, especially given we haven’t even worn it yet,” he said.
“It’ll of course be worn for the first time on Friday night at the SCG, but the sales already in preparation for that game have been huge.
“The community have really embraced both the beauty of the jumper as well as the story behind it.”
More than a guernsey
Marn Grook is the name given to the match the Sydney Swans play during the Sir Doug Nicholls Indigenous Round, honouring the Indigenous roots of AFL.
For the Sydney Swans, tonight is about more than a new guernsey.
“The jumper needs to considered in the context of being one key piece to a really big picture in terms of what our club wants to achieve,” Mr Dalby said.
“There’s no greater way to capture the imagination of the community and get the community engaged than through such a beautiful piece of Aboriginal art.”
The club wants to highlight the broader social challenges that are confronted by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders with a focus this year on Indigenous education.
“Indigenous education is something the club’s extremely passionate about,” Mr Dalby said.
“We work very closely with the GO Foundation, which is the Goodes O’Loughlin Foundation, and clearly both Adam Goodes and Michael O’Loughlin are huge representatives of not only their community but also of our footy club.
“They run a foundation that provides scholarships to young Indigenous kids that otherwise wouldn’t have the chance to fulfil their potential through education.
“Partnering with the GO Foundation for a game like Marn Grook can cast an eye on that.”
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