New exhibition celebrates 50 years of the ‘original Indigenous round’

Thursday 15 September 2022

Over 30,000 players and spectators are expected to descend on the South Coast this October long weekend for the biggest gathering of First Nations people in Australia — the 50th Koori Knockout. 

“It’s the original Indigenous round, but on a much bigger scale”, says Ronald Briggs, Gamilaroi (Moree), curator of the State Library of NSW’s new exhibition, Koori Knockout: 50 Years, which opens to the public on 24 September 2022. 

It’s 50 years since six young First Nations men gathered at the Clifton, Redfern and came up with an idea to bring together Aboriginal players and highlight their football abilities so talent scouts could see what they had been overlooking. 

Koori Knockout: 50 Years follows the competition from its early days played at Camdenville Oval, St Peters with just seven men’s teams in the first Knockout, to becoming an important fixture in the First Nations calendar and the biggest rugby league knockout carnival anywhere in the world. It has kickstarted the professional careers of numerous NRL and NRLW league players, including former greats Greg Inglis and Dean Widders, and current stars such as Latrell Mitchell (South Sydney Rabbitohs) and Josh Addo-Carr (Canterbury-Bankstown). 

“It’s not just about the footy,” says Ronald, who fondly remembers watching his dad play for the Moree Boomerangs in the 1970s and early 80s. “The Knockout has been called a ‘modern day corroboree’; it’s a happy time for First Nations families to come together, catch-up and celebrate the achievements of our brothers and sisters.”

The exhibition features over 50 historic and contemporary photographs that capture the excitement of the Knockout over the years, including photo series by Murri woman Barbara O’Grady, Gomeroi-Gamilaraay, and Jamie James that have been acquired for the State Library’s collection. 

Co-founder Uncle Victor Wright has kindly loaned his personal memorabilia for display, including the first-ever Knockout trophy and heritage jerseys. His memories of the game are featured among the stories, oral histories and recordings of past and present players who have helped shape the competition over the years. 

“My youngest son [Jonathan] came through the Knockout and his first signing was Parramatta” says Uncle Victor. “It’s there in the blood; cut my leg and a couple of little footballs may fall out.” 

Download full media release

Ronald Briggs is available for interviews