EVERY Indigenous guernsey which will be worn across 18 clubs throughout the 2022 Sir Doug Nicholls Rounds tells a story.
In the case of the Carlton Football Club, the story being told will be that of Shanai Kellett — a Yorta Yorta/Juru descendant who is also the great granddaughter of the round’s namesake.
Kellett joined six of Carlton’s players in the surrounds of Princes Park to launch the Club’s guernsey for the 2022 AFL season, telling a tale of reconciliation between the football club and its players.
Her connection with the Blues through this design is particularly poignant given the Club’s relationship with Sir Doug: Carlton held a Sir Doug Nicholls Acknowledgment in 2016, after he was never given the chance to truly flourish in the Navy Blue due to mistreatment, before he ultimately joined Fitzroy in the 1930s.
Speaking on the guernsey and the story it conveys, Kellett said the ability to liaise and connect with some of Carlton’s Indigenous players helped make this what it was.
“By having all of the Indigenous players plus our families incorporated into the guernsey, it’s a full circle of telling the story of reconciliation between [Sir Doug] and myself and the Carlton Football Club,” Kellett said.
“The transformation of the guernsey was a team effort, as some of the 2021 Indigenous players and their family members were part of the design process where they included their totems or clan group into the guernsey."
The diamond symbol reflects the family of Kellett and Sir Doug Nicholls, who she admits was “literally my idol” growing up.
Kellett is a teacher at Dromana Primary School, teaching the new generation in a subject called ‘Connect To Country’ which integrates science and art through an Indigenous lens.
The inspiration behind her commitment to educate stems from her great grandfather.
“I’m so excited that I’ve been able to design the guernsey for 2022, in particular because [Indigenous Round] is named after my great grandfather,” she said.
“Growing up and learning about him from a young age, he has created the woman that I am today in making non-Indigenous and Indigenous people connect together.
“I find that by educating the students about our culture, they want to learn more and are eager to learn more. He has been my role model in making sure that I continue that voice for our people.”
It is that continued connection and integration between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people which Kellett believes is crucial to consistent education, and it was highlighted in last Friday morning’s photoshoot.
From a player perspective, joining Jack Martin, Jesse Motlop and Zac Williams was Carlton’s three-person leadership group of captain Patrick Cripps, Sam Walsh and Jacob Weitering.
And for the unequivocal football fan that is Kellett, she believes the moment which will trump all will be when the Carlton players run out under Friday night lights to kick off the round in her guernsey design.
“It’s so important to have non-Indigenous people supporting and acknowledging our culture and continuing to bring us together,” she said.
“It all lies under education, but it also comes from people coming out of their way to educate themselves and not have it be our job.
“I’ve played football my whole life. Watching the players run out, I think that’s when I’m going to be quite gobsmacked and going ‘oh my goodness, there’s my design and the Carlton football players are wearing it’.”