The story behind Lions forward's Indigenous guernsey design

WHILE bored in isolation earlier this year, Brisbane premiership forward and proud Noongar-Yamatji woman Courtney Hodder was asked to design the club's next AFLW Indigenous guernsey. 

"I was in quarantine with no iPad, no nothing. So yeah, I was a little bit stressed," Hodder told womens.afl.  

"I actually did start painting on a canvas and then that was too hard, so (Brisbane Womens CEO Breeanna Brock) got me an iPad and a pen and I basically painted a picture." 

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Hodder knew the story she wanted to tell in the guernsey but used the task as an opportunity to connect more deeply with her culture. 

"For me, it was also reaching out to my Elders and asking what a certain thing symbolises so I could get it right on the guernsey, and I guess just learning about your culture and where you're from. That's the main thing, and then everything else falls into place," Hodder explained. 

Ultimately, she ended up "whipping something up in two days," sitting in front of the iPad at 2am meticulously choosing colours and placing symbols. 

(L-R) Dakota Davidson, Courtney Hodder and Ally Anderson in the Lions' Indigenous guernsey. Picture: Proud Meriam/Yiginiji man Lewis Bin Doraho

The guernsey tells the story of the Brisbane Lions coming together at their new home base of Brighton Homes Arena, and the new beginnings that represents for the club. Hodder has depicted the wide array of people that make the club operate, from the players to the staff, fans and families which is shown in the hands down each side of the guernsey. 

Both the women's and men's programs are represented through symbols on the tree on the front, and the totems of Indigenous teammates Ghungalu woman Ally Anderson and Gundmitjmarra woman Dakota Davidson appear alongside Hodder's own. In addition, six circles at the top of the guernsey illustrate the six AFLW foundation Lions still at the club. 

Hodder has become the third AFLW Lion to design the club's Indigenous guernsey, following Davidson and Anderson in recent seasons.  

(L-R) Courtney Hodder, Dakota Davidson and Ally Anderson designed the Lions' Indigenous Round guernsey in 2021. Picture: lions.com.au

"Originally they just approached us girls as a whole," Davidson said. "I don't think Courtney was with us at the time, so it was just Al (Anderson) and I who were Indigenous."  

Anderson was unable to help at that time, so the design fell to Davidson, who initially panicked. 

"I got thrown in being like 'Holy s***, I've got absolutely no design skills whatsoever'. I was well out of my depth; I failed art in school. I was genuinely very, very scared so I got a lot of help," Davidson said.

Help came through discussions with former men's player Allen Christensen who had recently designed the men's Indigenous guernsey, and hours with the design team. It was in that guernsey that the side claimed its first AFLW premiership last year. 

Brisbane poses with the premiership cup after its AFLW Grand Final win over Adelaide on April 17, 2021. Picture: Getty Images

Davidson then passed the baton to Anderson, who had more time and capacity to focus on the design, last season.

"Originally I just didn't have the time, it was too stressful to think about because I feel like it is something that does mean a lot to us. And I'm like, if I want to do it, I want to make sure that I put everything behind it and I want to make sure that I do it justice for us," Anderson explained. 

That pressure to "do it justice" was the source of the stress and panic each player experienced when first taking on the responsibility, simply because of how important this representation is for Indigenous people across the club. 

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"(Christensen) asked me years ago if we wanted our Indigenous totems on the men's guernsey, and I always felt like that was such a special thing and I just felt so included," Anderson said.  

"When the men wore their guernsey I was sort of like, 'Oh, that's my totem, I'm on their guernsey' and I wanted everyone on our team to feel that connection. To be able to wear the jersey and be like, 'Oh, I'm really a part of this'. And not only our team, but also all our support staff and then our family and our friends and supporters." 

The designs have also encouraged conversations and drawn questions from teammates about Indigenous culture. 

"I think they were all really excited," Hodder said.  

"Obviously when (Davidson) brought in her guernsey then (Anderson) and then me to follow through with the third one you know, they're super excited to learn about our culture. We did a few learning sessions with them and they're so eager to learn and represent our cultures." 

"It just makes you feel proud. Proud of your people."