Angus Crichton - NRL - PlayersVoice
Angus Crichton - NRL - PlayersVoice

NRL

Balanda Son to a Yolngu Mum

- Contributor

  1. Home >
  2. NRL

NRL

Balanda Son to a Yolngu Mum

Share
  1. Home >
  2. NRL

When I’m old and grey, I don’t just want to be remembered as a rugby league player. If that’s all I’m remembered for, I will have failed and not used my time on this planet as well as I should have.

 

Footy is very important to me. I wouldn’t be playing if it wasn’t. But there are other things that are very important to me as well.

 

You can only be a professional footballer for so long. It’s a short-lived part of your life in the end and my other work is going to sustain me.

 

It might be my calling in the long run.

 

 

 

THE WUNUNGMuRRA BOYS

I’ve learned a lot about life since I moved to Sydney from the country when I was 12 to board at Scots College. Two people I’ve met, in particular, have had a profound effect on me: Delwyn and Leon Wunungmurra.

 

They are cousins who came to Scots on a scholarship program from a very small community in Arnhem Land called Gapuwiyak.

 

I knew I’d moved out of my comfort zone when I left the family farm, 40 kilometres from Young, but for these two Indigenous boys it was worlds beyond that.

 

Families live very close by each other in their town. Your grandparents could be on one side of your house and an aunt or uncle and some cousins on the other side. It’s very family-based like that.

 

There’s one shop in the whole community that sells everything from food through to lawnmowers.

 

I was two or three years older than Delwyn and Leon and I could see they needed real assistance coming to grips with this massive change in their life.

 

I didn’t plan it. I didn’t really think about it. I just saw it as my job to help. We were in the same boarding house, so it felt like the right thing to do.

 

I knew I’d moved out of my comfort zone when I left the family farm, 40 kilometres from Young, but for these two Indigenous boys it was worlds beyond that.

 

It started with the absolute basics. The boys spoke a different language – djambarrpuyngu – and had only very limited English and for the first few days they didn’t have the confidence to approach many people. They kept to themselves a lot.

 

Washing their clothes, brushing their teeth, showering, using deodorant – they needed to be steered in the right direction with stuff we take for granted.

 

They had no family in Sydney. My parents travelled up to Sydney on weekends to visit me, but Leon and Delwyn’s parents obviously couldn’t do that, coming from the remote place where they lived.

 

I was two or three years older so I started looking out for them. I’ve got two little sisters and I love them to death, but I always wanted brothers as well. I regard these boys as my little brothers.

 

 

I continued to mentor them after I left school. If they were having difficulties I’d go down and talk to the teachers about it, or help them with their homework, take them clothes shopping, that sort of thing.

 

They were proud moments seeing the cousins both graduate from high school. Delwyn aims to become a police officer in Darwin and Leon has a plumbing apprenticeship waiting for him in Sydney next year.

 

The boys have stayed at my place in Sydney. I’m only 21 myself, so it’s weird in a way for me to be teaching 18-year-olds life lessons, but that’s how it is.

 

The world isn’t as scary to them as it once looked. They’ve learned a lot about responsibility and their English has improved out of sight. After they get to know people they’re confident in talking to them.

 

As much as I like to think I’ve helped Delwyn and Leon, they have also done so much for me. The lessons they’ve taught me have made me a better person.

 

I’ve been up to Arnhem Land twice with the boys in the last two off-seasons. It was an amazing experience. The culture shock is incredible, as you might expect, but the people there are so good and Delwyn and Leon’s family embraced me.

 

They picked me up from the tiny airstrip. It’s a 90-minute flight from Darwin but the flight is $570 each way. That gives you an idea of how remote it is. We see a bit of coastline from the air, but it’s mostly red dirt and bush.

 

There is so much to appreciate in their beautiful culture and I think it’s important that all of us become more aware of it.

 

The dancing is something that really struck me. It’s fabulous watching it in the flesh. Leon is very polished at the dancing and also excellent at playing the didgeridoo. He takes a lot of pride in that and has become a bit of a role model to the younger boys in the community as a result.

 

The family was grateful I’d looked after the boys in Sydney. They treated me like one of their own.

 

I consider them family. The boys and their families call me wawa, which means brother. In their culture they’ve got balanda, which means white skin and yolngu, which is dark skin, and the boys’ parents call me their balanda son and they’re my yolngu mother and father. It’s very special.

 

This place don't need no filter #gudjuk

A post shared by Angus Crichton (@anguscrichton) on

 

 

MY CALLING

The average Australian knows little or nothing about Arnhem Land. When I tell people I visited Arnhem Land in the off-season, most aren’t sure where it is, or have never even heard of it.

 

I’d like to change that.

 

I’m developing plans to start a charity foundation to help kids up there and also to educate white Australians about our ancient Indigenous heritage. These people have been here for more than 50,000 years and it’s one of the richest, most intricate cultures in the world.

 

The difficult conditions the kids grow up in obviously make it hard for them. While they have houses, sometimes there’s not a lot inside them. Many don’t have fridges, so you eat a lot of canned food and powdered milk and they make damper a lot.

 

And if you’re sleeping on a mattress you’re lucky. A sister of one of the boys gave me her mattress to sleep on and she slept on a rug. It was very much a respect thing because the family appreciated me helping out with the boys, so it was the proper thing for me to accept.

 

Anything I can do to make the growing-up process easier will be worthwhile.

 

I consider them family. The boys and their families call me wawa, which means brother. In their culture they’ve got balanda, which means white skin and yolngu, which is dark skin, and the boys’ parents call me their balanda son and they’re my yolngu mother and father. It’s very special.

 

I’m also planning on making films and documentaries to teach white Australians about what actually is Australian culture – Indigenous culture right up north. They’ve got houses and electricity, but their culture – which dates back tens of thousands of years – is still as strong as ever.

 

I’m interested in film-making, production and directing. I studied film and photography at school and after leaving I started a production course that I’ve had to defer because of football. I’ll get back to that when I can.

 

When I went up to Arnhem Land this year, I bought a new camera and filmed a heap of content. I’ve just finished writing a script for the first video I want to produce. There’s not enough exposure for Arnhem Land and it’s only natural that leads to a lack of understanding among Australians.

 

I’ve got a lot of ideas and I don’t see any of this as short-term. I’ll hopefully build the charity into a robust, healthy foundation that can actually make a difference. That’s what I’m aiming for.

 

Playing footy for a living is great, but it doesn’t have to stop at that. You can’t just play footy and rest on your laurels. There’s a lot more I can do with my life. I’ve got to be smart and use my time wisely and try to help people at the same time.

 

I’ve got plenty of ambitions.

 

 

 

MY FOOTY FUTURE

I realise a lot of people are interested to know what I’m going to do when my contract at South Sydney runs out.

 

What I can say for sure is that I’m 100 per cent at Souths next year. Any member or fan who asks me, that’s what I tell them. Right now I’m training my arse off to put myself in the best position to have a great season.

 

Hopefully, we’ll finish a lot higher up the ladder than we did last season and have a good finals campaign.

 

Beyond next year, I haven’t decided. There’s pressure from a lot of different directions. You get the fans, you get the club, you get the players, but at the end of the day you’ve got to trust yourself and your own instincts and I’m not ready to make that decision yet.

 

I’ve got three-year offers from Souths, the Roosters and the Sharks.

 

It’s a big call to make, and I don’t have to decide right now. I haven’t put a time frame on this.

 

Some nights I’ve thought about it and wanted to make a call so I could just focus on my footy and put it all to bed. But if you’re not sure you shouldn’t rush it. It’s not an easy thing, weighing up the pros and cons for each club. I haven’t put a time limit on it, nor have I ruled anything out.

 

What I can say for sure is that I’m 100 per cent at Souths next year. Any member or fan who asks me, that’s what I tell them. Right now I’m training my arse off to put myself in the best position to have a great season.

 

What I do know is that I’m determined to become the best player I can be, so I’ll be playing for the club I believe can best give me that chance.

 

People tend to think it’s all about money. It isn’t. Like any player, I have ambitions to win a premiership and play State of Origin and Test football. I need to grow as a player, so I need to be in the best environment to make that happen.

 

You never say never and I wouldn’t rule out the possibility of going back to rugby union at some stage down the track either. But, at this point in time, there’s a lot I want to achieve in rugby league.

 

 

 

THE MIDDLE FINGER

I had a couple of surgeries at the end of last season on my hip and finger. My finger has been an ongoing injury I’ve had since I was playing in the under-20s. Originally, I ruptured the tendon and this is the sixth surgery I’ve had on it.

 

It’s the middle finger in my left hand and, a while back, I got it fused. I’ve got no knuckle in it. The doctor said I could either cut it off halfway or fuse it. I’ve had it fused several times now because I keep breaking it.

 

I can’t bend the finger, so it’s like I’m constantly giving people the bird. If I clench my fist, my middle finger sticks out.

 

One time, a while back, I accidentally cut someone off while I was driving and I put my hand up to wave at them to say sorry.

 

The guy followed me all the way into a dead-end street. We each got out of our cars and he asked me if I’d stuck my finger up at him. I explained to him that I’d had it fused and it stuck out naturally. He understood after that.

 

I don’t know what he was trying to achieve following me. He wasn’t a big bloke or anything, just an average Joe.

 

I’ve decided this is the last time I’m getting it fused. It’s the fourth fusion that’s broken and if it happens again I’m going to have it cut it in half, because I’m just over it.

 

It might leave me with only half a finger, but I guess it would save a lot of confusion.

 

Angus Crichton  -  Contributor

Presented by
Continue Reading