East Campbelltown Eagles celebrated the indigenous community with specially designed jerseys in their round 16 Sydney Shield clash at the weekend.
The jerseys, worn in the home game against second-placed Wentworthville Magpies, were designed by local Aboriginal artist Randall Green.
The narrow loss began with a smoking ceremony to mark Indigenous Day and local elder Uncle Ivan Wellington delivered a few words at Waminda Oval.
The Eagles were without a number of marquee players but showed their depth with teenagers Maddison Mirko, Kobe Chamberlain and Samuel Ioane, on debut, taking to the field.
The game was physical, which could only be expected from two top-four placed teams, and Wenworthville posted the first points to take a 6-0 lead.
The Eagles followed with a Craig Moustakas try on the right-hand corner, off a Theo Leato offload, to bring the score back to 6-4.
Wenworthville replied with another try, stretching the lead to 12-4, before Ioane crossed the line, bringing the score to 12-8.
With five minutes to half time Ben Jankowski set up Amanono Tovio to score for the Eagles in the corner, and Ben Baker converted. Easts went into the break with a 14-12 lead.
The Eagles scored first after half time with Moustakas bagging his second, extending the lead to 18-12.
Easts were unlucky when John Da Silva’s try was disallowed, and things further fell apart when Wenworthville raced away to score in the next set, levelling the score at 18 apiece.
The visitors hit the lead with a try under the post but with 13 minutes remaining scores were level again after a Da Silva try.
The final 10 minutes were hard-fought and the deadlock was broken with a Magpies penalty in front of the posts.
Wenworthville won 26-24.
Eagles coach Richard Barnes said the performances “from these young men was awesome and I thought we deserved the win”.