2019 Sir Douglas Nicholls Round

Published on Saturday, July 13, 2019

The NFNL’s annual Sir Douglas Nicholls Round will be held this weekend, recognising and celebrating Indigenous players and culture.

The round coincides with NAIDOC Week, which celebrates Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

NAIDOC is celebrated not only in Indigenous communities, but by Australians from all walks of life. The week is a great opportunity to participate in a range of activities and to support your local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community.

NAIDOC originally stood for ‘National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee’. This committee was once responsible for organising national activities during NAIDOC Week and its acronym has since become the name of the week itself.

NFNL clubs have been encouraged to support the round in a small but significant way, with a specially designed Indigenous football to be used in all senior men’s and women’s football matches this weekend.

Sir Douglas Nicholls Round is named in honour of one of Australia’s most revered figures.

Sir Douglas Nicholls epitomised the spirit of reconciliation and was a brilliant athlete.

He was the first Aboriginal person to be knighted, served as Governor of South Australia and was devoted to the well-being of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Sir Douglas Nicholls was a talented footballer and was the first Aboriginal to represent Victoria at state level.

After playing in the Goulburn Valley for Tongala, then 20-year-old Nicholls tried out for VFL clubs North Melbourne and Carlton before the 1927 season. Nicholls played some reserves matches for Carlton but did not play a senior game.

He joined Northcote in the VFA and made his name as a speedster, capable of spectacular feats, and came to be regarded as the best wingman in the VFA at the time.

He was a member of Northcote’s 1929 premiership team and finished third in the Recorder Cup voting in 1931, his final season with Northcote.

In 1932, Nicholls joined Fitzroy in the VFL and in 1935 he was the first Aboriginal player to be selected to play for the Victorian interstate team.

He played a total of six seasons for Fitzroy, before returning to Northcote in 1938. Knee injuries forced him to retire in 1939. He returned to Northcote as non-playing coach in 1947.

Off the field, Nicholls worked for the Church of Christ, ran hostels for young Indigenous people and was a field officer for the Aborigines Advancement League.

In 1976 he was appointed the 28th Governor of South Australia, the first Aboriginal person appointed to vice-regal office. He held the position for a year before ill health forced him to relinquish his governorship in April 1977.

Sir Douglas Nicholls’ name remains prominent within the Northern Football Netball League community, with the Fitzroy Stars’ home ground named in his honour.

During Sir Douglas Nicholls Round, the Fitzroy Stars will host Thomastown for the NAIDOC Cup – an annual event between the two sides.

Continue below to watch a short film on Sir Douglas Nicholls, produced by award-winning filmmaker Peter Dickson.

Please be advised that the film may contain names, images or voices of deceased Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

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