Proud Noongar woman and VFLW captain Courtney Ugle says Essendon’s continual celebration of the club’s rich Indigenous history makes her feel right at home.
Ugle helped coordinate a special photoshoot with the club’s Indigenous players on Tuesday, following on from a brilliant cultural awareness session at The Hangar featuring the legendary Michael Long.
She said it was an honour to recognise the contribution of Indigenous people in the red and black and to help set up the huge week at the club ahead of the Dreamtime triple header against Richmond on Saturday.
“I helped coordinate it, because at this club we’re very passionate and proud of the Indigenous people that we have had come through and the Indigenous people that have paved the way at the Essendon Football Club.
“I just thought it would be an honour to stand here with the Indigenous players that we have today and to represent our culture and this club altogether as one.
Deadly Dons ❤️ pic.twitter.com/6zqaCwC7ZQ— Essendon FC (@essendonfc) May 21, 2019
“I just feel right at home, especially when you talk a lot about our culture and embrace the rich history that we have, I think that’s something that the Essendon Football Club does really well.
“To be a part of that makes me feel really good and makes me feel at home. I’m just really proud to represent my people and this club.”
Ugle said Long’s legacy lives on at Essendon in the way the club’s Indigenous players are embraced.
“We all love Longy’s story and I think it’s a true testament to what he has done for this club and that shines through with the amount of respect and support that we, as Aboriginal people, do get at the club.
“Longy and the past Aboriginal players have definitely paved the way for that to be possible today.”
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The 22-year-old was named VFLW captain this year and while she is proud to take on the extra responsibility, she said it hasn’t changed her as a person.
“I’ve always said that just because of that title next to my name, I don’t want it to change who I am.
“Without that title I’m (still) very supportive and have genuine care for the players and it’s just that extra special care that I have with the Indigenous players coming through, I kind of take them under my wing.
“If I can be their role model or someone that they aspire to be like then I wear that proudly.
“Being the captain, I don’t want to change and I just want to stay true to who I am and hold my values up high, and hopefully that filters through the club.”
The Hangar gets the Dreamtime touch pic.twitter.com/rTWnmZNlkA— Essendon FC (@essendonfc) May 21, 2019
Ugle was full of praise for her Indigenous teammates Arthurina Moreen, Jessica Stassi, Freda Puruntatameri, Elise Muller, Krstel Petrevski and Ally Anderson (absent at the photoshoot), and said they continue to inspire and support her every day.
“These girls are the reason why I do what I do,” she said.
“I love giving back, but also having these girls to lean on is good for me and I hope that I play a part in being good for them on their journey here.
“Being surrounded by the Indigenous girls makes me feel right at home here.”
Ugle’s side will take on the Tigers at Punt Rd Oval at midday on Saturday before the VFL Bombers take to the field at 2:30pm, followed by the senior team’s Dreamtime at the G clash at 7:25pm.