It really is a big honour to play in the NRL Harvey Norman All Stars match and I can’t wait to run out on to AAMI Park on Friday night and represent my Indigenous culture.
It has always been a dream of mine to pull on the Indigenous jersey and I was lucky enough to do so back in 2011 when I played in the curtain raiser to the second ever NRL All Stars match on the Gold Coast as a 16-year-old for a NSW Indigenous team against a Queensland Indigenous side.
But I am a bit older and more mature now and this one is going to be a little bit different as I get to pay tribute to my culture and upbringing in front of all the Melbourne Storm fans that come out every week to watch me.
It’s going to be a bit weird lining up against a few of my Storm teammates that are in the Māori All Stars team, but I had a taste of that last year when I made my Origin debut for New South Wales and had to line up against the likes of Billy Slater, Will Chambers and Cameron Munster.
I know Jahrome Hughes and Jesse Bromwich are in the Māori side and those guys are proud of their culture, so don’t expect either team to hold anything back when that whistle goes on Friday night.
Unfortunately, my dad has work commitments and can’t make it down for the game, but my mum is going to be there, and I also have a big group of other family and friends making the trip to Melbourne.
It probably means that my house is going to be packed with bodies all over the floor, but I can deal with that as it is important for me that they all get to see the game and what I do each week.
I wouldn’t be where I am today without the solid upbringing from my mum and dad and I always love to get home and see my family and take my mind off football.
When I get back to Sydney I am just one of the brother boys in the area and it is just great to get home and spend some time with them all when I get the chance in what is always a busy season.
It helps settle my mind, helps me relax and takes my focus of footy, so any chance I get to go back I try and make the most of it and all my family and friends are all very close in Redfern.
I would like to think that I am a bit of a role model to people in the Indigenous community and I always try and make the most of what I have got and give something back to those that haven’t received the same opportunity that I have.
Mental health is such a big issue in Australia and especially in the Indigenous community and I can relate to the problems that people encounter as I went through some dark times when I was growing up.
It’s important that people that are suffering always try and find something to do, never give up on their dreams and always remember that there are people around that can help them.
Awareness of mental health conditions is something that is important to me and only last year I finished a university course around youth and Aboriginal studies that helped me gain even more understanding of the complex issue.
It was great helping out as a teachers aid at schools around Melbourne and doing some youth work as part of the course and there is just so much more I want to do at university after I finish my career as a professional footballer.
But for now, my focus is playing football and the new year and it’s great that I will be able to kickoff the 2019 season in such an important game that allows me to proudly show off my culture.
And who knows, with a bit of luck I might even be able to cross over for a couple of tries and produce a celebration that pays further tribute to the Indigenous people.