How rising Giant honours Swans champ every game

Rising Giants gun Bobby Hill has revealed how he honours a Swans legend every time he pulls on the jumper, in a series focusing on the AFL’s Indigenous stars. Read each Q&A here.

As NewsCorp celebrates Indigenous Sport Month, our reporters headed out to speak to some of the game’s biggest Indigenous stars to talk about their careers and their lives outside of the game.

Speaking about everything from racism to their sporting heroes, the players opened up about everything that makes them tick.

A new profile will be added each day so keep coming back for more great insights.

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What Indigenous Nation/s are you connected with?

I’m a Whadjuk-Ballardong Noongar from Northam, which is 90km east of Perth, so I’m a WA boy.

What does your heritage/culture mean to you?

It means a lot, especially being an Aboriginal Indigenous man.

My favourite custom from my heritage is…

Family, and how close we are. We always go out hunting and there’s a fair bit that goes on when we’re out there. Us boys go out all day and bring the food back to have my aunties, my mum and nan finish off the day by cooking it. We hunt kangaroo and emus sometimes, but mainly kangaroo.

Something not a lot of people don’t know about me is…

I’ve got the nickname ‘Bobby’, but my real name is Ian. I got called Bob the Builder from my grandfather, who passed away last year, from when I was young watching Bob the Builder too many times. Only if I’m in trouble from mum (is when I’m called Ian).

My earliest memory is…

Going to watch dad play (country) footy when I was younger, with my uncles and cousins around playing or on the sidelines watching.

One piece of advice I would give my teenage self is…

Listen in school (laughing). I always thought sport was the best thing, but if I went back – luckily I graduated – I’d hand my assignments in on time.

The best advice I was ever given was…

Probably just from my dad: “Always listen to your mother.”

If I wasn’t in sport I would be…

I maybe would have done a certificate in metal work or art.

A common misconception made about me is…

Nothing comes to mind.

When I cop abuse I…

It just depends what abuse it is. If it’s a spray from the coach, you take it on board, but if it’s from someone else, I would speak my word. I had one (guy) after a game, and he keeps messaging, but I find it pretty funny – how much time they have to just keep going at you. It’s nothing too abusive, just stuff I can laugh about. Other than that, I just block them and laugh at them.

When people see me, I hope they think…

I’m a role model for non-Indigenous and Indigenous young kids and someone to look up to and idolise and who’s a good guy.

What does family mean to you?

Family means a lot to me, especially being from a family with a lot of cousins and everyone’s so close. At a young age, we did a lot with all my uncles and aunties, on both sides – mum and dad. I’ve got a heap of relatives in the AFL. Josh Hill, who played for Western Bulldogs and West Coast, Brad and Stephen (Hill) – one’s at the Saints, one at Freo – I had Gerald Ugle here at Giants and Sydney Stack at Richmond. Also, my uncle Leon Davis, who played at Collingwood.

A word or phrase I use too much…

Probably ‘and’. (No full stops) I just get straight to it.

My weird sporting superstition is…

I always have to have my left side done before my right, so my left sock and foot, then my right sock and boot in every game. Since I was in Wesley College, I always wore the same red Speedos. They have to be red. I think I run fast in red, and if I don’t have them I probably won’t play.

My sporting hero is…

That’s a hard one, because there’s a lot. If it has to be a well-known sportsman then Adam Goodes, but if it’s someone I really looked up to, my dad. Sporting-wise, Adam Goodes and Cyril Rioli. I wear the No.37 here at the Giants because of Goodesy. They had great careers, and me being a young Indigenous kid myself, I always watched them on the TV and saw them dominate.

Which sporting moment carried the most significance for you?

Probably my first game. To get drafted was an achievement but to play my first game in my first year and to have my family there to support me, and all the boys here and everyone at the Giants, is something I’ll never forget and cherish for the rest of my life.

What’s it like being an Indigenous athlete today?

It’s a lot to take in. You have a lot of young Indigenous kids who look up to you, and also non-Indigenous as well, so to be an Indigenous player in 2020 is a big achievement and something I love.

Have you encountered racism or unconscious bias against you in your career?

I haven’t but I know Eddie Betts and all the older boys (in the AFL) who went through it. It doesn’t only hurt them but it hurts the rest of us Indigenous boys, just knowing what they’re going through and thinking what they think of us. I haven’t had that experience but I don’t wish it upon anyone to go through that, so hopefully I don’t go through it either.

How do we improve support networks for Indigenous athletes coming through the ranks of professional sport?

I think teaching more about our culture. It doesn’t hurt to sit down and listen and know where we’re coming from and learning what we’re teaching you.

What are your reflections on your career highlights?

B.H: Probably the one where I should have got mark of the year (in 2020). The one where I got robbed for mark of the year. (wide grin) That’s the big one.

Who put you on your pathway?

Mum and dad. Dad worked his backside off to pay for a lot of fees and a pair of boots every week. I (also) had other family there to drive me down to trainings in Perth.

Who is your inspiration?

Just family. I wouldn’t be the man I am today and wouldn’t be where I am if it wasn’t for them.

What is the key priority to improve player and leadership opportunities for the next generation of Indigenous athletes?

Just pathways, like we’re doing now with the academies bringing more Indigenous kids in. Back home in WA, we’ve got the Kickstart Academy, Nicky Winmar carnivals. So just going around the right pathways and doing more stuff around Indigenous footy for young Indigenous kids.


What Indigenous Nation/s are you connected with?

My people are the Yorta Yorta from North East Victoria, in the Shepparton and Echuca area. A lot of my people come from the Cummeragunja Mission. They were in a thing called the walk-off (dubbed the first ever mass strike of indigenous people) where they got sick of being controlled and were only allowed to be on the mission. So they decided they had had enough and walked to an area between Mooroopna and Shepparton. They grew up living down on the riverbanks but weren’t allowed to live in town. In the winter when the river flooded they had to move to the tip in between Mooroopna and Shepparton, so growing up nan had a rough childhood.

What does your heritage/culture mean to you?

It’s massive to me. It has given me the opportunity to do what I do now, it has given me the opportunity to go to Scotch College with an indigenous scholarship, and I have met so many people, played with the Flying Boomerangs and had a lot of experiences a lot of other kids don’t get.

Something not many people know about me is …

One thing people don’t know is I used to be in an Aboriginal dance group with my cousins. It was the brother boys in that dance group.

My earliest memory is …

Just family time. My pop used to drive me out into the bush around Shepparton and we used to go down to the river. We would go fishing and spot kangaroos. We used to fish for murray cod and yellow belly. He would usually beat me, but I used to tell him he used to put me in all the bad spots, because he knew exactly where the fish would be.

One piece of advice I would give my teenage self …

Probably stress less. I think at times I can get pretty worked up and stress about things and looking back now those things had no impact on my life. School and footy are the big two, you would get worked up and have to do your footy and homework and be in the state squad so it’s stress less.

The best advice I was ever given …

It might be pretty generic but the best advice was be yourself. At times especially when you are drafted you are going into new things and meeting new people and you put on a brave face and fit in with that culture and what is going on around you, but the quicker you learn to be yourself, no matter who you are and what you are doing, that’s when you are at your happiest and if you fit in, you fit in.

If I wasn’t in sport I would be …

I have just started a carpentry course so some kind of trade back home in Mooroopna.

A common misconception made about me is …

Growing up a lot of people thought I was naturally gifted, but I trained harder than most people behind closed doors. Everyone thought I had the side step and lateral movement, but I like to think I work harder than most people when no one else is watching.

When I cop abuse I …

I just smile and laugh back at them. For me that comes pretty naturally. When things happen or you get in a scuffle and people say stuff, I just laugh and smile back at them. It gets them worked up and angry but it seems to work for me.

Family means …

Family means everything to me. Especially over last couple of years, with a few family things that have popped up, I have realised how much it means to me, how much support not only I can give family but how they live through myself with my footy and when I am going well and up and about, how it can make them proud of me to be my relative.

It affects us both ways. In the tough times I have an opportunity to support my family and help out with most things men of my age can’t provide family with, so it’s massive. It’s not an obligation, but when you have close family and they need something you do anything for them.

Expression you use the most …

Probably ‘settle down’. When the boys are up and about and stuffing around, I always say to them, ‘settle down, boys’.

My weird sporting superstition is …

I don’t have too many to be honest, but my footy boots have to be really really tight. I can’t have my foot slipping around and feeling funny in my socks. So I do my Adidas Copas up really tight.

Sporting hero …

My sporting hero is my dad Brian. He played country fotoy and from as early as I can remember, I would be the water boy when he was playing seniors. I would pretty much follow him around and not give water to anyone else. At footy training I would be running around beside him when he was doing drills, so I looked up to my dad.

Which sporting moment carried the most significance for you?

I would probably say indigenous round, to be honest. Being able to represent my people and the aboriginal community around here, and to help design the jersey as well is pretty special not only for myself but for the other indigenous boys. It’s pretty cool to know you have a go at a design and then go out and play in it and get wins on those days.

What’s it’s like being an Indigenous athlete today?

With the opportunity it’s amazing, especially these days. I don’t know how it would have been, but nowadays, everyone becoming more respectful at AFL level, but I am guessing it’s still pretty hard for some at community levels. It’s incredible to think back to the racial abuse and all the stuff the players before me put up with. Week in and week out and they backed it up. Not only that but they played bloody good football as well and showed everyone that the indigenous people in this game are so talented. Guys like Adam Goodes and all those people paved the way for us coming through so we can only be forever grateful. If they let it happen and shied away from it and stopped playing, the game wouldn’t be the way it is today.

Have you encountered racism or unconscious bias against you in your career?

No. I haven’t personally. Especially not in the AFL system so I suppose I have been lucky.

What ways can we continue to help indigenous athletes come through into the AFL system?

We don’t have an indigenous liaison officer but we can only keep pumping those things up.

Indigenous kids do get scholarships. But once we get there sometimes there is not enough support. So liaison officers at high schools and private schools are important. Because kids do struggle when they get to the city and miss home and family. The city can be such a big scary place at times and the support around indigenous kids is massive.

Reflections of your career highlights …

I don’t have too many, to be honest. Last year was a tough year for everyone in the hub but I was able to have my best season to date. I came second in the Syd Barker Medal which wasn’t something I was expecting. When it happened I was pretty proud of that. We have had three indigenous rounds before this year so far and we won every one of them., It’s a week where we get a lot of support and the guys ask questions about your family and where you are from. It’s great to know you have the boys’ full support and to go out and get those wins is pretty special.

Who put you on your pathway …

My family and then myself as well. I got that from my mum and ada, the way they brought myself and my sister up. They had strong values of working hard and being yourself. They said if you don’t work hard people pass you. They said you can be as talented as you want, but the kid around the corner will overtake you if you don’t work hard. I held that pretty close to me.


What Indigenous Nation/s are you connected with?

My family, on my dad’s side, they are from the south-west of Western Australia around the Bunbury-Collie area and they are Noongar mob. So that’s my family, where my Indigenous side comes from.

What does your heritage/culture mean to you?

It’s a big part of my life, being Indigenous Australian means a lot and there is a lot of history behind our culture and our people. I love being able to say that I’m Indigenous and I feel like a lot of the skills I have now come from that side of the family, with my football side of things. Just how close we are as family and how big our families are as Indigenous people is something good to have growing up and something you really enjoy, having big families and a lot of cousins and aunties and uncles around and we are all a pretty tight group and family means a lot to us.

Something not many people know about me is …

I guess my family bloodline, who we are all related to with football a lot of the Bennell family are really close to my family so you have got the Hills and Bennells were the big footy families. And I’m related to Michael Walters on his mum’s side and the Jettas and stuff. Everyone links up on the Noongar side of things, you have got someone down the trap that are family members. It’s a pretty big range of family members you have. Other than that, what else? I have got four sisters and then there are four boys as well. So my mum has got seven and then my dad has got two other boys.

My earliest memory is ….

When we were younger we would always go to my Nanna and Pop’s house in Perth and I just remember how many people we would have at Christmas. On my dad’s side all the cousins, I think growing up there would have been at least 40 or 50 of us first cousins on my dad’s side. So I just always remember going there at Christmas and sometimes you wouldn’t see them that often and we just all came together and just being around the family and those early memories were pretty awesome around them all.

One piece of advice I would give my teenage self …

When I was younger I probably would have liked to have been how I am now, a little bit more sensible. I probably was a little bit of a troublemaker when I was a bit younger. But I guess just stick at my dreams and work hard for what I want. I guess I got to a point in my life where I started working hard for what I wanted to play footy and I was lucky to have the opportunity and when I got there I took it with both hands and I worked hard.

The best advice I was ever given …

Probably from my host family when I first moved to Melbourne, I lived with them for about two-and-a-half years in Hawthorn and they always used to say ‘You can be silly, but don’t be stupid’.

If I wasn’t in sport I would be …

Before I got drafted I did a few things, I worked with my uncles for a bit doing carpentry and did some landscaping as well, but I’m so sure which one I would have gone down. I didn’t mind the landscaping, I found that pretty fun.

When I cop abuse I …

Personally, while I’ve been playing footy I haven’t heard anything being said to me. When I was younger I sort of had stuff growing up. I guess you hear the stories of other people and I have watched a little bit of the trailer for Nicky Winmar’s Ripple Effect doco and hearing them speak and what happened to them, I was watching it and I got pretty emotional and I wasn’t even a part of it, I wasn’t even born at the time. But hearing them speak about it, you see the effects it has, it does hit you. We’ve got to keep on educating people. It’s still going to happen out there in the world a lot of this stuff,f but we just need to get better and keep educating people.

When people see me I hope they think …

For young kids and young Indigenous kids hopefully (they see) a role model and someone to look up to. Me as a person, I like to help out younger people, especially Indigenous kids. And (my) teammates — I want them to think that I am a caring person and someone they can come to and have a chat with. Hopefully, also, a good footballer.

Family means …

Family is everything to me. I have got a pretty big family and I’m very close to my family and I love them more than anything.

A word or phrase I use too much…

My friends always say that I say, ‘Gee whiz’ a lot.

My weird sporting superstition is…

I actually don’t really have anything. The reason I don’t do it is that I don’t want anything or any routines like that because I feel like if something in your routine doesn’t go right you probably blame your performance on that and it gets in your head a little bit too much. So, I am pretty relaxed and my weeks, within each game, are different, it’s never the same. The only thing maybe that I do sometimes is I wear the same budgie smugglers on game day. But that’s about it.

My sporting hero is …

Watching footy growing up I went for West Coast when I was a bit younger but when I was a bit older it was Cyril Rioli, definitely. He was one of a kind.

Which sporting moment carried the most significance for you?

I watch it all the time on YouTube – the Cathy Freeman final at the (2000) Olympics. That’s pretty amazing and gives me goosebumps every time I watch it.

What’s it like being an Indigenous athlete today?

For Indigenous people and young Indigenous people I feel like we are pretty big role models for them and a lot of them idolise us and they want to be the next footballers. I feel like it’s a huge honour to be an AFL footballer and an Indigenous one. All your family members and everyone that looks up to you and all the young kids, it definitely means a lot to be an Indigenous athlete.

Have you encountered any racism in your career or unconscious bias against you in your career?

When I was a bit younger growing up as a kid in my area I witnessed a little bit. But since I’ve been playing (AFL) footy I have never had anything said to me in a footy field or anything like that.

Reflections of your career highlights …

Definitely the premierships are right up the top at Hawthorn and then probably when I went to Freo I played some of my best footy and was able to win a best-and-fairest, so that was a pretty big achievement of mine. So they would probably be the ones.

Who put you on your pathway?

My mum (Stephanie) loves her footy and when we were a bit younger she was actually a bit annoying telling us what we did wrong. Since I was young I played Auskick and my brother, Stephen, when he got drafted I was 15, so once he got to that level it became a bit more realistic for me to maybe have a crack. I always played and always loved it, probably wasn’t as talented as Stephen as a youngster. But once Stephen got drafted, I was there the day that happened and that was probably when I was like, ‘I would love to do that’.

Who is your inspiration?

I would probably go again (and say) in life, my mum. I grew up with her pretty much as a single mother and she did everything for us kids. She always took us to our sports and she made sure we were never late, always taking us to all our games and watching me and Stephen spend the whole day doing sports stuff. So, just everything she did for us as kids, she is definitely the person I look up to the most.

What is the key priority to improve player and leadership opportunities for the next generation of Indigenous athletes?

I guess as players, I feel like a lot of the time with Indigenous people when they do get picked up, some of them are from the remote areas and it is a bit harder for them to leave family. I guess if they have a bit more of an opportunity when they’re younger to be able to get a little bit away from home, experiencing the high level football stuff and be able to get out of their comfort zone and be able to move away. There is a lot of talent out there that could be playing AFL that aren’t because it’s harder for them to leave home and family.

I guess on the leadership side of things, I think it’s all about confidence, being confident in yourself. Even when I was a bit younger, I never really wanted to speak up at footy and in meetings, and I guess once you understand everything and in footy understanding the game plans and stuff, you just become confident in yourself and speaking up and it just becomes easier. Early days I wouldn’t have chatted where s now I’m talking a bit too much!


What Indigenous nation or nations are you connected with?

My mob is the Yorta Yorta mob, which is based around the Shepparton region where I was brought up and also around Echuca and Swan Hill. Our totem is the long-necked turtle and I’ve spent a fair bit of time on the Murray River.

What does your heritage/culture mean to you?

I’m very proud to be an Aboriginal person, an Indigenous person of Australia. I think I have to lead by example but I feel I am a role model to my community, which means a lot to me. But I’m still on my journey learning about my culture as well, being only 25. When you’re a kid you just do kid things, but as I’ve become older, I’ve started to look into it more.

Your favourite custom from my heritage is …

I’ve got a lot, but I love being on the Murray River. I feel connected every time I go back, especially doing some fishing. With the new technology we’re not fishing with spears and nets anymore. But when I get on the river, and hear the birds and the nature going on, that’s where I feel most connected.

Something not many people know about you is …

I love country music. There’s just something about sitting around a campfire and listening to country music on a guitar. I do love Alan Jackson and Charley Pride in the country music scene. But I also love playing the didgeridoo and I’ve been trying to practise my breathing patterns so I can play consistently.

Your earliest memory is …

Fishing on the Murray River and going down to a dam and yabby fishing. I also remember swimming in waterholes, or down the river with my friends, and playing footy at Rumbalara Football Club, which is an Indigenous football club.

One piece of advice you would give your teenage self …

It would probably be to listen more when you have your Indigenous elders speak to you. You probably don’t realise until you’re a bit older and wiser and you think, ‘What was the elder saying then?’ To the best of my ability, I did try to listen, but that’s still something that I’d tell my younger self — to listen and learn as much as you can, while you can.

The best advice you were ever given …

JI: It was probably from my dad, Glenn, who said: “Be a leader.” That’s obviously among the community and not going down the wrong path and standing up for what’s right. That’s what stands out for me.

If you weren’t in sport you would be …

If I didn’t play footy, I’d definitely go into a sporting avenue, probably playing local football and being a PE teacher or working in a gym or something like that. My dad was a builder, so I’d probably start out working with him. But then I would have gone down the sporting path because we were definitely a sporting family.

A common misconception made about you is …

I am pretty quiet and reserved as a person, but once you get to know me I am a bit full-on and in your face and probably a little annoying. That’s probably one that the boys wouldn’t want to bring out too much of.

When you cop abuse you …

I feel like I go into a really composed mindset and bypass the negativity. Afterwards, I will probably overthink it and feel a bit sorry for the situation. But in the moment I will be very composed and try to think my way out of it. I have received some messages and comments on social media about being Aboriginal, but I think it’s important to call it out because we want to make change in Australian culture. It’s pretty sad, but you’ve got to look at the long-term goal and we are getting better as a country.

When people see you, you hope they think …

That I’m a proud, respectful, Indigenous young man.


Family means?

Family is everything. That’s what gives me motivation every day, to live on a legacy for my family and be connected with my family. Myself and my partner, Annabelle, are now trying to build a family in the future and that really excites me. I’ve very lucky to have met a woman like her.

A word or phrase you use too much …

I always say, “Sorry”. It’s always “Sorry about this” or “Sorry I forgot about that”. It’s a bit of a habit but it comes from a good, respectful place.

Your weird sporting superstition is …

I don’t have any, which is a good thing. I feel sorry for the other boys and girls if they have something and it doesn’t go to plan then their head would be elsewhere.

Your sporting hero is …

I do have a couple. Growing up I had “Buddy” Franklin, Cyril Rioli and Eddie Betts. As I got older and I played alongside Chad Wingard, I think what he does for our culture is huge. Playing with Shaun Burgoyne, he’s a big one for what he’s done for the game inside the football field and outside the football field. He’s just been phenomenal.


Which sporting moment carried the most significance for you?

It was Lewis Jetta when he was playing for the Sydney Swans. I was on a Boomerangs Indigenous camp when I was younger and we were all sitting on the forward flank at the SCG and he marked the ball in front of us all. He kicked this goal from the boundary and he just looked at us and acknowledged us and pointed his finger at us. It was just a moment where I thought, ‘Wow, how awesome was that?’ It was just a moment that was so moving and lifting and motivating all at the same time. That’s a moment that sticks out for me.

What is it like being an Indigenous athlete today?

I just feel like I’m a role model to other Indigenous people, other Indigenous athletes, and I have a responsibility to perform well and be respectful.

Have you encountered racism or unconscious bias against you in your career?

Probably not unconscious bias, I don’t think, anyway. But definitely some comments on some social media pages. I probably would have seen more, but you just get so good at swiping it away and forgetting about it.

How do we improve support networks for indigenous athletes coming through the ranks of professional sport?

I think we have, but I also think we can keep striving to get better. It’s very important that we all have Indigenous liaison officers at AFL clubs. That’s a big one. We do things differently in our culture and you need people who understand. It’s difficult coming into a different culture for anyone and the more that you’re educated and you acknowledge it, the better you are off as person and as an industry.

Reflections of your career highlights …

I always looked up to Eddie Betts because he’s so skilful and he brings that excitement for us Indigenous people. Playing on him for the first time was a standout highlight for myself. I didn’t go well because it was Eddie Betts and he was definitely in his prime. The first time was only a pre-season practice match, but then he kicked four goals on me the next time.

Who put you on your pathway?

There were a lot of people who put me on this great path that I’m on and I’m forever grateful to these people, but the biggest person would be my father for sure. Just the character he was, he was a very proud Australian but he loved the Indigenous space and he could play the didgeridoo better than I ever could or anyone I have ever seen play.

Who is your inspiration?

Again, my father. He’s built a legacy for our family and I want to be able to do the same and continue on all his hard work and all his sacrifice. He’s my biggest motivator.

What is the key priority to improve player and leadership opportunities for the next generation of Indigenous athletes?

It’s just about education. Bringing in young Indigenous people and educating them but also non-Indigenous people in the workspace or around us in everyday life. We just need to educate as much as we can and come together and be as one.

Read related topics:Indigenous Sports Month

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