A preseason camp session late last year set in motion a considered and consistent integration of Indigenous culture at the Gold Coast SUNS this year.
Former SUNS men's player Jarrod Harbrow facilitated a Q&A session with current Indigenous AFLW players Janet Baird, Ashanti Bush and Kalinda Howarth that, according to Baird "got pretty deep".
"We just spoke to our team and expressed how culturally significant it is for us to be down here and how much it means to our community back home," Baird told womens.afl.
Head coach Cameron Joyce saw those sessions as an opportunity to get a better understanding of Baird and Bush in particular, coming from the Northern Territory across to the Gold Coast when joining the club.
"They both did a presentation to the group on their background and their culture and their family, just to give everyone – both players and staff – a bit more of an insight into their lives, and also to help us understand what's home for them and how can we support that," Joyce said.
Those sessions included teaching the group some language, and has led to regular, welcome questions.
"They're always asking me; how do you say this in your language?" Baird said.
"They try to say it and it’s funny, so it just makes it feel like home, and comfortable enough to share those learnings with them."
Off the back of this, the club has instated a weekly player award, Walu of the Week, voted on by the playing group after each game based on values set during the preseason.
'Walu' is the Yolgnu word for 'sun', linking to family backgrounds of both Baird and Bush.
"We spoke to Janet about how we can incorporate some of her language but also her art as well, so she's done a logo for us," Joyce said.
While Baird admits it was her "first time" really doing art, it was a positive process and having that weekly award keeps language and country front of mind.
"There's Indigenous art everywhere in the club, and even the boys know about [Walu of the Week] and they think it was a really cool initiative as well," she said.
For Joyce, the integration of culture allows the club to support players more holistically, rather than simply as footballers.
"It helps in terms of being able to have conversations around all parts of their lives, rather than just the Gold Coast and living on the Gold Coast and footy and their work," Joyce said.
The SUNS' Indigenous guernsey has also been designed by inaugural player Kalinda Howarth, in conjunction with local Bundalung-Yugambeh artist Christine Slabb.
"Nothing on that guernsey is there by chance, there's a real meaning to it and it just goes to show the effort that Kalinda and others have put into it," Joyce said.
According to the club's website, "the white sun on the guernsey represents the Gold Coast and the GC SUNS AFLW players and their families and communities.
The yellow sun at the top-back of the guernsey depicts the sunrise coming out of the ocean while the symbolic nature of having the sun on both the front and back of the playing strip signifies the past, present and future of the football club."