This Saturday, Lenny Christie will do his bit in recognising the connection between Australia’s game and the Indigenous culture, when he takes to the field to umpire.
Christie will perform the Welcome to Country ceremony at Yeronga at the start of the QFA and QWAFL matches, before umpiring both games.
The significance of Indigenous Round as a whole, as well as they opportunity to perform the ceremony isn’t lost on him.
“It’s really important. It’s part of my background, it’s apart of my tradition and how I was bought up,” Christie said.
“I’m representing my family and my community, and all in all everyone who is related to me. It’s really a privilege to be able to do that kind of stuff and it’s a big thing as a leader.
“It’s one of the most important weeks, especially for Indigenous players, this week coming, and every AFL team.”
It will be a family affair on Saturday with his mother, Regina, tossing the coin, and his father, Wayne, umpiring alongside him.
“Mum has been there since day one, she’s been an important aspect of my life, she has gotten me to training, helped me through different things to get through day to day concepts and just been a huge influence to me,” he said.
It was Wayne who first got Lenny involved in the umpiring department five years ago. Since then, he has ticked off on all three disciplines, boundary, goals and on field.
“My dad had me set up for the job, he got me interested in umpiring, but I’m interested in everything to do with AFL,” Christie said.
“It gave me a different taste of the game; I was always interested in doing something within the AFL community.”
It isn’t just umpiring that Christie has thrown himself into.
The current Hyundai help for Kids Brisbane Lions Academy member has an impressive footy record.
The Wilston Grange player was the AFL Queensland Kick-Start captain, and Flying Boomerangs captain of 2013.
He lead the Boomerangs, a personal development and leadership program for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young men, throughout the NAB AFL Under 16 Championships, and on their tour of New Zealand.
“It was really different just to be named in the national squad, going down to the multiple cities down south and over to New Zealand, so it was a really enjoyable experience and something I learnt a lot from,” he said.
There is a lot of knowledge transferred between both his umpiring and playing.
“It taught me to respect the umpires, and how they control the game. It’s been a big experience for me to go through that kind of stuff and it’s really changed how I play the game,” Christie said.
At just 17, the highly touted junior is hopeful of one day making his mark on the AFL, and that will all start with a push to be selected in the Queensland’s Under 18 State Academy team next year.
“My high hopes are to see how far I can go in the AFL. I will push myself to the furthest of my ability and experience as much as possible,” he said.
Christie has a lot on his plate football wise in 2015 and beyond, but this weekend is a chance to reflect on where he has come from.
PHOTO: Leigh Elliott
By Andrew Wiles – @andrewjwiles