Indigenous Sport Month: Laurie Daley opens up about growing up with racism

He was racially abused as a kid on the footy but too timid to call out the haters.

How times have changed for indigenous rugby league champion Laurie Daley, who told Dean Ritchie how his heritage made him the player he was and the person he is.

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Laurie Daley has explained how he copped racism as a child.Source:Supplied

What Indigenous Nation are you connected with?

I’m Wiradjuri, which is from the NSW Riverina. My heritage comes from my grandmother, Elizabeth, she was my mum’s mother. She died when I was very young. I knew her but didn’t know a lot about her but her influence has been important – that’s who you are, what you are and your make-up and background as a person and family.

What does your heritage and culture mean to you?

It means a lot. It means you are connected to the country and that your people and ancestors were the first people here. Learning about our history is so important because it gets left behind at times. I am finding out a lot about my own story as we go along. You don’t pick it all up at once. You learn as you go through different stages of your life. It’s been very interesting. It’s important to remember you are Indigenous and hopefully we’re a beacon for a lot of people to see that Indigenous people can achieve in business, sport, whatever field they want. They shouldn’t be held back and they should be able to go and do what every other person in this country is able to do – teach, learn, educate, be leaders, have a voice, which is very important.

Tell me something not many people know about you?

I have seven sisters – Roslyn, Catherine, Julie, Delwyn, Joanne, Jacqui and Margaret. I’m the only boy.

Laurie Daley with sisters Margaret, Joanne, Jaqueline and Roslyn at the end of the 1999 season. Picture: Gregg PorteousSource:News Corp Australia

Your earliest memory is?

Probably hearing stories from Mum (Fran) and Dad (Lance) and remembering the good times during family get-togethers in Junee.

What’s one piece of advice you would give your teenage self?

Work hard and anything is possible. Have fun in life, enjoy it and life is here to be lived. But if you work hard then you can achieve your dreams.

The best advice you were ever given?

It wasn’t really from one person but advice I picked up over the years: Be honest, respectful and remember where you come from.

If you weren’t in sport you would be?

I always wanted to be a policeman. It’s a job where you represent people, you look after the community and try to help people. I wanted to do my bit. I always thought it would be a wonderful occupation.

Daley in 1984 when he was a student at Junee High School.Source:News Corp Australia

Daley gets a kiss from his mum after having a ground named after him in Junee.Source:News Limited

How do you react when you cop abuse?

I’ve got good filters. It depends how abusive it is. In my job (Big Sports Breakfast radio program co-host) we have arguments and people don’t always agree with what you say. Racism is something I certainly won’t accept. If people are voicing their opinions about me, I don’t always pay attention to what someone may say. If it’s nasty or personal, I’d certainly ask for more respect and ask them to stop.

When people see me, what do you hope they think?

That I’m polite and am always happy when I meet people. I’ve always got a smile: ‘How you going?’ I treat people as they treat me.

Did you have a weird sporting superstition?

I used to go into the dressing sheds before every game, I would stretch, get my ankles taped, then I would get rubbed, then I would put my right boot on first and then my left shoe. Always in that order, that never changed.

What does family mean to you?

They mean the world to me. I love them to death, they are everything in my life. They will always be there.

What is a word or phrase you use too much?

“One hundred per cent” and “cheers buddy.”

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

We need to understand the Indigenous people that are involved in sport. Hear their voice, share their stories and get a better understanding of their journey and what they’re doing. It’s important they have the same opportunities as everyone else. They should voice their concerns and that is something I am seeing a lot of young Indigenous athletes do more and more these days – calling people out for racism and standing up for injustices that have happened in the past, but also working on ways to take everyone forward with them. We shouldn’t segregate or divide – all it’s about being together so if you can share and understand each other’s stories then we have a better chance of going forward.

Aunty Anne Weldon and Laurie Daley at the launch of News Corp’s Indigenous Sport Month. Picture: Richard DobsonSource:News Corp Australia

Did you encounter racism or unconscious bias against you in your career?

A little bit, more so in the early stages, when I was a kid. It was nothing major but a little bit here and there. ‘Get that black kid’. I was always one for not wanting to get involved or saying anything. That was the ‘norm’ back then – shut up, cop it, accept it and move on. It has changed now where people have a voice and people are strong minded. If that type of thing happens today, people now stand up for themselves and have a crack back. I didn’t worry too much about it at the time. It was water off a duck’s back. They were different times back then. No one said anything.

Which sporting moment carried the most significance for you?

Team-wise, it was the 1989 grand final (Canberra famously beat Balmain 19-14 in extra time). It was my first premiership and Canberra’s first ever title. Individually, captaining Australia and NSW. They were special honours.

Who put you on your pathway?

Mum and Dad used to always say: ‘Do your best, don’t go in half-hearted, commit to it and see how you go.’ And that still stands today. If you only want to do things half hearted, you won’t be a success. But if you want to give it a crack you will get the best out of yourself.

Who is your inspiration?

It probably changes. When you’re growing up, your parents influence you. But as you get older, it’s your kids, your own direct family.

Your sporting hero is?

Kevin Hastings, the former Easts halfback. He was a tough little rooster, excuse the pun. I was a mad Roosters fan.

Originally published asTeach and educate: Loz opens up about indigenous heritage

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