Talented Richmond forward/midfielder, Shane Edwards, has spoken of the positive influence a growing understanding of his Indigenous heritage has had on his AFL playing career.
Edwards was a member of the All Stars team narrowly beaten by the West Coast Eagles in a special pre-season game in Perth last Friday night, following a week-long camp attended by the AFL’s Indigenous players.
“I was always worried that I didn’t really know enough to have an opinion on a lot of things,” Edwards told ‘Roar Vision’.
“A big part about realising more who I was, has directly influenced how well I’ve played football, mainly because knowing more about myself means that I can be more of myself on the field.
“It’s hard to explain, but I’ll be the best me that I can be out there. I’m not trying to emulate other players, because I can’t do that.
“Being a reserved person, and not speaking up a lot, has allowed me to learn a lot more and absorb a lot more things. But at the same time, that hinders me in improving. So I need to realise what my strengths and weaknesses are.
“It’s something that I still have to adapt to sometimes . . . I can shy away a bit from taking the extra responsibility as an older player . . . I need to give my share when I should and speak up when I should because I’m not going to learn more if I don’t express things.
“Also, I’m always having people tell me how old I am. I’ve been in the system for going on nine years, so hopefully I’ve learned enough to know a few things.”
The 26-year-old veteran of 152 league games with the Tigers, thoroughly enjoyed his experience on the camp.
“It was really fun . . . I’ve wanted to do it for a long time and, playing with some of the players out there, it’s just an honor to be on the same field as them . . . guys like ‘Shauney’ Burgoyne and a lot of up-and-coming stars,” Edwards said.
“It’s hard to put into words, because I’m pretty flat we didn’t win, but at the same time I had a really good time and I was glad that it happened . . .
“I was just really proud to have the jumper on. My family would be really proud of me, all my friends, and all my teammates also would be very proud of me. They sent me a lot of messages before the game.
“Having a game at the end of the week was a bit of a bonus. A lot more of it was about what we did during the week, learning more about culture.
“At the same time, we all just bonded. I formed a closer relationship with nearly every guy there and also learned a lot from a lot of different leaders that I’m not used to . . .
“I hadn’t met a lot of the other guys that were coming (on the camp). It’s a little bit intimidating to start off with . . . a lot of really high-profile players here like ‘Goodesy’ (Adam Goodes) and Shaun Burgoyne.
“It was good to have (Indigenous Richmond newcomer) Nathan Drummond come. He soaks it up . . . he’s a real listener, not so much a talker, which I reckon is really important in the first couple of years. In turn, it made me talk a little bit more, which is a bit different.”