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Artist Alkina Edwards knew she was watching something special.
It was a game of netball, a clash between Australia’s Diamonds and England’s Roses, but it was also so much more than that.
It was the game that would help propel Ms Edwards onto the international stage.
With the scores level late in the contest, the match was set for a fairytale ending.
Donnell Wallam made her debut for Australia that day in October 2022, becoming just the third First Nations person to pull on the Diamonds uniform.
Then, with less than 10 second to go, Wallam leapt towards the ring and nailed a shot that lifted the Aussies to a remarkable one-goal victory.
Inspired by what she just witnessed, Edwards, a First Nations artist from Victoria’s north living on Yorta Yorta land, created a special piece showing Wallam celebrating her game winning goal.
After sharing her artwork on social media, it soon went viral.
It drew praise and attention nationwide, with a print of it later gifted to Wallam.
Eight months later, that piece of artwork brought Ms Edwards and Wallam together again.
Ms Edwards was at a special ceremony in Melbourne this week to present Wallam and the entire Diamonds team with their dresses for the Netball World Cup in South Africa this month — uniforms she designed.
It’s the first time the Diamonds have featured First Nations artwork on their uniforms.
Ms Edwards said it was amazing to be involved with the Diamonds.
“It feels surreal. I am still on a high from everything,” she said.
“It was so deadly to meet everybody — the coaches, the staff, the netball girls — it was just amazing.
She said Netball Australia contacted her through social media about the opportunity.
“I was shocked,” she said.
“I still think about the day and I am speechless about it.”
Blazing a trail
Ms Edwards said she hoped her design could have an impact on and off the court.
“I felt while I was creating this piece, I just really wanted the artwork to inspire a lot of Australians to be proud of where they come from and the Indigenous people,” she said.
Titled “Ganurra”, which means blaze in Yorta Yorta language, Ms Edwards said the design encapsulated what the Diamonds meant to her.
“I found inspiration around watching the Diamonds, growing up watching them, seeing what they represent to me, which to me is unity, celebration, strength and empowerment,” she said.
“I also took inspiration from my cultural knowledge and connection to the land that I’m living [on], which is Yorta Yorta country.”
She said a gathering circle, which represented unity and strength of the team, was also included in the design.
Impact at home
Ms Edwards, 26, is originally from Echuca along Victoria’s northern border with New South Wales, but now lives in Shepparton in the state’s centre.
And while her artwork is set to shine on the global stage, it is making waves across her local community as well.
Ms Edwards teamed up with the Goulburn Valley League to design the football jumpers and netball dresses for 11 of the competition’s 12 clubs as part of the first league-wide Indigenous round.
Every footballer and netballer in the league, from juniors through to seniors — more than 1,000 players — will wear jumpers and dresses created by Ms Edwards.
The teams will also take part in a welcome to country and exchange gifts across the two rounds.
“It makes me feel really proud,” Ms Edwards said.
“I have got so much positive feedback from the community about how much they love it and expressing their gratitude to me.
“I feel even more empowered when I see people participating in Indigenous culture and wearing the uniforms with pride.”
Ms Edwards said she wanted to include her personality in each design, and also her family’s history and their mobs — Yorta Yorta, Wemba Wemba, Murray Murray and Murandgeri on her mother’s side, and Wakka Wakka and Bunjulum on her father’s side.
“It is very important to me to always acknowledge that and continue to pass on those stories for the future when I have children or grandchildren, so they will know exactly where they come from,” she said.