“It’s good fun, and obviously something that means a great deal to this Indigenous team.” So said respected rugby league commentator Peter Sterling after the incredibly stirring pre-game war dance at the weekend's Indigenous All Stars vs World All Stars match at a pulsing Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane.
But could the dance mean something to all Australians regardless of their heritage? Could it be the equivalent of New Zealand's haka, which is performed by New Zealanders of both Maori and European heritage?
Preston Campbell believes it could. Campbell is the former NRL star who founded the Indigenous All Stars game. He works with Indigenous communities these days and believes a war dance performed by Australia's national rugby league team, the Kangaroos, would send a message of respect, inclusion and understanding.
"If they took it on I’d be comfortable," Campbell told The Huffington Post Australia. "But in saying that, the players would need to be comfortable as well. They need to be proud doing it and understand it."
The dance performed at the All Stars game on the weekend was developed by the players. It featured a range of symbolic gestures representing various Aboriginal myths, legends and customs.
It also featured a spear-throwing motion which symbolised hunting, not war. Though called a "war dance", this was about culture and storytelling, not conflict.
"They call it a war cry but it's more around respect for the actual event and respect for the opposition and the understanding that if not for the opposition team there wouldn’t be a game," Campbell explained.
Leading the dance was the inspirational figure of Greg Inglis, the Indigenous All Stars captain and South Sydney Rabbitohs superstar who happens to be Preston Campbell's cousin.
"I got goose pimples watching it," Campbell said. "He’s come a long way, not just as a footballer but as a person. I’m so proud of him."
Imagine, then, Inglis, or Johnathan Thurston, or even current Kangaroos skipper Cameron smith (who is not Indigenous) leading such a chant against England or New Zealand.
Melbourne Storm player welfare manager Peter Robinson recently said Smith would definitely be up for it.
"I think the important thing is for people to know the meaning behind it and it is actually not a threatening dance, it is more to get the boys together before they go into battle," Robinson told Fairfax Media.
There is no one Indigenous war dance, just as there is no one haka. But the thought of Australian teams in all sports paying respect to our Indigenous heritage with an Indigenous dance is something that gets people like Preston Campbell pretty excited.
"It's all about sharing, about having pride," Campbell said.
At the very least, it makes for a great show. Listen to the crowd in the video above. They loved it.Suggest a correction