JERSEY PIONEERS: The Bilambil Jets will be the first club in Group 18 JRL to don indigenous jerseys when the under-12s and under-16s run out in their new jumpers tomorrow. Titans captain and Bilambil Junior Life Member Ryan James (centre) and local artist Rob Appo (right) presented the juniors with their jerseys on Thursday.
JERSEY PIONEERS: The Bilambil Jets will be the first club in Group 18 JRL to don indigenous jerseys when the under-12s and under-16s run out in their new jumpers tomorrow. Titans captain and Bilambil Junior Life Member Ryan James (centre) and local artist Rob Appo (right) presented the juniors with their jerseys on Thursday. Scott Powick

Bilambil jerseys make history

THE contribution and significance of the local indigenous community has been officially etched into the fabric of the Bilambil Jets JRL, with junior players to run out tomorrow wearing stunning new indigenous jerseys designed by Tweed artist Rob Appo.

Ryan James and Rob Appo address Bilambil's juniors.
LISTENING IN: With help from Gold Coast Titans captain Ryan James, artist Rob Appo explained the meaning of the Bilambil JRL's historic indigenous round jerseys. Steve Vivian

Bilambil's under-12 and under-16 players were presented with the jerseys on Thursday by Gold Coast Titans captain and Bilambil Junior life member Ryan James. The jerseys will be donned in lock-step with the NRL's indigenous round this weekend.

James, who played all his junior footy at Bilambil and was a primary sponsor of the jerseys, said he was proud of his old club for breaking new ground.

"It's great this is filtering through to the grassroots. It means we're taking steps forward,” he said.

"To give back to my local club is something special for me and my family. We're very fortunate to be in a position to get the jerseys together for the kids so they can represent their families, their culture and the round.”

Terrylee James, Ryan James and Kevin James.
A TITAN RETURNS: Titans captain and Bilambil JRL Life Member Ryan James was back at his old club on Thursday with mum Terry-Lee James and dad Kevin James. Steve Vivian

Tweed artist Rob Appo, who also played at Bilambil as a junior, said the aim of his jersey design was to "achieve something that ties back into the club and into this part of country”.

Using the meaning from the Bundjalung word 'Bilambil', or 'Bilungbil', which translates to 'many sheoak trees', Appo rooted the design in the area's local heritage. And in a nod to the indigenous players, past and present, who have represented the Bilambil Jets, Appo threaded footprints throughout the jersey to signify their lasting impression.

Rob Appo shows off the jersey he designed.
LOCAL ARTIST: Tweed artist Rob Appo shows off the jersey he designed for Bilambil JRL. Steve Vivian

"The footprints are one of the main elements I wanted to put in,” Appo said. "They represent the Aboriginal community members that have played the game of rugby league out here at Bilambil.”

The design was certainly good enough for indigenous under-16 player Jarius Murphy-Phillips, who said he just "wish(ed) he could keep” the jersey.

"I like it, because I'm Aboriginal, and I take pride in my heritage and my background. It's special to be able to play in these and good that the club is doing this. It's not just the NRL, but we can do it here too,” he said.