Indigicross: A World First!
Aside from the fact they’re all title-winning dirt bike racers, what does Jeff Leisk, Chad Reed, Toby Price, Craig Anderson, Tye Simmonds, Luke George, Brad Williscroft, Nathan Crawford, Paul Caslick and Tony Vickers all have in common? Aboriginal forebears is what.
You’re surprised, right? Well, don’t be, because very few people are aware of the Indigenous bloodlines running through this who’s who of Australian moto royalty. For years, sports such as AFL and NRL have done a great job of acknowledging and celebrating their Indigenous athletes. But in motorcycle racing circles, there’s been no such fanfare. And that sudden realisation seemed to give the “Indigicross Grand Prix” race – which was part of the recent Red Bull Day in the Dirt Down Under event at Queensland‘s QMP – added significance. Of all the on-track action that took place at QMP over that September 7-9 weekend, the Indigicross attracted the most attention – not just because this race was the first Indigenous-specific motorsport race, two wheels or four, in Australia and arguably the world; but also because a majority of us have been oblivious to the fact that so many of Australia’s most successful dirt bike racers have Aboriginal heritage.
“When you stop to think about, it’s incredible just how many of Australia’s most successful racers have Aboriginal backgrounds. And it’s probably more incredible that very few people realise how well represented Aboriginal people are in the sport,” says General Manager of KTM and Husqvarna Motorcycles Australia, Jeff Leisk, who was Australia’s first successful moto export back in the mid 1980s. “Along with many other riders, I’m very proud of my Aboriginal heritage, and I think the Indigicross GP here at the Day in the Dirt is a fantastic way to recognise and celebrate just how many of Australia’s top riders have Aboriginal blood.
“A lot is often made about the deep connection that Aboriginal people have with the land, and when you look at the beautiful, natural way that guys like Chad Reed, Craig Anderson and Tye Simmonds ride a motorcycle on dirt, it’s difficult to deny the evidence of that special connection,” Leisk went on to say.
According to 37-year-old Scott McDonald, whose Indigicross race jersey proudly displayed the Aboriginal flag, “My great-grandfather was part of the stolen generation, which is how I ended up with McDonald as a surname. It was only at the Day in the Dirt that I came to realise how many big-name Aussie motocross riders had Aboriginal backgrounds, and to be honest, that blew me away. I don’t know whether or not that’s because there’s a stigma attached to it in our sport, but I do know that it sure hasn’t been well publicised, let alone celebrated. It was cool to wear the Aboriginal flag on my jersey, which was given to me 15 years ago by my best mate – an Aboriginal bloke who I’ve known for 30 years. I’ve worn it a few times – like on Australia Day, when I’m on the BBQ [laughs] – but the Indigicross was the first time I’ve run it while racing. It was actually a very proud moment for me, and I could see that, after the race, many of the younger fellas also felt a greater sense of pride about their Aboriginal roots. Then, when I got back to the campground after the race, a bunch of crew came up to me to have a chat about my heritage. That was cool too, and I can’t wait for next year’s Indigicross. Sadly, I was a bit of a passenger after two laps of the race. All I consumed that weekend was sausage sandwiches and beer, so I wasn’t feeling like much of an athlete by Sunday [laughs]. I live in Wollongong, so it was a hike for me, the missus and my mates to get up to southeast Queensland, but seriously, that was one of the best weekends ever!”
For the record, the inaugural Indigicross GP was won by 22-year-old Damien Harrison from Ipswich, just 30 minutes’ drive north of QMP. “I’ve got both Aboriginal and Torres Straight Island blood, so it was awesome to hear the Day in the Dirt was planning to hold a race specifically for people with Indigenous heritage,” Harrison explains. “I only recently had my appendix out and wasn’t sure if I’d be right to race, so I was a late entry. But, man, I’m so glad I did. I really didn’t want to miss it because, aside from some dances and excursions our Gold Coast school put on for those of us with Aboriginal blood, there’s been no opportunity for me to take part in any activities with others who’ve got Indigenous backgrounds. Before the race, me and Tye Simmonds – who I watched race a lot when I was younger – traded a few take-the-piss comments on Instagram because we both run number 42. He was going to take me out on one of the corners, so it was pretty funny to end up following Tye for the first few laps of the race … before he pulled off and deprived me of the privilege of passing him [laughs]. I know both of us weren’t exactly bike fit, but it was so cool to dice with Tye for a bit and then go on to win the first ever Indigicross. It was incredible to see how many people lined the startline area and fences to watch the race, and it has prompted heaps of conversations about my background since. It was such a good way to draw attention to how many top Australian riders have Indigenous backgrounds.”