Indigenous Sport Month: Cody Walker’s mission to inspire younger generation

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Cody Walker is proud of his Indigenous heritage. Picture: Phil HillyardSource:News Corp Australia

Cody Walker is one of the most electrifying players in the NRL. He has played for the South Sydney Rabbitohs since making his debut in 2016 at age of 26.

Walker has gone on to captain the Indigenous All-Stars team and play for NSW in the State of Origin series. He is known for his instinctual, exciting style of play which blends speed, evasiveness, and ball skills to terrorise opposition.

Cody is a proud Aboriginal man with heritage extending from the Bundjalung tribe of the northern rivers of NSW and the Yuin tribe from the South Coast of the state.

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Cody has utilised his sporting platform to raise awareness and evoke action around several Indigenous issues prevalent in Australia society. He was one of the first players to publicly shun the national anthem and march for a change to the Australia Day date.

He is a partner to Nellie and the father of two sons, Kian and Kade, and wants to make a positive change in the world for them.

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Cody Walker has used his profile as an NRL star to help raise awareness around Indigenous issues. Picture: Phil HillyardSource:News Corp Australia

My Indigenous heritage means absolutely everything to me. To be a part of the oldest surviving culture on earth is something to be certainly proud of, but also to have a deep connection with this country and the land is something you really can’t describe. My favourite customs from my heritage are eating bush tucker and engaging in storytelling. The customs and song lines that have been passed down through thousands of years and across generations are amazing to sit and listen to.

Before games I only have two real superstitions. The first is eating a bowl of spaghetti the night before every match and the second is the strapping on my wrist that has four names on it for my family. I try not to get too caught up in superstitions because one thing about having kids is everything changes week to week. We might play on a Friday and I’m dropping the kids off at school that day, opposed to playing on a weekend and the kids are at home all day. I try not to get caught up in having very strict rituals. I try to keep it relaxed as possible.

The best advice I would give to my teenage self is never give up on your dream. I suppose my story is probably the perfect example of that. I didn’t debut in the NRL until 26 years old, so it’s all about persevering through difficult times, and just coming out the other end a stronger person.

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Cody Walker didn’t make his NRL debut until he was 26. Picture: Getty ImagesSource:Getty Images

The biggest misconception about me is that I’m a fiery person. On the field I can get quite heated but obviously I’m a totally different person off the field. I’m quite an approachable guy. I’m happy to do things for others and put them before myself.

When people look at me, I hope the first thing they see is a great dad, a good family man and a strong Aboriginal person that stands up for what he believes in. The best thing about my life is not only being able to live out my dream, but it’s also very rewarding to inspire the younger generation. It’s quite an amazing feeling.

My sporting hero is former NRL star Preston Campbell. I liked the way he could play and thrive in the game of rugby league despite being such a small person. As his career went on, the person he became off the field with his ability to be out in the community doing things that help others, especially for Indigenous youth, that was unique and inspiring.

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Preston Campbell has been an inspiration to many Indigenous players, including Cody Walker. Picture: Luke MarsdenSource:News Limited

There is a negative side to being in the spotlight as an Aboriginal man, you can be exposed to these racial elements of society. For me it’s about educating people. It’s about trying to change things for the next generation, for my kids and other young children. It’s about making people aware that racism and discrimination still continue and we all need to be better.

In saying that, I think there is more support these days for Indigenous athletes coming through. Recently, we saw people charged for racially abusing one of my teammates Latrell Mitchell over social media. There is obviously more of a process in place these days, there’s more accountability and heavy consequences which is great. Hopefully the next person that wants to write a comment like that will have second thoughts.

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Cody Walker with his children after the Indigenous All-Stars match in 2019. Picture: AAP ImageSource:AAP

The highlight of my sporting career so far is captaining the Indigenous All-Stars team in Melbourne in my first appearance for the team in 2019. It was special for me just to make the side but to captain the boys and lead them out in front of my family is something out of this world. My Mum and Dad, my three brothers, my partner Nellie, and my two sons. They are huge motivations for me.

When I found out my partner was pregnant for the first time, I didn’t have a job, I didn’t have a license, I was living with my brother. Fast forward 10 years to where my life and career is now, the fact that I am able support my family. I have to credit those people. They made me work hard, believe in myself and made it all possible.

Originally published asHow Walker is inspiring youngsters to follow their dreams

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