The art of inspiration: Why Dylan Pietsch hopes to spark a new generation of Indigenous Wallabies

Waratahs winger Dylan Pietsch has a collection of discrete tattoos on his right forearm, added every time he visits another country. Among them, Pietsch has a small art palette from France, a Big Ben from England and a fighting fish from Japan. The Olympic Rings are there, too, from the Tokyo Games in 2021.

But the two that mean the most are bigger, and they’re not from places he has visited. They’re about where Pietsch is from, and who he is representing.

“I’ve got an art business I’ve been doing for three years now, so I’ve designed my own tattoos and stuff,” Pietsch says, rubbing his arm. “This one is my totem, the Goanna.”

Further up his arm, Pietsch has a kookaburra, a bird which is viewed as a wise elder in Indigenous cultures. That one was added when Pietsch’s granddad passed away last year.

Representation has been front of mind for Pietsch in the last few days, after the Waratahs winger was selected for the Wallabies’ 38-man squad.

It is not Pietsch’s first Wallabies camp, after he spent time in Eddie Jones’ squad last year, but a Test debut is now a strong possibility for the winger against Wales in Sydney on July 6. His consistent impact and power has caught the eye of Schmidt this season, even as the Waratahs struggled.

the art of inspiration: why dylan pietsch hopes to spark a new generation of indigenous wallabies

Dylan Pietsch is pushing to become just the 15th Indigenous Wallaby in history.

A first Test cap would be a special moment for Pietsch, given the Wiradjuri footballer would become just the 15th Indigenous Wallaby in history.

“There’s only been 14 [so] being the 15th would be really cool,” Pietsch said. “Not only just for me but hopefully what it can create for other people and other Indigenous players within rugby.”

The list of Indigenous Wallabies is highly distinguished but, spread across 130 years, shamefully brief: Cec Ramalli, Lloyd McDermott, Mark Ella, Glen Ella, Gary Ella, Lloyd Walker, Jim Williams, Andrew Walker, Wendell Sailor, Timana Tahu, Saia Faingaa, Anthony Faingaa, Matt Hodgson and Kurtley Beale.

the art of inspiration: why dylan pietsch hopes to spark a new generation of indigenous wallabies

Glen Ella, Gary Ella and Mark Ella in 1975.

Pietsch hopes he can help provide a renewed picture of possibility to Indigenous kids.

“It’s probably the main drive, I really want to create change within the sport in that area and I feel like myself, KB (Beale) and (NSW wing) Tristan Riley coming through as well, we’ve got a strong connection to culture,” he said.

“We can really drive that and hopefully change a fair bit of what’s gone on in the past and create more than just 15 Wallabies ... create 30, whatever it is. It drives us.”

Part of that inspiration comes from a Pietsch talent that extends beyond the rugby field.

Three years ago, he began spending more time developing his skills as an Indigenous artist, and he now runs a business, Wulwaay Art.

the art of inspiration: why dylan pietsch hopes to spark a new generation of indigenous wallabies

Dylan Pietsch’s impact and power caught the eye of Wallabies coach Joe Schmidt, even as the Waratahs struggled.

Pietsch paints commissioned works, and has also created boots and jerseys with Indigenous designs for several teams, including the Waratahs, the Junior Wallabies and Clovelly Eagles.

The ultimate dream would be to contribute to an Indigenous design Wallabies jersey, and then wear it.

“I would absolutely love to - the dream is to be able to get the Wallabies jersey first and then hopefully design a jersey in the future,” Pietsch said. “Hopefully, it becomes a thing, you know, you get more different designs, different artists coming in and creating different jerseys and really connecting back to the community.”

Pietsch says he is lucky to count the Ella brothers not just as mentors and inspirations, but as friends.

“I know them really well, so it’s cool to talk through their stories and their struggles that they went through and get a lot of perspectives,” he said.

“When I do my designs and stuff ... they never got to play an Indigenous jersey and they never got to do anything like that, they didn’t really get recognised. So for them to create that for me to be able to have that is really cool.”

Watch all the action from the 2024 Super Rugby Final ad-free, live and on demand on Stan Sport.

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