MELBOURNE has continued a much-loved club tradition during 2023, three players receiving unique best-on-ground awards during Sir Doug Nicholls and Indigenous Rounds. 

Over the course of the two weeks in May, the players voted best afield were each awarded an original hand-painted football, created by Ricky Kildea from Marngrook Designs.  

Kildea, an avid Dees supporter and proud Dja Dja Wurrung man, has a strong relationship with the club, each year creating different and unique designs that represent each team. 

Christian Petracca received the AFL award after the Demons’ Round 11 loss to Fremantle (Walyalup) where he recorded a game-high 30 disposals and 10 score involvements.  

“This design is my expression of the importance of connecting to Country and represents the spiritual and cultural connection between people and Country,” Kildea said. 

“For Aboriginal people, connecting to Country gives us strength, heals our spirit, improves mental health and wellbeing, gives us our identity and strengthens our connection to culture.” 

Daniel Turner was awarded best-on-ground in the VFL match against North Melbourne in Round 9. The defender racked up 22 disposals in a dominant display during Casey’s win over North. 

“The artwork represents a spiritual and cultural connection to connection to Country and acknowledges that Aboriginal people have connected to this land for over 60,000 years,” Kildea said. 

“The meeting/gathering places acknowledge the interconnectedness of Aboriginal people with Country.  

“It also highlights the importance of a strong connection to Country for our identity and wellbeing.” 

Claire Keohane was the recipient of the VFLW award after Casey’s 13-point win over North Melbourne.  

“This artwork represents the individual women on the VFLW team, symbolised by each circle design,” Kildea said.  

“The smaller dots that surrounded the circles connects each of the circles/women, this is to represent the strong connections between the players and how they need to work as a team to achieve success. 

“This type of artwork design also highlights the importance of having strong connections to community, country and culture. 

“This football is also a celebration of women in sport/football.” 

This tradition will continue though the AFLW Indigenous Rounds, with Kildea creating a new design for the player awarded best-on-ground. 

To see more of Kildea's designs, click here for his Instagram.