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NBL22 news: Melbourne United Indigenous jersey, Will Davo Hickey Aboriginal roots

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The grandson of an Aboriginal Tent Embassy pioneer, Davo Hickey was destined to be a fighter. Here’s his inspiring story of on-court dedication and off-court pride.

He’s been tearing up the John Cain Arena court before the stadium doors even open to fans, working on his craft with assistant coach and NBL legend Darryl McDonald.

Use the screen, dribble, dish, pop, catch, swish.

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He does it over and over. Works on his crossover. His jumpshot. He wants to get better.

It’s a special night for the proud Gamilaroi/Wiradjuri man — his team is wearing its Naarm (Melbourne) Indigenous Round jersey against Brisbane Bullets.

Signed as a development player, he doesn’t know if he will get any minutes. He’s had that conversation. With himself. With the United coaching staff. With his teammates.

But, if he gets the tap on the shoulder from coach Dean Vickerman, he’ll be ready.

“I just make sure I’m working even when I’m not being rewarded so that when my opportunity comes along I am ready,” Hickey says.

Hickey’s birth name is William David, after his grandfather, Indigenous rights activist Billy Craigie.

Craigie — Billy Davo — was one of the four Aboriginal men who planted a beach umbrella on the lawn of the old Parliament House on Australia Day in 1972, protesting for Indigenous land rights. The Tent Embassy marked its 50th year in 2022.

Sydney boy Will grew up in Sydney’s Redfern, where “everyone knew everyone”, and small country towns Cowra and Walgett. Kids at Will’s kindergarten decided ‘Billy Davo’ was too long to say and it’s just been ‘Davo’ ever since.

There are a number of highly respected Indigenous elders and activists in Hickey’s lineage and he is acutely aware of their sacrifice.

“A lot of the things we take for granted now in our generation, we don’t realise that they actually fought so hard for it,” Hickey says.

“I want to make sure we remember we wouldn’t be where we are today without those people fighting, especially in the times when things were a lot more blatant, a lot more in your face.”

He says initiatives like Indigenous Round are important for educating the broader community on the struggle of First Nations people, something he will never be silent on.

“I spoke to the (United) boys about having those tough conversations, the conversations that have been swept under the rug, the conversations that really just make people feel uncomfortable,” he said.

“Initiatives like Indigenous Round are a step in the right direction and that’s all you can ask for at this point.

“Until we get to a point where we can discuss these things and we’re not going against the grain to just have our voices heard, then the job’s not done. We’re still fighting for our sovereignty. We’re still fighting for Treaty.

“I’m not scared to speak on these matters because of my pride, the disparities I’ve seen and the poverty I’ve seen Indigenous kids grow up in.

“It’s still not where it needs to be.”

Hickey is one of six Indigenous players in the NBL. He is proud, but he says it is also the clearest indicator of the underrepresentation of Indigenous people at all levels of the game.

“It starts with the state and rep programs,” he says.

“For the amount of Indigenous kids who are playing the sport, the numbers aren’t there.

“You can call it what you want, I’m not going to sit here and outright call out anybody, but it’s not OK.

“A lot of these kids get to a point where they realise they’re not getting the same opportunities as other kids.

“It’s not just Indigenous kids, it’s Sudanese kids and a lot of minority groups who are pushed to the side, not given that same benefit of the doubt other kids are.

“It needs to change.”

Use the screen, dribble, dish, pop, catch, swish.

He checks in to a roar just before halftime against the Bullets on Saturday night. There is a large Indigenous presence in JCA.

On his only possession, he finds Mason Peatling with a brilliant crosscourt pass for a wide open three. It’s a beauty, but his mate fluffs his lines.

“We had a mutual friend we met through,” Hickey said of Peatling, who was a development player with United last season.

“He’s a very good leader for a young guy. He sees that you might be struggling with a few things and he’ll go out of his way to have that type of conversation or answer any questions you might have.”

Use the screen, dribble, dish, pop, catch, swish.

The pay off for his hard work isn’t bulk minutes right now — he played a grand total of 37 seconds against the Bullets — it’s improvement, something Hickey has to remind himself of when he is on the bench and wants to help his team.

“We’re coming off a championship and we’re on top of the ladder now, so you’re surrounded by talented guys everywhere,” he said.

“You’ve got Jack White coming from Duke, two Boomers players in Delly (Matthew Dellavedova) and CG (Chris Goulding) and NBA prospects in Ariel (Hukporti) and Jo (Lual-Acuil).

“It’s really good to sit under them and just take in what you can and learn from them.

“I’ve just turned 23 — I guess it’s just having that reminder in the back of your head that you’ve still got time, not to rush everything and want it all at once.”

He doesn’t know if he’ll get any minutes against Perth Wildcats Thursday night but, if he does, he’ll be ready.

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