St George Illawarra apologises to Nathan Blacklock after racism claims during Dragons career

St George Illawarra has apologised to former player Nathan Blacklock for the racism he experienced during his career at the Dragons.

Blacklock, in an article published by The Sydney Morning Herald on Sunday, highlighted his experiences of racist behaviour while playing with the Dragons.

The Dragons released a statement on Sunday afternoon, apologising “unreservedly” to Blacklock and other Indigenous Australian players who might have been subjected to racism during their time with the club.

“Racism has no place in society, in rugby league and certainly not at the St George Illawarra Dragons,” Dragons chief executive Ryan Webb said in the statement.

“Everyone at the club was saddened to read over the weekend that racism played a contributing role in Nathan’s departure from the club in the early-2000s, and commend his bravery in speaking out.

“We have come a long way as a club with addressing matters pertinent to not only players of Indigenous background but across all cultures.”

Blacklock, who played for the Dragons in two stints between 1997 and 2004, said his experiences of racism at the club were “like a dagger to my heart”.

The 44-year-old said he did not speak up at the time as he was worried about the consequences for his playing career.

“I wanted to play first grade and didn’t want the attention that speaking out then would have brought,” Blacklock told The Sydney Morning Herald.

“My dad always told me to just keep my head down and do my job, but I feel times have changed now.

“I work with people from all races and all areas in my job with suicide prevention. It’s time to be true to myself and speak up in case anyone else is going through it.

“Those boys shouldn’t worry about their positions in the team. And I hope race never, ever picks a team.”

Webb said the Dragons were committed to standing up against racism.

“With a commitment to reconciliation, the club will continue to uphold these values in taking a stance against racism,” he said.

“The club respects the unique position of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the first peoples of our nation, and appreciate the contribution they have and continue to make to our country, our community, to our sport and to the Dragons.”

Blacklock played 137 matches for the Dragons and made two Test appearances for Australia.

He also played five matches for the Roosters when he debuted in first grade in 1995.

A fan favourite known for his acrobatic try celebrations at the Dragons, Blacklock was named as the Dally M Winger of the Year on three occasions (1999, 2000, 2001).

He scored 121 tries across his first-grade career.

Blacklock also had a brief stint in rugby union, playing for the New South Wales Waratahs in 2003 before returning to the NRL later that year.