WHEN Jade North leads the Jets into battle against the Queensland Roar on Sunday he will be representing more than just the city and its soccer fans.
North is a proud indigenous Australian the first to captain an A-League side and the only one in the 18-man Socceroos squad who beat Qatar 3-0 a week ago.
The Jets were training yesterday when Prime Minister Kevin Rudd apologised to the stolen generation.
"It is a proud moment in Australian history for someone to come out and acknowledge the Aboriginal people and say sorry," North said yesterday.
"It is great for the Aboriginal people to get some recognition in Australia. We are the forgotten people.
"Look at the Maori people in New Zealand.
"Their culture is so big. Everyone knows about their culture and respects it.
"Here in Australia, not many people know about the Aboriginal people and their plight."
Born and bred in Taree, North, 25, has the name of his tribe Biripi etched in ink on the inside of his left foreman.
The tattoo is a declaration of his heritage.
"It shows the respect I have for my family and acknowledges where I came from," he said.
North spent his formative years in Taree before moving to the Gold Coast, where he came under the umbrella of the Queensland Institute of Sport.
"I love where I am from, but in a sporting sense there were not the opportunities there for me to become a professional sportsman," he said.
North and partner Maree Sigsworth, who is part-Aborigine, have a six-month-old son, Zane.
"When Zane is old enough to understand, I will explain to him where he is from and how proud he should be," North said.
North is one of three indigenous Australians, alongside former Newcastle player Travis Dodd (Adelaide) and Queensland teenager Tahj Minniecon, playing in the A-League.
Already a role model for many young Aborigines, North will participate in a series of programs in the off-season to promote wellbeing and the benefits of sport.
"Nike have asked me to be involved in a program called the Red Dust program," he said.
"They are going to take sportsmen, AFL players, soccer, rugby league, basketballers to remote areas in the Northern Territory and work with kids there not just indigenous people but the whole community."
This week also holds special significance for North on a playing front.
North missed the Jets' heartbreaking loss to Adelaide United on penalties in last season's preliminary final because he was serving a suspension for headbutting Sydney FC defender Iain Fyfe.
It was the lowest point of his career and one he is determined to make amends for.
"You learn from your mistakes," North said.
"It was devastating watching from the sideline.
"Things are out of your control.
"This year they are in my control.
"Being known as the first Aboriginal to captain a team which has gone through to the grand final would be a great achievement and a piece of history."
If the Jets get past Queensland and go on to win the grand final, North would hold up the trophy and his heritage would be there for all to see.
"That would be awesome," he said.