The Koori Knockout may be a football tournament, but to the Indigenous community it means so much more.
The 48th annual NSW Indigenous Knockout is an NRL competition attended by more than 30,000 players and spectators from across the state.
This year's four-day event had 140 teams battling it out at Dubbo's Apex Oval in the state's central-west, in a fast-paced, high-calibre tournament.
While it was held in Dubbo, the event was hosted by 2017 premiers the Newcastle Yowies, running from Friday until today.
Club president Warren Schillings said the club had been planning the event for the past year.
"It's massive. Everyone looks forward to it. This is as big as Christmas," Mr Schillings said.
"It's a chance to come and play some great footy and meet all your family that you don't see through the year."
The knockout is regarded as one of the biggest gatherings of Indigenous people in the world.
"It's a modern day corroboree. There's so much into it, the culture, football and just the friendship," Mr Schillings said.
Returning to their roots
Many NRL stars got their big break at the knockout and each year return to where it all began.
Big name players such as Cody Walker, Andrew Fifita, James Roberts and Australian captain Greg Inglis have all lined up for their hometown teams this year, to the excitement of thousands.
"Greg is such a big drawcard. Everyone wants to watch him run out for the Wall Street Warriors," Mr Schillings said.
"The last knockout he played was 15 years ago with the Yowies when he was 15.
"Look where he's gone now. A lot of these fellas come through these knockouts and it's a stepping stone for all the other young players."
An opportunity for change
The youngest tournament participants cannot wait to see their footy idols up close — it is a rare opportunity for those who live in rural and remote areas.
"The kids are so excited. They're practicing their goanna celebration to show [Greg]," Dubbo youth worker Alex Boney said.
Mr Boney works with young people living in Dubbo housing estate Apollo House, and is coaching their first under-12 side.
Apollo House is participating in the Koori Knockout for the first time, with 44 children playing for the Apollo Estate Black Astronauts.
"It's a very special moment for us. It's the first year in it and I'm very proud of the boys and how they played," Mr Boney said.
"It's better for them to be here than on the streets. They're playing footy, making a lot of friends and meeting new people."
Mr Boney said it was a crucial opportunity to change the area's reputation and leave their troubles behind.
"This will change a lot of people's mind because they think we're just a community centre sitting in the middle of nowhere," he said.
"We're here to help these kids succeed in their life and maybe chase their dreams."
Local Wiradjuri elder Frank "Riverbank" Doolan was moved to tears watching the youngest members of the housing estate play in the tournament, as members of the community cheered them on.
"I observed some of our kids as they came off and you can feel them almost bursting with pride," he said.
"Apollo House, like other housing estates, it gets a bad rap. I can't imagine it would be easy to be a kid from Apollo Estate.
"One thing I noticed about our kids and their jumpers is above the left breast they've got a map of Apollo Estate. That's kind of telling everybody we're not ashamed of where we live."
The tournament was won by the Newcastle All Blacks, who broke a 31-year drought to beat La Perouse by a point, 19-18, with a field goal in the final minute of the match.