Peter “Robbo” Robinson may be known among the purple faithful for his time as a bustling forward, but it’s his impact post-career that will leave a lasting legacy on anyone who walks through the doors at AAMI Park.
A proud Muruwari man, Robinson joined Storm in the new millennium as a fresh faced 24-year-old, becoming the first ever Indigenous player to pull on the purple jersey, going on to play 75 games and score 10 tries.
What people may not be familiar with is Robinson’s equally successful post football career as the Player Wellbeing Coordinator at Melbourne Storm. For anyone who steps into the club, it doesn’t take long for them to come across ‘Robbo’.
“Essentially, as soon as we sign a player, we’re the guys that make contact to work out their accommodation requirements, help out that relocation aspect of moving down and then help him integrate into Melbourne and into the Storm family,” Robinson explained.
“We really know and understand that not everyone that comes into our space come from the same starting point, so we don't treat everyone equally, they’re treated equally different because there's going to be some person that needs a bit more support than the next and that's OK, that's a part of living.”
Alongside caring for the current squad, Robinson has a deep passion for the Melbourne Old Boys, a community of past Storm players, families and staff formed to keep a lifetime connection to the Club, long after they move from Melbourne.
Even as a past player himself that remained with the Club after retiring from rugby league, Robinson still acknowledges feeling the difficulties of the adjustment to life outside of the playing arena.
“As you get older life throws more at you and I know when you do get tested in life, it's nice to have a mob of people that you've had a real, strong connection with to be there to help you and support you and wrap their arms around you,” Robinson shared.
“We’ve got 220 odd players now, so the stronger we can drive our connection with each other, the stronger it's going to be when we are challenged.
It's that genuine care that we have for each other, that's the part I like.
“We've got the Old Boys coming up soon, so that's something I really like driving. I like the current players seeing that so when they’re no longer with us, or if they go to another club, or they retire, they know what they're stepping back into.”
You can hear the passion in his voice as he talks about the importance of the Old Boys to not just himself, but the DNA of Melbourne Storm.
Alongside his own Aboriginality, Robinson plays a key role in the Club’s important partnerships with organisations Dardi Munwurro, Deadly Choices and Coles. With each of them working to provide Indigenous communities with the resources and environments to live healthier lives, physically, mentally and emotionally, it only seems a natural fusion of two of Robbo’s driving forces.
“To be a part of the longest living culture in the world, that's for everyone to be proud of, no matter who you are. It's wonderful how the game, and our Club, can really showcase that and then really bring that aspect of culture to life,” Robbo shared.
“I've worked with Dardi Munwurro since 2010 and the work they do is enormous and it's, again, when you sit and share and listen.
“I think the biggest gift you can give anybody your time, because when you hear someone’s story, you’re going to hear, not only the good things, but also some things that's been sitting with that man and to understand and help them unpack. What Dardi Munwurro really specialise in is men’s behavioural change, but what differentiates them from mainstream is the healing aspect.
“We've got a men's gathering on Thursday to get men around each other. We know how painful isolation is, so to get back, connect and check-in with each other, that's the thing I love.”
As the Club gears up for its largest Indigenous Round yet, with week-long, organisation-wide cultural celebrations all culminating in a blockbuster Thursday night match at AAMI Park featuring a spectacular pre-game cultural ceremony, we asked Robinson what it meant to see an increased awareness and pride put into Indigenous Round.
“As I'm getting older I'm getting more proud of it.” Robbo said.
“We've got 220 odd players and there's 22 different cultures, which is something that is unbelievable.
Our mentality in this space is if culture is important to one of us, it's important to all of us.
“We take the time to sit and learn and listen to see what's important our teammates and what part of their culture is important to them. For me to be able to see the way the game and our Club acknowledge Indigenous Round is incredibly proud and just strengthens that connection in bringing culture to life.”
22 years on from his debut as the first Indigenous Melbourne Storm player, the Club has since seen 16 further Indigenous players come through its system, including legends such as Greg Inglis, Will Chambers and Josh Addo-Carr, each leaving their own mark on the Storm history books.
Reflecting on his historic debut, Robbo admits it’s something he’s only begun to reflect on recently.
“I never gave it a thought to be honest, but it's something that I'm incredibly proud of, something I’m over the moon about.” Robbo said.
“To still be able to play a part in the Club and to talk about, not only our culture or my culture, but the Melbourne Storm culture, because that's 22 different cultures culminating and I love playing a part in that,
“So, to be an Aboriginal man and playing a small part in pulling it all together, it's something I'm really proud of.”