The long trek made by a group of sporting trailblazers was honoured at a unique celebration this week.
One hundred and fifty years ago Australia’s first cricket team – made up of indigenous players – began the journey from western Victoria to Melbourne, travelling much of the way on foot.
They became the first Aboriginal team to play on the hallowed turf of the MCG and later travelled to England in a gruelling five-month tour.
The efforts of the 14 players were recognised in Skipton, one of the towns they stopped in along the way on that original journey, as part of 150th anniversary celebrations.
Theirs was an incredible feat of endurance, and their cricket results were equally impressive.Jo Beard
The Mullagh Wills Foundation, named in honour of team star Johnny Mullagh and original coach Tom Wills, organised the event to further its aim of encouraging reconciliation through sport.
As part of the Skipton event, a message book was presented to Corangamite Shire mayor Jo Beard and will be added to by her and other community leaders along the way before being presented to the Melbourne Cricket Club on Boxing Day at the MCG.
Mullagh Wills Foundation chair Jane Nathan said it was important to continue to recognise the team’s important achievements.
“The foundation is about the involvement of communities and recognising the incredible achievements of the Aboriginal cricket team 150 years ago, as well as helping to bring communities together,” she said.
Cr Beard said it was an honour to be involved in the celebrations and look back on the team’s incredible feats.
“Theirs was an incredible feat of endurance, and their cricket results were equally impressive,” she said.
“Corangamite Shire was approached by the Mullagh Wills Foundation to partner with it to recognise and acknowledge the Aboriginal cricket team, something that we are delighted to do.”
The Aboriginal cricket team first played in Melbourne in 1866. They left Edenhope on December 18 on their journey to the MCG.
The team stopped overnight in Hamilton, Dunkeld and Skipton, before walking on to Ballarat where they took the train to Melbourne.
In 1868 the team travelled to England, playing 47 games, managing 14 wins, 14 losses and 19 draws. Johhny Mullagh bowled 1877 overs, made 2489 runs and took 245 wickets.