Almanac Book Review: Aboriginal People and Australian Football in the Nineteenth Century: They Did Not Come from Nowhere by Roy Hay

“One of the great moments in footy for me was Michael Long’s scintillating, and brilliant charge through the centre of the MCG to sensationally kick the first goal of the 1993 Grand Final against Carlton.

As one, to a deafening roar from the crowd, the Essendon supporters rose, not only to cheer the audacity of this inspirational act of individual football skill  but to acknowledge a feat by this great indigenous player that was over a hundred years in its making,  was nerve tingling to say the least.

Today, we stand in awe of the many indigenous footballers gracing our footy fields; to marvel at their amazing skills, and the unique abilities they bring to the game, and of course, to our culture.

Incredibly, between 1906 and 1980 only 18 aboriginal players had played VFL football at the highest level, a surprising fact I’d assumed to be much higher. Since then the number has escalated and exploded as evidenced by the number of indigenous footballers playing AFL footy in 2019.

But what do we really know about the early beginnings of indigenous involvement in the game?

For example, can you name the first and only aboriginal player  to play  a senior Victorian football game in the 19th century?

I can tell you he only played one game, and that was for Geelong in 1872. And, it’s not who the AFL claim it to be either!

The  answer to this question is one of many considered in Roy Hay’s new and captivating book, Aboriginal People and Australian Football in the Nineteenth Century: They Did Not Come from Nowhere (Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2019).

The book is a compelling rich, historical account that examines the fascinating evidence and intriguing insights of indigenous, as well as European, participation and development in the game since the mid-19th century, to the game as we now know it today.

It is also a story of the plight of aboriginal life mainly in Victoria at the time; with all its prejudices, racism, and bigotedness, illustrated clearly for all to see, and unfortunately  still continues today…”

Colin Ritchie.

To read the full review click here.

To read a thirty-page extract and more reviews like this click here.

 

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