Johnny Mullagh, the best player of the 1868 Aboriginal team that became the first sporting team from Australia to tour internationally, has been inducted into the Australian Cricket Hall of Fame.
Born Unaarrimin (according to Wikipedia he was he was given the name ‘Mullagh’ to identify him with his place of birth on Mullagh Station, about 16km north of Harrow in Victoria) and growing up at Pine Hill Station in West Wimmera in Victoria, Mullagh played in the third cricket match ever scheduled at the MCG on Boxing Day in 1866 for the Aborignal and T. W. Wills XI.
The XI played the Melbourne Cricket Club (MCC) in front of one of the biggest crowds of that era.
He learned to bat with a red gum bat
Mullagh, who learned to bat with a red gum bat, is considered one of the best players of his era, highlighted by taking 245 wickets at 10 and scoring 1,698 runs at 23.65 during the 1868 England inaugural tour. Mullagh featured in 45 of the 47 matches played during the tour.
Peter King, Australian Cricket Hall of Fame Chairman, said: “Johnny Mullagh and the 1868 Aboriginal team paved the way for so many future Australians to showcase their skill and talent on the world stage. To consider the team’s feats were in an era dictated by inequality, makes their story even more remarkable and worthy of recognition.”
The Mullagh medal, awarded to the Player of the Match at the Boxing Day Test, is a recreation of the original belt buckle worn by the 1868 team.
Mullagh had strong connection with MCG
It was chosen due to Mullagh’s strong connection with the MCG. He played there in the 1866 Boxing Day match, played in one first-class match for Victoria against Lord Harris’ XI in March 1879 at the ground, and worked for the MCC in 1869/70 as a ground bowler.
“Johnny Mullagh and 1868 team’s story is one of resilience and triumph, as well as discrimination and tragedy. Mullagh represents his entire team and the special place they have in cricket’s history,” said Nick Hockley, Interim Cricket Australia CEO.
“The achievements of the 1868 Aboriginal cricket team 152 years ago are truly inspiring, and we thank and acknowledge all descendants from the 1868 team who continue to work with Cricket Australia to bring this incredible story to life.”