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The Australian Eleven: The first Australian team

The Australian Eleven: The first Australian team

The first Australian cricket team to travel overseas was an Aboriginal team, made up of stockmen who had learned the game on Victorian cattle stations. The team travelled to England in 1868 for a series of matches against county teams, 10 years before the Australian Eleven team travelled to England for the first official representative Test match on British soil.

Three images showing the 1868 Australian Indigenous cricket team. The left image has a large oval shape inside which are the photographs of fourteen Indigenous and two non-Indigenous men. The Indigenous men all wear cricketing clothing while the other two men wear suits. Above the large oval is printed 'Australian'. Below the oval at the left is printed 'Aboriginal'; printed to the right is 'Cricketers'. Some of the Indigenous men hold traditional Indigenous weapons and implements. The middle image is an enlargement of one of the Indigenous cricketers. He stands facing the camera, wearing light-toned trousers, shoes, a dark long-sleeved shirt and a cap. He holds a cricket bat over his right shoulder. He has batting pads on his lower legs. The right image is another enlargement of one of the Indigenous cricketers. This man wears light-toned long underwear. He appears to wear a pair of shorts over the underwear. He holds an Indigenous wooden weapon and a narrow wooden shield. Two sticks lie on the ground near his right foot.

Above: This photo collage was created by Peter Dawson of Hamilton in Victoria to promote the 1868 Aboriginal cricket team tour. National Museum of Australia.

Take a closer look at the first Australian team
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The team provoked mixed reactions from the English public. The Times described the tourists as 'the conquered natives of a convict colony' and a 'travestie upon cricketing at Lords'. The matches, however, were well-attended by a curious public with the first event at the Oval drawing 20,000 spectators. The entertainment included demonstrations of boomerang and spear throwing as well as cricket.

The Australians surprised their competitors with their sporting prowess, winning 14, losing 14 and drawing 19 of their 47 matches. Unaarrimin (also known as Johnny Mullagh) was the standout performer, scoring 1698 runs and taking 245 wickets.

A black and white photograph taken in 1868 showing a team of Indigenous Australian cricketers.There are ten Indigenous and two non-Indigenous men in the photo. Eight of the Indigenous men stand in a row. They wear light trousers and dark long-sleeved shirts. The shirts have either a dark or light broad diagonal stripe. One of the non-Indigenous men stands in the middle of the Indigenous men. He wears all light-toned clothing. The other two Indigenous men lie on the ground in front of the standing men. They wear the same clothing as the other Indigenous men. Between them sits the other non-Indigenous man. He wears dark trousers, dark vest and a dark coat. He appears to be cradling some cricket stumps in the crook of his right arm. In the background are trees and some of the sky.

The 1868 Aboriginal cricket team wore uniforms of a red shirt and blue sash as well as distinctive caps so that spectators could tell them apart. Courtesy: National Library of Australia, nla.pic-an13938309.

An Indigenous wooden implement used by an Indigenous Australian cricketer in the nineteenth century. It has a handle and a blade reminiscent of a hockey stick. It has been photographed in a horizontal position i.e. the handle lies horizontally while the blade section points down toward the bottom of the photo. The handle has a conical end that has carved bands around its circumference. Directly beneath the conical end is a section of carved cross-hatch marks. A rectangular patch or covering is visible at the base of the handle, where it transitions into the blade section. The surface of the implement shows the grain of the wood and what appears to be a layer of varnish.

This boammer was used by cricketer Dick-a-Dick in demonstrations of 'traditional' skills that took place after matches on the 1868 tour of England. Dick-a-Dick used the boammer to defend himself against showers of cricket balls thrown by two teammates. Courtesy: Marylebone Cricket Club.

The First Aboriginal XI

Bullchanach 'Harry Bullocky' Lyterjebillijun 'Jim Crow'
Bonnibarngeet 'Tiger' Murrumgunerrimin 'Jeremy Tarpot'
Unaarrimin 'Johnny Mullagh' Arrahmunyarrimun 'Peter'
Brimbunyah 'Tommy Red Cap' Ballrinjarrimin 'Sundown'
Grongarrong 'Mosquito' Mijarrie 'Lake Billy'
Yellanach 'Johnny Cuzens' Cungewarrimin 'Billy Officer'
Jumgumjenanuke 'Dick-a-Dick' Hingingairah 'Harry Rose'
Murrumgunarrimin 'Two Penny' Bripumyarrumin 'King Cole'

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