Almanac History: Roy Hay on ‘The Conversation’ website

Historian Roy Hay’s piece on The Conversation today:



  1. Singers Rocket says

    A very considered well researched piece.

    One of the aboriginal football teams that Roy Hay refers to in his research is Cummeragunja, based at the mission out in the Barmah forest, just outside of Echuca.

    This is, of course, where Sir Doug Nicholls came from and the team that he played for before being induced to play for Tongala in the Goulburn Valley Football League before going to play in the VFL, initially with Carlton, and famously for Fitzroy.

    So it is indeed appropriate that this piece appears on the Almanac website on the occasion of the Sir Doug Nicholls Indigenous Round.

    The Cummeragunja team was formed in the early 1880s and played in the Echuca and Distict league against Echuca, Echuca East, and Rochester. Their success lends a lot of support to Roy Hay’s thesis.

  2. Thanks for the kind words. The Age has two articles on our research yesterday and today.

    The responses in the Conversation are quite lengthy and several issues are thoroughly ventilated.

  3. Singers Rocket says

    Another case study to support your claims Roy.

    The case of Frank Ivory in Queensland.
    Also in the 1880s.
    Thanks to fellow Almanacker Murray Bird.

    It wasn’t just in Victoria, after all Cummeragunja is in NSW!

  4. Thanks again Rod. Another fascinating story. Remember that in the 19th century NSW south of the Murrumbidgee was orientated towards Melbourne rather than Sydney, so it was no great surprise that the team took up the Victorian game. They actually played in leagues on the other side of the Murray. Mind you folks in Sydney thought they were playing rugby.

    Their fame spread to Sydney where their contribution to football and cricket was recognised in the Evening News.
    Judging from an application made at the Aborigines’ Board yesterday the blacks at Cumeroogunga [sic] are determined to progress so far as sport is concerned. The cricket season of 1897–98 having been gone through with great success those gentlemen are now about taking up the great winter game of football with equal enthusiasm. … The Cumeroogunga Club is said to be a very successful one, and to be able to meet anything within twenty-five miles around. They play the Rugby game, and are great sticklers for all the niceties of the play. They are said to be as rough at the game as any white team, and the man who umpires for them runs as much risk as he would at a game in the neighborhood of Sydney’.
    As with many north of the Murray, the Sydney paper’s editor thought that football players from southern New South Wales were playing rugby rather than Victorian rules.
    Evening News, Sydney, 27 May 1898, p. 2.

  5. Singers Rocket says

    Thanks for the reply Roy.

    Yeah, I know a little bit about the influence of Victoria on the Riverina in the 19th century….

  6. Teaching my granny to suck eggs then, Rod. Very sorry. I should have known about your work way back in 1988. That was a tour de force when there was no Trove to turn to for searching. So it is not surprising that the Indigenous team from Cummeragunja slipped through the net. The fact that they played most of their games in Mexico would be part of the explanation, of course.

Leave a Comment