It’s been a while – Roy Hay on Jamarra Ugle-Hagan’s debut and Ash Barty’s triumph

It has been a long time since an Indigenous man from Framlingham first played a top-level competitive football match for a Victorian football club. This weekend, Jamara Ugle-Hagen made his debut for the Western Bulldogs in the AFL just 149 years after Poorne Yarriworri, better known as Albert ‘Pompey’ Austin, turned out for Geelong against Carlton. Since then just over 40 Victorian Indigenous male players have played for Victorian clubs. Indigenous men are over-represented in the AFL today compared with their share of the Australian population, but the majority of them come from the Noongar in Western Australia, the Tiwi Islands and the greater Northern Territory.



Ugle-Hagen is thoroughly representative of another significant change in the recruitment of AFL players. He spent the last couple of years of school at Scotch College in Melbourne—a school with a very long pedigree in the game, but now one of a group of Victorian private schools that are recruiting promising footballers as if they were American colleges. Winning the Associated Victorian Public Schools competition has become an even more serious business than it was and consequently there has been what Jake Niall described as an arms race between the Melbourne and Geelong colleges to attract the best young players. One unnamed AFL official said, ‘Geelong Grammar has a bigger salary cap than Collingwood’.



Though very slight in build, Ugle-Hagen looks the part and reads the game well. One attempted mark did not come off but he had the quickness of thought and action to palm the ball off to a team-mate for a goal. No doubt expectations for the young man will be high, but we should expect that there will be times when he will not be in the game. Youngsters tend to be inconsistent and Luke Beveridge his coach will keep him from getting ahead of himself. He has shown this already by holding Ugle-Hagen back till now and resisting calls for him to be given a senior game straight away as the first draft pick.



There was another sporting anniversary overnight. It is 50 years since Evonne Goolagong, as she was then known, won the women’s singles at Wimbledon for the first time in 1971. What is less often emphasised is that she was a finalist in 1972, 1975 and 1976, so she had paid her dues by the time she triumphed again in 1980. On both of those winning years she played the whole tournament without dropping a set. Ash Barty has won the tournament for the first time this weekend. She is aware of the history. She has become the second Indigenous Australian player to win that much coveted trophy.



Ash Barty is a most mature young woman. She gave tennis away in 2014 for what turned out to be more than a year and went to play cricket and golf. She felt at the time that she was burned out after a string of successes since she won junior Wimbledon in 2011. On her return to tennis, she lost in the quarter-final to Karolina Pliskova in a tournament in Nottingham in 2016. Since then it has been onward and upward with victory in the French Open in 2019 the previous peak in singles and she had an exceptional time as a doubles player as well.



We have two exceptional stories in these young players, both of whom seem to be mature beyond their years. Let’s give them every encouragement for the future and not regard them as tall poppies to be given a brief accolade and then hacked down as has happened so often in Australian sport in the past.




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  1. Colin Ritchie says

    Thanks Roy for your thoughtful piece on two fine outstanding Australian sportspeople.

  2. Kevin Densley says

    I enjoyed reading your piece on two excellent sportspeople, Roy. The historical dimension concerning both was handled in your usual assured, expert manner.

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