First Aboriginal player into Australian Cricket Hall of Fame

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Johnny Mullagh, who was the star player of the 1868 Aboriginal side that was the first sporting team from Australia to tour internationally, has become the first indigenous player inducted into the Australian Cricket Hall of Fame.

Mullagh took 245 wickets at an average of 10 and scored 1,698 runs during his team’s tour of the United Kingdom, playing in 45 of the 47 matches.

Mullagh played in the third cricket match ever scheduled at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on Boxing Day in 1866 for the Aboriginal and T.W. Wills XI against the Melbourne Cricket Club.

Mullagh was a Jardwadjali man from western Victoria state whose real name was Unaarrimin.

The best player in this week’s Boxing Day test between Australia and India will be awarded the Johnny Mullagh Medal. The medal is a re-creation of the original belt buckle worn by the 1868 team.

Australian Cricket Hall of Fame chairman Peter King said Mullagh had contributed to Australia’s national identity.

King said Monday it was an “oversight” to take so long to recognize the importance of the 1868 side.

“The Hall of Fame itself wanted to acknowledge the impact that indigenous players had had on the game, so this was probably a bit of an oversight, in retrospect,” King said.

“We have chosen Johnny as a sort of a representative of that era, as opposed to going back and trying to individualize the individual inductees. His record speaks for itself and it really should have been acknowledged previously. He’s a standout character in that era.”

Mullagh becomes the 55th player inducted into the Australian Cricket Hall of Fame, alongside greats such as Don Bradman, Shane Warne, Belinda Clark and Dennis Lillee.

King said he hoped Cricket Australia would be able to engage more with “indigenous talent.

“We’ve seen the evidence of this in other sports and there are opportunities for cricket to embrace that relationship with indigenous people a lot more strongly,” he said.

Cricket Australia’s interim chairman Nick Hockley said the story of the 1868 side was one of “resilience and triumph, as well as discrimination.”

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