Boxing Day Test medal to honour Indigenous pioneer

By ScoreLine Desk - December 20, 2020

Player of the match in iconic Test will now be awarded the Johnny Mullagh Medal in tribute to leader of the 1868 Aboriginal tour to the UK

The best player in the Boxing Day Test will now be awarded the Johnny Mullagh Medal in tribute to one of the country’s finest cricketing pioneers.

As Cricket Australia (CA), via its 2019 Reconciliation Action Plan, continues to implement ways to not only improve the sport’s relationship with the country’s Indigenous population but to also recognise the feats of Indigenous players from eras past, the introduction of such a prestigious prize has been praised by current Sydney Sixers allrounder Dan Christian.

Together with Australia women’s star Ashleigh Gardner, Christian led an Indigenous squad on a tour of the UK in 2018 to mark 150 years since an all-Aboriginal cricket team became Australia’s first sporting squad to leave these shores.

The allrounder viewed that tour as nice recognition for his predecessors but was hopeful it wouldn’t prove tokenistic from CA, and Christian believes the Mullagh Medal, which will be presented at the conclusion of such an iconic fixture, is another avenue forward.

“I think it’s a fantastic way to acknowledge that (1868 Aboriginal touring group), but also off the back of our tour a couple of years ago on the 150th anniversary of their tour, that things are still progressing,” he told cricket.com.au.

“So it wasn’t just a token tour, it’s great to see that we’re still going on from there: we’ve got the Barefoot Circles (before some matches), we’re using the Walkabout Wickets symbol that was designed for that tour, and now we’ve got the Mullagh Medal on the biggest stage we’ve got in Australia, so it feels like we’re moving in a nice direction.

“That’s what the Reconciliation Action Plan is all about … and the fact there’s a plan in place is a great place to start.

“It means we’re moving in the right direction for sure, and hopefully we see lots more Indigenous kids coming through, and we can have another Ash Gardner, and get another male into the Test team as well.

“From when I first started in state squads in the early 2000s, it’s been a slow progression but it’s nice that things are happening a little bit quicker nowadays.”

Mullagh, whose real name was Unaarrimin, led the Indigenous squad on their 1868 tour, playing 45 of 47 matches and was from all reports the ultimate allrounder – a fact that left Christian playing catch-up when he found himself ‘paired’ with the legendary player after each 2018 tour member was allocated one of the trailblazing group and asked to dig into their history.

“He did everything on that tour – he was the skipper, he took (245) wickets, he scored a bucketload of runs and he even ended up wicketkeeping for a couple of games,” Christian added. “So I had a fair bit to live up to for the tour!

“He also worked at the MCC (Melbourne Cricket Club) and he played in the Boxing Day match in 1866, so there’s some real history there.”

The Mullagh Medal itself, which will be presented to the official player of the match at the conclusion of the Boxing Day Test against India for the first time, is a recreation of the original belt buckle worn by the 1868 team.

While biosecurity protocols will prevent a physical presentation of the medal this year, a video message from a descendant of a player from the 1868 tour will congratulate the winner.

Uncle Richard Kennedy, the great-great-grandson of all-rounder Yanggendyinanyuk (Dick-a-Dickwill congratulate this year’s winner via video message.

Different descendants of the 1868 team will present the medal each year.

Courtesy: Cricket Australia

By ScoreLine Desk

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