Australia was a cricket team before it was a nation. In 1868 a group of skilled Aboriginal cricketers toured England to represent our six independent colonies, which were still 33 years away from Federation.
It’s interesting that Australian colonists formed national cricket teams decades before they bothered with Federation. Many nations boast a love of sport but in Australia, this passion defines us. The treasured names and legends – The Don, Our Dawn, Phar Lap and Australia II – speak of our history, our values and our identity.
These yarns are a charming part of Australian tradition. They include the clay perfume bottle that was given to the English cricket captain by his Australian sweetheart (The Ashes). Another story tells of the talented cricketer, a grandson of convicts, who helped write the oldest rules for any football code in the world (Australian Football).
Together, these tales also tell a larger story of our nation’s history, including: how the first Melbourne Cup was poorly attended because of the deaths of outback explorer Burke and Wills; why the conscription campaign of World War I targeted a boxer from rural New South Wales; how Bradman and Phar Lap gave hope to the nation in the Great Depression; and how an Indigenous athlete named Cathy Freeman, running at the Sydney Olympics, gave Australians a vision of how great our nation can be when we share a common dream.
Sport is a topic that many of us love. This book celebrates our passion and uses it to engage young people in reading and our history.
“SPORTSMANSHIP: How sport shaped Australia” is available from all good book stores and online booksellers. RRP $17.99