Johnny Mullagh Championships to celebrate 150th anniversary of first touring side

HISTORY: The first Australian sporting team to tour internationally won 14 and drew 19 of its 47 matches in the UK. Picture: CONTRIBUTED
HISTORY: The first Australian sporting team to tour internationally won 14 and drew 19 of its 47 matches in the UK. Picture: CONTRIBUTED

IT WILL be a big day in Harrow on Sunday as the annual Johnny Mullagh Championships celebrates the 150th Anniversary of the first Australian sporting team to travel abroad.

A side of 12 cricketers from western Victoria travelled to the UK in 1968 where they played 47 matches – winning 14, losing 14 and drawing 19.

All but one player in the side were Aboriginal and Harrow’s Johnny Mullagh was the team’s star all-rounder.

Mullagh championship’s president Tim Leeming said the side’s story was not as well known as it should be.

“It’s a really special thing to remember,” he said. 

“Anyone that comes through town and stumbles across the story at the Harrow Discovery Centre asks why this isn’t taught to every Aussie kid.

“We’re making a really big effort to convince the powers that be that this is something that needs to highlighted more and more.”

Martyn Knight, David Puls, Tony Caccaviello and Brett Jensz will be part of the Johnny Mullagh championships game.

Martyn Knight, David Puls, Tony Caccaviello and Brett Jensz will be part of the Johnny Mullagh championships game.

On the field it will be business as usual with a Glenelg representative side set to take on the Mullagh representative XI in a limited overs contest.

“It can be a bit of an awkward time of year to organise players who are juggling finals but we have a pretty handy group of cricketers on show,” Leeming said.

“Most of the players that we get to come along have been involved in the contest for years and really value what it is about. It’s a game that is played in really good spirit with the players preferring not to run between wickets most of the time.

AFER the games expected mid-afternoon finish the celebrations will continue into the night with the first Fist XI legends concert.

2016 X Factor winner and 2017 Eurovision contestant Isaiah Firebrace will headline the show.

Firebrace’s performance will be extra special given his connection to first XI players James Couzens and his brother Johnny Cuzens.

Harrow Discovery Centre’s Josie Sangster said she saw people come through the centre discovering the story for the first time.

“We celebrate the team on the March long weekend every year but its bigger this year,” she said.

“The story is actually so incredible. I’ve always known it but I’ve been working here six months and there hasn’t been a day where I don’t find something even more extraordinary about the tour.”

Benny Murray, Neil Murray and Todd Cook will also be performing at the ticketed event.