The Mullagh Wills Foundation recognises the tremendous achievements of the Aboriginal Cricket Team in the late 1860s, in particular the match against the Melbourne Cricket Club (MCC) at the MCG in 1866 and the tour of England in 1868.
The Mullagh Wills Foundation will celebrate the remarkable achievements of this team and focus on the brilliance of the recognised star of the team, Johnny Mullagh, and the original coach of the team, Tom Wills. Wills and Mullagh both played in the Aboriginal Team against the MCC on Boxing Day in 1866.
Johnny Mullagh – (Born Unaarrimin) is a true sporting legend and the star of the team, making him one of Australia’s first international cricketing stars. Mullagh played one season with the Melbourne Cricket Club on his return from the tour of England before returning to his home near Harrow. In 1879, at the age of 38, he represented Victoria against an all-England side.
Tom Wills – the original coach of the Aboriginal Cricket Team, he played cricket for the Melbourne Cricket Club and Victoria, was the MCC Secretary and a pioneer of Australian Rules Football who founded and played for Melbourne Football Club. An inaugural inductee into the Australian Football Hall of Fame, Wills is also considered a symbol of reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.
Cricket played an important role in helping to break down the barriers that existed between Europeans and Aborigines in the 1860s. After developing their participation in the game an Aboriginal team from Western Victoria was invited to play the Melbourne Cricket Club on the MCG on Boxing Day in 1866.
Tom Wills travelled to Edenhope (Western Victoria) in November 1866 to coach the Aboriginal team (Australian Aboriginal Cricket Team) for the Boxing Day match. Over 8,000 spectators attended this match against the MCC.
In early 1867 the team toured Victoria and New South Wales before returning to Western Victoria. Later in the year with two financial backers and a new captain, Charles Lawrence, the team regrouped, and in February 1868 the Australian Aboriginal Cricket Team became the first cricket team to leave Australian shores. In May the Australian Aboriginal Cricket Team took the field against Surrey at Kennington Oval, becoming the first Australian cricket team to play in England.
An estimated crowd of 7,000 were at the ground to see the historic match, some ten years before the first white Australians took the field at Lord’s, and 14 years before the ‘birth’ of the Ashes.
In 2011 Mullagh was one of the 20 inaugural inductees into The Victorian Aboriginal Honour Roll.
In 2004 the Johnny Mullagh Cricket Centre was opened in Harrow. The centre was developed by the local community to tell the story of Johnny Mullagh and to celebrate the story of the 1868 Aboriginal Cricket Team who became Australia’s fist international cricket stars.
Harrow Discovery Centre
Department of Premier and Cabinet – July 2013