Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Black Balled Sporting Breakthroughs

THIS could be the biggest and nastiest academic biffo since Stuart Macintyre had Geoffrey Blainey ejected from the Parkville Asylum.

At Newcastle University, Professor John Maynard has just published a book, The Aboriginal Soccer Tribe, which insists Aborigines played a game called Woggabaliri, which the Silly’s Craig Foster reports is “the earliest known form of ball sport played by indigenous Australians and, according to the Australian Sports Commission, the game most closely resembled association football,” That is just a bit hard to take seriously, what with Woggabaliri sounding so much like “Wogball” you might be inclined to suspect the name was made up for humourous effect. Dispel that thought immediately, ye doubters and bigots. Maynard (below) is both a proud member of the Woromi People, possibly related to the Litijus-Mordy skin group, and chief of the university’s Wollotuka School of Aboriginal Studies. He is a man to be taken very seriously indeed.
Meanwhile, Melbourne Museum’s Dr Patrick Greene leans strongly toward the view that the very same band of Aborigines invented not soccer but Australian Rules Football, a claim reported four years ago in the Phage. What puts Maynard and Greene on a collision course is that each man cites the same 19th century etching as his proof. Here it is:

The etching was executed by German artist Gustav Mutzel, who worked from the sketches little-known German explorer Johan Wilhelm Theodor Ludwig von Blandowski brought home after ten years in Australia. A prolific penciler, Blandowski’s images could well spawn an academic growth industry as researchers identify many other examples of Ab-originality. It isn’t all that difficult to eyes not blinded by an invader’s prejudice. For example, here is the first incarnation of the Etihad dome:

Then there is cricket, which Aborigines also invented, as demonstrated by the two fellows in the background spreading covers on the pitch.
And rappelling, that is another formerly unrecognised Indigenous sport:

And their greatest achievement? Inventing the New Zealand rugby team. In addition to establishing why the squad is known as the All Blacks, this Mutzel/Blandowski rendering quite clearly captures one of the very first performances of the haka. And you thought the Maoris had something to do with it!
After those preliminaries, it was time for a scrum:
Off the field, Aboriginal achievements are no less significant, transgressive sculpture and a commitment to public art being the most obvious. That passion also is captured in the Mutzel/Blandowski portfolio:

And it is also quite clear that Aborigines occupied the City Square before it was built, even to pioneering the curious hand signals which the Occupist tribe has now revived:

These fruitful areas of inquiry await the entrepreneurial academic. All that needs to be settled is the matter of just how difficult it might have been to play either soccer or Aussie Rules with the triangular ball depicted in the seminal engraving. Some might even argue that it is nothing more than an incidental rock in the background.

Solving that riddle should be worth quite a few conferences and research grants in the meantime.


  1. It reminds me of that skit by the crew at the UK comedy "goodness gracious me", where a young man comes home to tell his father he's become a chhristian etc, expecting his father to be angry only to find his father isn't as everything was Indian, Jesus, Father Christmas and so on. We are fast getting that way here.

  2. Thanks for the laugh, Professor.

  3. Bunyip - the writer of the silly piece is Craig 'ange postecoglou is a loser' Foster - or Fozzie, he of the SBS soccer team...

  4. rabz: thanks for the correction. Senior moment at the Billabong. Fixed now.

  5. We act for the the Litijus-Mordy skin group and require from you a grovelling apology. Your, etc Messrs Sue, Grabbitt and Runne (Melbourne office), Purveyors of writs, subpoenas, and unpleasant letters on behalf of the perpetually aggrieved.

  6. This sporting information came to you from" the Aboriginal National Archives "And is written in charcoal on paperbark ! Check the weather record there too,if you are allowed (they disprove film flannery's. "science"

  7. Bunyip, I trust Maynard is playing a longer game than you think. There may be un-tapped revenue source the good professor is looking to tap into from the most pristine and un-corruptable organisation in the world.

    There is a competition between the Chinese - http://www.fifa.com/classicfootball/history/game/historygame1.html and the Greeks/Romans for claim to ownership of the world's #1 sport - http://wiki.answers.com/Q/Did_Football_originate_in_China.

    If the worlds oldest people were able to claim the right to the game, they may just be able to use their powers of persuasion to claim greater funds from welcome to country type rituals globally.

  8. Professor, - the last piccy is quite disturbing as it obviously shows one or more members of the Litijus-Mordy group (in the middle, back) attempting to be accepted by a group of non acceptors, all egged on by the bloke on the left (no pun intended), who's wearing a Collingwood guernsey. There must be a book in here somewhere, surely.

  9. Oh Lordy! Thanks for the laugh, Professor.


  10. It gets worse, as it always does.

    I was born in Port Stephens 58 short years ago and have lived here with numerous excursions for work and bonefishing for all that time.

    My antecedents were original settlers and arrived here by boat in the 1820s.

    There are a just two original extended Aboriginal families on the peninsular, the Ridgeways and the Lesters.....to my knowledge.

    Never heard of this bloke.

    Guessing he's some 'one sixty fourth' carpetbagger.

    Hush my mouth.

  11. That "soccer ball" looks suspiciously like a stone in the background.

  12. Anonymous (11:18 PM)

    Maybe he's a member of the Cherokee group.

    It's a standing joke among American Indians that every white or black person who claims to be part-Indian will always say they're Cherokee. Don't know why they settled on claiming to be Cherokee when they could've claimed to be a member of one of ass-kicking tribes (Apache, Sioux, Cheyenne, etc.)

  13. "Don't know why they settled on claiming to be Cherokee when they could've claimed to be a member of one of ass-kicking tribes (Apache, Sioux, Cheyenne, etc.)"

    Because maybe if they falsely claimed to be a member of one of the ass-kicking tribes, aggrieved members of said ass-kicking tribes would, erm, kick their ass?

    Just a thought.

  14. To me this is an example of some of whole tragedy of 'Aboriginal Culture.

    Because the culture is so important, outsiders are not allowed to play with it. That would be disrespectful. So we are left with an oral tradition passed down from generation to generation... or possibly invented on the spot like the 'welcome to country' cereomony.

    Anyone questioning the histroy must be a disrespectful racist so tracing the origin of folk tales in the way Euro histroy can be studied is either imposible or actively discouraged.

    Sorry kids, but most of Aborigine culture and histroy is already dead, locked away from the interested outsiders so well that it died from neglect.

  15. That photo of Maynard... he's sure trying to make that Blue Steel thing happen, isn't he.

    Only, it's not happening.

    He's got lovely hair, but.

  16. Mutzel/Blandowski picture proves beyond any doubt the origin of the builders of the statues on Christmas Island!

  17. These people, as descendants of the inventors, deserve a royalty for each match played.

  18. Philby @9.24pm - that's clearly an original Port Adelaide guernsey, not Collingwood....

  19. Did their football bounce? Was it hard to kick? It looks like a stone to me that a young man is balancing on his foot.

    I often do paintings that depict indigenous hunters, dancers, wanderers etc. I draw them without models or drawings to copy. I will be more careful in future to ensure I do not inadvertently add to the spectrum of their inventions just by the slip of a paint brush...

  20. Bit of a worry with that pic of the blokes doing the cricket thing, the poor lass on left foreground has just collected the Age from the frnt door and can't work out how to get it out of the plastic cover!o

  21. Azza @6.34pm, in my heart of hearts I knew it was, but as an old Norwood supporter I just couldn't bring myself to mention those swampies by name. I thought with the latent violence displayed in the piccy that it must have been those other black and white Mexicans (am I allowed to say that?)

  22. Geez what a miserable bunch of old race haters here. No understanding, no respect.

  23. Woggabaliri? This is real? Wogga baliri... Wogg bal... Wog Ball? Really?

    Someone should have this race huckster up before the Tribunal. Racist.