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What Boland’s medal meant to Indigenous people

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Belinda Duarte, a direct descendent of the pioneering Aboriginal cricket team which toured England 153 years ago in the face of racism and injustice, swears she could feel the ancient life-force of her people sweeping across the MCG as Boland dismantled England.Duarte was at the ground to present the Johnny Mullagh Medal – in honour of the leader of that 1868 team – and burst into tears as it become apparent that the player she would present to would be Boland, only the second Aboriginal male to ever play Test cricket for Australia.Catch every moment of The Ashes live and ad-break free during play on Kayo. New to Kayo? Try 14-days free now.“Oh my God, I started crying. I was in front of the committee room in the MCC members and just felt extraordinarily emotional,” said Duarte, of the Wotjobaluk clan and descendent of Mullagh’s teammate, Dick-a-Dick, members of the Aboriginal team that first played at the MCG in 1866.“I had so many mob contacting me by text saying, ‘oh my God, I think you’re going to present it to Boland.’“I’m a big believer in the work of our people and the spirit of our people and our ancestors.“I truly believe they supported him in his confidence today to just slay it.”Boland’s debut as only the second Aboriginal in 144 years after Jason Gillespie was already described as a ‘Cathy Freeman’ moment for a sport that has a shameful record of Indigenous participation at the elite level.But if Boland being selected as one of the great Boxing Day bolters was Freeman lighting the Olympic flame, his scintillating 6-7 rout of England on day three was Freeman’s lap of glory to 400 metres gold.“I can see how big Aboriginals are in AFL and NRL so hopefully … I can be a springboard for young Aboriginals to get involved in the game of cricket,” said Boland.Moments after his stunning man-of-the-match on debut at his home ground the MCG, Boland received text messages from fellow Aboriginal cricketers Dan Christian and D’Arcy Short who accompanied him on an Indigenous tour of England in 2018, retracing the steps of the forbearers from 1868.Duarte said Boland – who only discovered he was Aboriginal six or seven years ago and said he “couldn’t breathe”, so overwhelming were his nerves in the first innings of his debut – encapsulates the spirit of those courageous men.“It would be such a personal experience reconnecting back to the origins of those men – their courage and commitment at a time when they were treated as lesser peoples,” she said.“Scott’s journey – what I love is he is very similar to those people from the western district (of Victoria who formed the team). They speak with actions and those actions are often extraordinarily powerful.“What a beautiful way to celebrate his ancestory, his connection to the western district and our people will be celebrating up that way because it’s the (1868) story is part of the fabric of who we are. It’s the story of our people and the way in which Aboriginal people were able to celebrate and express their talents in environments that were extraordinarily horrific around control and racism.“What a way to show who he is on that ground today. It just makes me emotional for him. It’s really special.”Boland – the 32-year-old who thought his dreams of playing Test cricket were long gone as he struggled to even make the Victorian XI a couple of years ago – said he was proud of who he is and his people, and was dumbfounded by an MCG crowd which gave him the experience of his life.“I’ve never played in front of a crowd that’s been behind me like that. I tried to soak it up when I was down at fine leg there (in front of Bay 13),” said Boland.“It felt like they were really pushing me in when I was running into bowl.“(Winning the Johnny Mullagh Medal) is something I’m very proud of.“There was definitely a time where I thought playing for Australia was gone.”The 24 balls of Scott Boland’s Ashes magic In one of the most spine-tingling moments ever at the MCG, Scott Boland – only Australia’s second ever Indigenous Male Test player – has been crowned the winner of the Johnny Mullagh medal for the player of the Boxing Day Test.Mullagh was a pioneer in Australian sport, leading an all-Aboriginal team on a tour of England in 1868 – the first tour by any Australian cricket team to the UK.It’s only the second year the Mullagh Medal has been used as recognition for man of the match in the Melbourne Test, and it’s a stunning story that Gulidjan man, Boland would take it out with his stunning performance of 6-7 on day three.Boland was part of a historic tour of Indigenous players in 2018 to honour the feats of Mullagh and the 1868 team and it’s hoped his stunning performance at the MCG will be the ‘Cathy Freeman’ moment that inspires future generations of Aboriginal youngsters to take up cricket.“About 17 of us went away a couple of years ago to commemorate the tour from 1868,” said Boland. “We got to learn so much about that tour and what went on and my family are very proud and I’m obviously very proud to win this award.”Boland only discovered his Aboriginal ancestry in the last 10 years, because his grandfather was adopted.Only added to the squad on Monday, aged 32 and a Victorian, Boland’s incredible debut at his home ground – with his six wickets taken in just four overs – will stand as one of the MCG’s greatest ever moments.“On Christmas Eve I was told about 5.30pm (I was playing) and told some family and friends and had I had heaps of support from friends and family and teammates as well,” said Boland.“I thought it was going to be really tough, a big step up from anything else I’ve played before. I was just hoping to make a little bit of an impact.”Boland received rousing cheers from the 40,000 MCG crowd at every wicket and every time he went back to the boundary.“I’d like to thank the crowd so much for their support over the last three days I’ve really appreciated it,” he said.The 24 balls of Scott Boland’s Ashes magic



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