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The footballers who booted out Australian racism

  • 11 April 2012

In recent months many fanciful stories have been told of the Mighty Currawongs, a new Australian Rules football club with offices and training ground in Box Hill, a suburb of Melbourne, the large southeastern Australian city where footy, as its adherents call it, was born in a paddock in 1858, rather like an ungainly colt.

Having established its footing, the game, again like a colt, developed into a stunning combination of grace and speed, and soon took not only its native city but its home nation by storm; by the teenage years of the 21st century, there were footy teams in all corners of Australia, and a steady enough demand for the sport that there was a steady parade of expansion teams, of which the Currawongs were one.

This note, then, is to correct some of the misconceptions about the Currawongs, and to set the record straight about the happy serendipity of events that befell the club, leading to its current popularity and fervent fan base.

It was wholly by chance, for example, that the club's officials hired former Geelong Cats stalwart Cameron Ling as their first coach; Ling, after a stellar career in midfield for the Cats, with whom he won three league titles, retired just as the Currawongs finished planning for their opening season, and club officials, much impressed with Ling's work as captain and relentless defender, chose him to train their young players properly in the fundaments of the game.

The first press releases issued by the club about this hiring, however, referred to Ling only as C. Ling, because, as it was discovered later, a public relations intern whose name has never been revealed, probably a Melbourne Grammar graduate, was unsure of the spelling of the name bestowed on Ling by his blessed mother upon his moist entrance into this plane of existence in the winter of 1981.

Thus rose the waters of confusion, and became a raging flood, and did overflow the media, one member of which casually in a blog post bruited the opinion that the Currawongs, which he called the Wongs, were a Chinese team, just as, by purest chance, the first player promoted to the big club from junior football was the fleet and muscular