Book to spotlight Chinese footy history

November 25, 2023 BY

Historic players: Celestial Footy: The Story of Chinese Heritage Aussie Rules charts key Chinese-Australian players from the Bendigo region such as Russell Goldfield Jack. Photo: SUPPLIED

THE Chinese-Australian relationship with Aussie rules football and Bendigo’s place in its history is set to be celebrated with a book launch next week.

On Saturday 2 December, author Patrick Skene will be in town to talk about his new book Celestial Footy: The Story of Chinese Heritage Aussie Rules.

The 24-chapter book details the more-than-140-year history of Chinese-Australian involvement in the sport.

Skene said Bendigo has a rich history of Chinese-Australian Aussie rules participation.

“Bendigo is ground zero of the Chinese-Australian tradition,” he said.

“In 1882, a chap by the name of Henry Chin Kit ran onto the field for Ironbark verses Charing Cross. He was the first footy player.

“Then in the 1890s there was a Bendigo verses Eaglehawk all-Chinese game where Samuel Ah Dore who was famous for being a greyhound trainer around Bendigo.

“His grandson is Russell Goldfield Jack who was a two-time Olympic torch runner, in 1956 and 2000, and in 1949 he travelled for Bendigo down to Victoria to win the Victorian Schoolboy of the year award.”

Released in June, the book was previously launched in New South Wales and will be toured in town as part of a Victorian showcase.

Written in partnership with the AFL, and the National Foundation for Australia-China Relations, Skene said a key aim behind the book is to return a sense of belonging to the country’s Chinese communities.

“This came about following an article I wrote in The Guardian in 2015 on the Miners and Market Gardeners game,” he said. “That went really well and a lot of people contacted me about it.

“Then the Chinese-Australians had taken a terrible beating over COVID with reported instances of racism up by a multiple of five. They were getting blamed for it.

“A report from The Lowy Institute said their sense of belonging had been eroded. I wanted to write a book that reminds them how Australian they really are, and to tell that story through footy.”

Special guests will include Russell Jack, and Bendigo Mooroopna Football Netball Club’s Billy Wong, whose family played with the club for four generations.

The free book launch event will take place at the All Seasons Resort Hotel in Strathdale from 4pm and to RSVP visit bit.ly/47HpJn3.