By BOB UTBER*
What’s in a name you might ask?
Well, when it comes to the naming of the new beaut Mildura South Sports Precinct everything!
The name of this exciting project, now nearing completion will be forever inscribed in the history of Mildura and environs and careful consideration is needed by residents forwarding submissions to Mildura Rural City council for the final naming.
Of the two names finalised by Council (a) Mildura Sporting Precinct and (b) Marngrook Sporting Precinct I favour (b) over (a). There is nothing in (a) that signifies anything to me of the history of the area “just another sporting field” while (b) have more historical, cultural, sporting and First Nation history oozing from every corner.
The name Marngrook literally means “ball games” in indigenous languages and that is what this precinct is all about – ball games and not just football as many people will think.
Yes, football has hijacked the name but the physical Marngrook is a ball made of possum fur, and stuffed with charcoal and kicked and thrown around and that is what is going to happen at Mildura South.
Both male and female played the games as noted by many people.
There will be balls of all sorts being kicked, thrown, hit every day of the week at the new district sports headquarters.
One little-known fact, supported by images is of a sketch done by the explorer Blandowski in 1857 of young boys kicking a “ball” around on the banks of the Murray at Merbein.
Blandowski took his sketch back to Germany where it was refined by artist Gustav Mutzel.
This sketch precedes the Rules of Football (1858) and the first image of Australian Rules (1866).
Local and national history?
You bet! Merbein Historical Society, archaeologist Mark Grist and other people can take you to the spot where it happened
It is a moot point “Who invented football?”.
Whether there is any substance in whether it was an indigenous game or not has been the subject of academic work by eminent Professors Gillian Hibbins and Jenny Hocking with both going into bat for either side.
The AFL has been historically reluctant to concede any indigenous influence on Australia’s national game but that is the AFL.
When one researches wider than the AFL look at all the First Nations people who have starred at sport using a “marngrook (ball)”. Paddy Mills (basketball), Jason Gillespie (cricket)Goolagong and Barty (tennis), Greg Inglis (Rugby League) and the Ella brothers (Union).
Space does not permit to name the myriad of Australian Rules footballers but to mention a few McLeod, Farmer, Long and the local boy Adam Goodes.
All the listed group were outstanding players of ball games some of which will be played at the venue .
It’s Marngrook Sports Precinct for me to keep history alive!
* Bob Utber is a sports historian living in Mildura.