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Men’s Rugby Union Ella welcomes recognition of Aboriginal people’s contribution to rugby

AS A CLUB player in Australia Mark Ella was subjected to racist abuse, so the Wallaby great welcomes the growing recognition of the contribution made to rugby by Aboriginal people.

Australia and England clash over three Tests starting in Perth today and for the first time the Ella-Mobbs Cup will be at stake in place of the Cook Cup, which was inspired by British explorer Captain James Cook.

The two unions have chosen a new direction by uniting the stories of Ella and English war hero and international wing Edgar Mobbs to create a piece of silverware that better represents both nations.

Combined with the Wallabies’ Indigenous jersey, it is part of a drive to increase awareness of the country’s First Nations heritage.

Ella was a fly-half outlier who captained Australia 10 times, yet along with his brothers Glen and Gary he was targeted with racist abuse when playing for Randwick during the 1970s and ’80s.

“When we started out we used to get the crowds because people would come out of curiosity to see these Aboriginals play, thinking: ‘Can they play rugby’?” Ella said.

“In the early days there was a bit of a novelty. We’d play and be called ‘black this, black that’ from all of our opposition.

“After three or four months we realised that instead of belting them, literally, and trying to fight them because of what they were calling us, we’d actually beat them on the scoreboard. That meant a lot more to us because we were actually winning.

“There are not a lot of Aboriginals to have played for Australia, but hopefully this trophy will be the start of the end of that.”

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