Eddie Gilbert – The True Story of an Aboriginal Cricketing Legend
by Mike Coleman and Ken Edwards
So this book has nothing to do with football, but Eddie Gilbert’s story has a lot to do with Indigenous people and sport.
Eddie Gilbert was by all accounts a remarkable fast bowler and was the only man to ever knock the bat from the great Sir Donald Bradman’s hand. Gilbert was one of only 15 bowlers to dismiss the great man for nought. He also won the individual battle dismissing Bradman twice in the three times he bowled to him.
Eddie Gilbert’s story is a tragic one, and a lesson as to how the Aboriginal Protection Act at the start of the last century was to put it mildly misguided. Eddie was undoubtedly a talented athlete; he was built up by the powers that be, prejudiced against, but still delivered on the pitch. He was then dropped and left to his own devices having been given a glimpse as to how the other half lived.
It was only when writer David Frith decided to write an article on Gilbert that he discovered the cricketer was still alive, everyone had said he had been dead between five and ten years. He eventually passed away in January 1978. It seems amazing that a sport loving country such as Australia could allow one of its legends to die in such oblivion. His grave to this day does not even have a head stone.
It is because of the treatment of Gilbert and other indigenous cricketers in that era that aborigines tend to shy away from cricket as a sport they choose to play. Only nine Indigenous men have played first-class cricket and only one, Jason Gillespie test cricket. When you consider it was the Aboriginal team of 1868 that were the first Australian cricket team to tour England that is not a very good return.
This is a superb book, and should have been the spur to change, but it appears many have read it and then put it back on the shelf and carried on as before. This book was a spur for “No Apologies” to make sure that football acknowledged, embraced and celebrated the achievements of our indigenous athletes.