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Indigenous Sporting Firsts: Cathy Freeman makes history, Buddy Franklin kicks 1000th goal

To celebrate Indigenous Sport Month, News Corp is looking at 50 sporting firsts achieved by athletes through history.


From Cathy Freeman becoming the first track athlete to win Commonwealth Gold in 1990 to Joe Johnson becoming the first Indigenous AFL/VFL premiership player in 1904.


Check out the Indigenous Sporting Firsts in our interactive below. We will add two new moments every day throughout the month until we have all 50.

First AFL 100-goal kicker LANCE FRANKLIN

Hawthorn v Carlton, Docklands, August 30, 2008. At just 21, Buddy produced an extraordinary season when he booted 113 goals and 88 points, prompting the great Leigh Matthews to describe him as being “from another planet”. No player has gone near 100 goals in a season since, highlighting the significance of the then Hawthorn superstar’s season.


First track athlete to win Commonwealth Gold CATHY FREEMAN

Auckland 1990 The daughter of Cecilia (Kuku Yalanji people) and Norman (Burri Gubba people), Freeman may well be Australia’s finest Indigenous athlete, having won Olympic, World Championships and Commonwealth gold. It all began as a 16-year-old at the 1990 Auckland Commonwealth Games where she won gold as part of the 4x100m relay team.

First AFL/VFL premiership player JOE JOHNSON

Fitzroy v Carlton, MCG, September 9, 1904 Recruited from Victorian Football Association side Northcote, Johnson made his senior debut for Fitzroy in 1904 against Carlton. Initially playing as a half-back flanker, Johnson played in back-to-back premiership teams in 1904 and 1905.

First competitor in an Olympic field event BENN HARRADINE

Beijing National Stadium, August 16, 2008 From the Wotjobaluk tribe in Victoria’s Wimmera district, Harradine became the first Aboriginal field athlete to represent Australia at the Olympics when he competed in the discus at the 2008 Beijing Games, the first of three Olympics that he threw in.

First grand slam winner (French Open) EVONNE GOOLAGONG CAWLEY

Roland Garros, June 6 1971 Evonne Goolaging, AC MBE, in 1971 was a shy 19-year-old from a Wiradjuri family, not someone who was expected to take the French singles championship at Roland Garros which she did with a 6-3 7-5 win over fellow Australian Helen Gourlay.




First to be named Australian of the Year ADAM GOODES

Parliament House, Canberra, January 25, 2014 One of the few AFL players in the history of the code to be genuinely capable of playing every position, the Goodes story ran a lot deeper than the 372 games for the Sydney Swans, two premierships, two Brownlow medals and four All-Australians. In 2014 he was named Australian of the Year for his stand against racism.

First Boomers Olympic medallist PATTY MILLS

Australia v Slovenia, Saitama Super Arena, August 7, 2021 Like Buddy Franklin and Cliff Lyons, Mills is responsible for more than one Indigenous first. In 2014 he became the first Indigenous NBA champion when the San Antonio Spurs won the title. Seven years later he led Australia to bronze at the Tokyo Olympics.

First Norm Smith Medallist MAURICE RIOLI

Richmond v Carlton, MCG, September 25, 1982 Rioli seemed to bring the art of ballroom dancing to the hurly burly world of Australian Rules. He took the VFL by storm in his debut season of 1982 with Richmond, being named best afield in the grand final despite his team losing to Carlton.

First player to be ranked No.1 for over 100 weeks ASH BARTY

December 20, 2021 Only seven players in history have held the WTA number one ranking longer than Barty, and who knows what more she would have achieved had she not shocked the tennis world by retiring at age 25? She also won three grand slam singles titles.

Originally published on Herald Sun

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