Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 31 August 2014

Aboriginal War-Dance a pup

Telegraph Sport: where the debate starts

Lance Franklin and Sean Cavanagh do battle during the International Rules series game at Breffni Park
Lance Franklin and Sean Cavanagh do battle during the International Rules series game at Breffni Park

I blame it on Sean Cavanagh. Last weekend I had originally thought I might be on duty at the Ballinderry v Clonoe game. However, once Sean Cavanagh let slip that the Australians were planning an indigenous war-dance before Saturday's Rules series game, my mind was made up. I had to see this.

The Breffni Park stage was set on the night, the weather was fine and one of the most beautiful moons hung suspended over what is known locally as 'the half-acre'. The haunting warblings of the Didgeridoo began through the speakers ...

And then the Aussie lads just blatantly copied the Haka. Codded again!

The truth is that the Aboriginal war dance was an invented concept, pretty appropriate given that it preceded an invented game.

When you think about it, the idea of Aboriginals as war-mongers is a pretty fanciful one anyway.

They were a group of nomadic tribes with a spiritual connection to preservation and the environment. When one patch was farmed sufficiently, they would up and leave, promoting an early form of crop rotation.

Without land ownership, there was no need for inter-tribal war.

This concept had me reaching for an almost forgotten book purchased in a Paddington stall many years before: 'Aboriginal Legends' by A W Reed.

I had a quick flick through that, and no, no mention of wars. Instead it is a detailed study of 'Dream Time', the Aboriginal equivalent of Christianity's heaven.

So, the Aboriginal War-Dance? We were sold a pup. And nobody lapped it up better than me.

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