The Pioneers covers early goldfields Chinese-Australian players including Ballarat’s James Lepp, who was not only a pioneering player but became the first recorded Chinese-Australian umpire. Chinese-Australian Victorian Football League (VFL) and Victorian Football Association (VFA) Pioneers are also featured including Carlton’s Wally Koochew who made his debut in 1908, Geelong’s George Tansing who after leaving the VFL would become the first Chinese-Australian captain of a mainstream club, Footscray’s Jack Wunhym and North Melbourne’s Les Kew Ming who in addition to being a footballer and a decorated soldier won the Sporting Globe’s national distance kicking competition in 1928.
BUSH FOOTY LEGENDS
Bush Footy Legends features Chinese-Australian players for country clubs across regional Victoria. From Thomas Chin Chee, the first Chinese-Australian to win a premiership with Inglewood in 1895 to Clarence Lepp who served in World War I before becoming the first captain of Ballarat’s Golden Point Rice Eaters club. Players from other areas include Russell Jack from for Eaglehawk in Bendigo, Roy Poy who played as a rover in Albury and the Wong family who played for the Mooroopna Cats for four generations including Billy Wong Senior and Junior who won premierships 90 years apart.
Go West features the cream of the Western Australian Chinese heritage players, a tradition that includes more than 20 players since Job Fong first ran onto the field for South Fremantle in 1907. At the apex of the group is Western Australian State of Origin player West Perth’s Les Fong, nicknamed Captain Courageous. Les’s brother Neale also played for West Perth before becoming Chairman of the Western Australia Football Commission. Perth’s Richard Pang came second in the Sandover Medal voting in 1999 whilst Claremont’s Keifer Yu from Broome and Ryan Lim have been quality performers in the WAFL.
TOP END FOOTBALLERS
Top End Footballers features Northern Territory players with Chinese heritage. There have been a number of standout players including Joe Sarib who won the inaugural Nichols medal in 1949 and Ron Chin who thrilled Darwin fans in the 1950s with his speed and skills. There were three Chinese-Australian heritage players named in the NTFL Team of the Century - John ‘Bubba’ Tye, Clifford Lew Fatt and his father Walter Lew Fatt. From Alice Springs, Paul Ah Chee continued the tradition in the Red Centre playing for North Adelaide in the South Australian National Football League (SANFL).
There have been six AFLW players of Chinese heritage since the first year of the competition in 2017 led by Carlton star Darcy Vescio, the first AFLW player to reach 50 goals. The tradition was continued by Adelaide Crow’s Sophie Li, the first Chinese-Australian player to win an AFL or AFLW premiership. Collingwood’s Joanna Lin has become a permanent fixture in the Magpies and a role model for young Asian-Australian girls. Off field pioneers include Sarah Loh, the first Chinese Australian to become the CEO of a major junior football League and Nat Edwards, a trailbrazing broadcast pioneer.
The Modern Era features Chinese-Australian players since the 1970’s beginning with Trevor O’Hoy who played three years for St Kilda Reserves, coming second in the Gardiner Medal in 1973. Dannie Seow became the first Chinese-Australian player in 44 years to play seniors VFL when he took the field for Collingwood in 1986 before moving on to Melbourne. Cult hero Lin Jong battled through a series of injuries to reach the 10-year milestone for the Western Bulldogs club. Connor Downie debuted for Hawthorn in 2021 and Broome’s Bailey Banfield has become a regular player for the Fremantle Dockers.