Australia’s greatest Indigenous rugby union player will form one half of the name for the new Ella-Mobbs Trophy, which will replace the Cook Cup for Test matches against England.
Ella, the Wallabies five-eighth from 1980 until 1984, created scintillating backline combinations and memorable moments with brothers Glen and Gary playing for their country, NSW and Randwick.
“When they said the Ella-Mobbs (Trophy), I sort of took it for granted that obviously it was me and my brothers, not realising it was former English player, Mr Mobbs, was also part of the trophy,” Ella told NITV.
The surname of highly-decorated Englishmen Edgar Mobbs, who played seven Tests more than a century ago before being killed in WWI, will be etched onto the other half of the silverware.
Ella, who in 1982 was the second Aboriginal Australian to captain a national sporting team, stunned world rugby when he walked away from the game at just 25 years of age.
The Bidjigal-Yuin man has been inducted into the Australian and International Rugby Hall of Fame, but the trophy will pay a larger tribute to his mighty legacy 38 years since last picking up a ball.
“It’s a big honour,” Ella said.
“I thought I retired from rugby many, many years ago, but I just keep on seeming to be lingering for a bit at the moment.”
England’s Rugby Football Union had agreed to a request from Rugby Australia prior to this year’s English tour of Australia to rename the Cook Cup.
Rugby Australia believes the newly-branded prize better represents the the two nations’ rivalry.
The trophy was first named after Captain James Cook in 1997 due to his connection to both countries after navigating the coastline of Australia in 1770 for Britain.
But Ella’s twin brother, Glen, said for many Indigenous communities Cook symbolised displacement.
“The majority of Indigenous people wouldn’t want that (Cook’s name) on the Cup,” Glen told Nine media.
“I don’t have a problem, personally – it doesn’t really worry me – but to do the right thing by Aboriginal people, yeah, I understand why they’ve made that call.
“There is still a lot of angst about that among the elders, so they’re doing the right thing and making an effort to change the name to something more to do with rugby, and to not carry those connotations.”
The Ella-Mobbs Trophy is set to be launched in Perth before the First Test on July 4 in time for NAIDOC Week.
- Story by Andrew Mathieson