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History behind sporting colours uncovered

Jul 26, 2013

Australians have been wearing the green and gold for their country for more than a century, but those colours have not always been the first choice for Australian sporting teams.

From Saturday July 27 until Sunday April 20, 2014, the National Sports Museum will showcase a rare and valuable collection of artefacts illustrating the evolution of green and gold as Australia’s national sporting colours.

More than Green and Gold: Australia’s Sporting Colours captures the historical journey of ‘green and gold’, from 19th century experiments with the national colour palette through to the contemporary use of the colours to define the broader Australian identity.

“As our cricketers pull on their baggy greens to represent Australia in the Ashes this year, it’s fitting that we look back to their counterparts of 1899, who were the first to wear the green and gold for Australia,” said National Sports Museum curator, Helen Walpole.

“The exhibition’s opening coincides with the Ashes taking place in England and the exhibition’s run will continue as the second of 2013’s two Ashes series comes to the MCG later this year.

“There have been some fascinating colour choices over the years. The exhibition includes what we think is the oldest piece of Australian team uniform still in existence – a pink and black striped sash from the Australian cricketers of 1880.

“Anyone who thinks the combination of green and gold is unfashionable should definitely take a look at this piece of sartorial sporting history.”

Of course, 2013 marks 30 years since the green and gold boxing kangaroo received national and international prominence when it served as the symbol for the successful Australian challenge for the America’s Cup in 1983.

The exhibition will mark this anniversary by featuring one of the original boxing kangaroo banners (from the Western Australian Museum), as well as the infamous boxing kangaroo dress worn by Barry Humphries’ character, Dame Edna Everage (from the Arts Centre, Melbourne).   

John Bertrand, the yachtsman who skippered Australia II to victory in the 1983 America’s Cup, ending 132 years of American supremacy, was instrumental in the transition of the green and gold from the sporting field into the broader social domain.

“The green and gold boxing kangaroo was our America's Cup 'battle flag’,” said Bertrand.

“Its red gloves were a symbol for aggression, its pumped up chest embodied the pride of our nation and, of course, the green and gold represented our national sporting colours.”

As well as featuring unique Australian sporting uniforms from the past 130 years, the exhibition also demonstrates how the green and gold colours have extended beyond sport to become truly ‘national’ – used in political logos, patriotic campaigns, commercial products, artworks and costumes.

John Howard’s green and gold tracksuit, the 1999 ‘yes’ republic campaign, the ‘Australian Made’ symbol and the uniform of the Numbats (Australia’s inaugural Sudoku team) are just some of the examples included in the exhibition to reflect the broader use of the colours.

The National Sports Museum is open daily from 10.00am. Access to view More than Green and Gold: Australia’s Sporting Colours is included in standard museum entry.

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Australian Tourism Accreditation Program
Museum Accreditation Program