Redfern All Blacks

Merv ‘Boomanulla’ Williams

Footballer Merv ‘Boomanulla’ Williams playing for the Redfern All Blacks in the 1940s (photograph courtesy AIATSIS, Eric (Rick) Mumbulla Collection, MUMBLER.R01.BW-N04751_20A)

Location: Alexandria Oval

The dynamic and successful Redfern All Blacks rugby league team formed officially in 1944, but may have begun informally a decade earlier. The team attracted talented players from around NSW including Eric ‘Nugget’ Mumbler, Babs Vincent and Merv ‘Boomanulla’ Williams.

After a hiatus in the 50s, it reformed in 1960 with activist Ken Brindle as Honorary Secretary. The All Blacks played an important role in helping young Aboriginal men adjust to life in the city. It gave them confidence in their sporting ability, kept community and family ties strong and was a positive expression of identity. Training and matches at Alexandria and Redfern Ovals showcased talent and many players pursued professional careers, often with the South Sydney Rabbitohs.

The team’s success had important political, social and symbolic ramifications, and as an expression of community pride was a significant component in the shift towards self-determination within Sydney’s Aboriginal community.

Further reading

Lyn Brignell, ‘Brindle, Kenneth (Ken) (1931–1987)’, Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2007, accessed online 11 August 2016

Ken Brindle, ‘A Club to be proud of…’, New Dawn, 1970, Vol 10, Issue 3, pp.1-3.

Jackie Hartley, ‘Black, White …and Red? The Redfern All Blacks Rugby League Club in the Early 1960s’, Labour History, No. 83 (Nov., 2002), pp. 149-71

Heidi Norman, Aboriginal Rugby League in Sydney, Dictionary of Sydney, 2011,, viewed 27 July 2015

Ronald Briggs, ‘The Redfern All Blacks in 1946’, State Library of NSW, and the photographic album via Flickr

‘Aboriginal Footballers’, Pix, 5 October 1946, Vol 18, No 14, pp. 28-29,

Isaac Bates oral history interviews and photograph by Michael Bennett, 30 October 2019 and 6 November 2019,