7 Anglo-Indians in Western Australia's 1958 national championship winning team
Article by Rohit Brijnath,
Article and Photograph courtesy The Tribune
hen the Indian hockey team played Australia in the
1956 Olympics in Melbourne, there were five Anglo-Indian players on the
green. But only one was playing for India - Leslie Claudius.
The other four, recent migrants from India, were playing for Australia
(Eric Pearce, Gordon Pearce, Melville Pearce and Kevin Carton).
Anglo-Indians were the buffer between the British and the 'natives'.
They were the people who turned the wheels of the Raj, manning the
Railways, Telegraph, Customs, Army and Police. And they also excelled in
With Independence for India came anxiety for the nation's Anglo-Indian
community. It's estimated that a third of
them departed during 1947 or soon after. Most went to Great Britain, but
a significant number came to Australia. Migrants to
Australia contributed vitally in making that country a hockey superpower.
Perth, on the western edge of the country, is the loneliest big city in
Australia. "Since Perth is closer to Asia than other major Australian cities, the first
port of call for Indians in Australia was Freemantle, near Perth, and a very large
number of them settled in Western Australia," says Ric
Charlesworth, the great Australian hockey player and coach.
Hockey had been played in Australia before 1947. But it got a huge boost from the
Anglo-Indian influx after India's Independence, especially in Western Australia.
off the names "the Pearce brothers, Fred Browne, Merv Adams, Don Smart, Terry Walsh, Paul Gaudoin". These are some of the
prominent Anglo-Indians Charlesworth associated with as a player or coach.
Charlesworth says that the Australian style of hockey, before it was
influenced by the Anglo-Indians, was 'pretty European'. "The
Anglo-Indians brought in more finesse, different skills," he says. "So
Australia's game is hybrid, more robust, but also gives emphasis to
skills, what we associated with Indian hockey."
Among the Anglo-Indians were coaches like Fred Browne and Merv Adams, whose
mentorship resulted in Western Australia becoming a hockey powerhouse.
When the Anglo-Indian influence was at its peak, with the Pearce
brothers in action, the state won the country's top championship eight
times in nine years, from 1962 to 1970.
Many Australians started playing hockey after being inspired by migrant
coaches. Michael Nobbs, the former Australian player who coached India,
was one of them. "I still remember the day I fell in love with hockey,
when as a boy I watched an Indian coach dribble the ball so fast that I
could barely see the ball!" says Nobbs.
Charles Gaudoin landed in Perth in 1970. "When we arrived, we had only
$7, which was what the Indian government allowed migrants to leave
with," says Gaudoin. In India, his father had worked with the Central Excise
and Customs department. "He was an excellent sportsman, he had played with
top players like Leslie Claudius," says Gaudoin, who was the
key man behind the formation of the Anglo-Indian hockey club Harlequins in Perth.
Over the years, tens of Anglo-Indians have played hockey for Australia.
The most remarkable were the five Pearce brothers - Cec, Eric, Julian,
Mel and Gordon. There have been many others, like Dick Carr, Don Smart,
Kevin Carton, Ray Whiteside, Godfrey Phillips, Paul Gaudoin (son of
Charles Gaudoin) and Chris Ciriello.
Ciriello, whose mother was born in Kolkata, scored a hat-trick when
Australia beat the Netherlands in the World Cup, and also when Australia
beat India in the final of the Commonwealth Games, both in 2016. "One
of my first coaches was my grandfather," says
Ciriello. "My basic skills are very good, and that's because of him."
Ciriello's grandfather is Rudolph Pacheco, who played hockey
in India before migrating to Australia. "He was quite high up in the Customs, and
always talked about how great it was to play hockey for a job in India
in those days!"
Charles Gaudoin, a long-time coach who's coached in India as well, says
that the Anglo-Indians, with skills, also brought in an element of
mental toughness, without which migrants can't flourish. "There were
times we had lots of regrets about leaving India," he says. "My mother
missed India enormously, due to the lifestyle we had there."
There were racial tensions in Australia as well. In India, while the Anglo-Indians
were seen as close to the white British rulers, Gaudoin didn't feel that
there was resentment towards them after Independence. "In fact, it was
far greater here in Australia!" he says.
There was racist name-calling, he recalls, and it sometimes happened
on the field of play as well.
The Anglo-Indians were able to integrate quite well, better than other
Indians or Europeans. There were key reasons for that, including the
proximity of language, culture, religion, for Anglo-Indians are mostly
Catholic or Anglican Christians. Plus, they were excellent in sports, and sports wins friends