By Aaron Callaghan and Tom Atkinson
Boxing Day in the British Empire has a long and refuted history. The chronicle that we embrace, is the version in which Boxing Day originated on the pretenses of belting up those family members you didn’t get along with. After the pleasentries of Christimas day a makeshift ring was erected in family estates from Coventry to Cape Town, where one had to knuckle up or face humiliation (or so the story goes). It's a nice segue, because the embattled pommy willow weilders of century 21 are facing annihilation, in their own colony, on that fabled Boxing Day.
For as long as I’ve walked this earth, the designated hangover recovery day set aside for the 26th has been synomous with the gentlemans game. After the banquet has been devoured, and the bounty been opened, the scene is set for cricket to carry the good vibes close enough to the New Year. The glory days of the Channel 9 commentary box are rapidly imploding (KP and Clarkey leading its demise) yet the occasion invariably lives on. No matter how dry the soil, the seed of this magical day will only ever lay dormant without dying completely. Although, the sporting sharks are circling and foreign invaders have come to target the Millenial ranks with their minuscule attention span. ESPN’s NBA coverage have been trying their darndest to capture the streaming audience with 13+ hours of wall to wall coverage. But try as they might, the day belongs and always will belong to test cricket. The viewing of the ceremonial test at the daunting and sacred turf at the G, and day two of backyard cricket test matches with those obscure relatives you only see once a year. It's quite a delight to send a wayward Beamer to the estranged cousin Jeff, who refused to bring any grub or beer and bragged about his bitcoin investment all afternoon.
Boxing day delievers an opportunity for those battling alcohol poisoning and toxic cholesterol levels to recharge. Punters get to nurse a bottle of water, polish last nights winny blue, and a king into a leftover sandwich doused in gravy and bursting with roast vegetables to eschew what excitement of Christmas is still lingering. Retire to the lounge room, preferably with the door locked and sealed water tight, air conditioner set to 18 degrees and the kids safely banished to the backyard and neighbouring streets for someone else to look after.
That elusive opportunity for retribution also comes calling once the ham has seeped out of your nostrils. A second innings against your cousin who insists he was selected for the under 16 rep side in a far off division you’re not even sure play cricket, let alone have a rep team. And your scepticism grows further when he reckons he toured Japan and Belgium. Either way, you copped a rough decision from the umpire by a committee of stiff family members and trudged off to field by the hills hoist. They show no respect for the fact that you're the nimble second slip for clubs. Not happy. The makeshift pitch has baked a little more in the searing December sun, and you’re confident when called to the batting crease. Moreover, you’ve got a secret weapon. The brand spanking Rebel Sport special. A new blade that would make Warner jealous, almost knocked in after you spent 12 hours on it the day before. A tennis ball sporting three metres of Dads electrical tape won’t hurt.
But above all, the showpiece event of Boxing Day happens in the test match at the MCG. The immortal sporting moments that have occurred on this day still ring through sporting eternity. Shane Warne’s hat trick, Lillee’s last ball heroics to remove Sir Viv, Brett Lee pushing off the fence in his first test as he unleashes hell against the Indians, Thommo and AB’s ninth wicket stand to almost steal victory from a Botham led England side. And probably the most important memory in the MCG’s iconic past, the one and done test match baggy green gifted to Matthew Nicholson snaring 3/56 and four wickets for the test, to never be picked again.
They say Victorians will turn out to a funeral, and theres no bigger wake than an Ashes pasting on the day after Christmas. Boxing Day test match is an equal capstone to the AFL grand final with 80-100000 descending on the MCG for a day’s test cricket. May it remain this way forevermore.