On Saturday June 6, 1908, George Tansing ran onto Corio Oval in Geelong to become the second player of Chinese heritage to play in the VFL. George had been recruited from local club East Geelong where his consistent form had earned a promotion.
Although Geelong lost by three points to St Kilda, George played strongly, with the Argus reporting him “cleverly snapping” his first goal, whilst the Geelong Advertiser noted that he: “put in a lot of clever work, made a distinctly good impression and should prove an acquisition to the team.’
Geelong lost their next three games and after 5 VFL matches, George was dropped after a 21-day VFL stint that yielded two goals including one in his final game against Collingwood.
Geelong would only win two of their 18 games in 1908, and George Tansing returned to play the rest of the season for East Geelong where he was appointed captain of the team, the first Chinese heritage player to captain a mainstream club team.
East Geelong defeated Ashby in the Grand Final and the Geelong Advertiser noted George’s “splendid work” at rover, including a crucial goal securing a win and a 17-game undefeated record for the season.
George led East Geelong to another premiership in 1910, top scoring with two goals in the grand final win over Chilwell.
George Tansing was born Kimjue Sing on 25 March 1884, the son of Cantonese migrant Sang Sing and his English wife Ada Mary Stephens who was originally from Exeter in England.
Sang Sing was born in the See Yup region of Canton and did not take the traditional route to Australia, migrating from London where he had worked for 10 years as a mixed business trader.
They were married in 1881 at St Kilda and then moved to Geelong, settling in Little Ryrie Street where Sang Sing established a thriving Greengrocer business.
In 1884 they had their first child George and decided to merge his surname to the more culturally digestible Tansing, used today by descendants across Australia.
The year before George played for Geelong, he married Wilhelmina Ellis and they would have three children including their son Leslie who served as a machine gunner in World War II and Bill who played in the Geelong reserves team in 1936 and 1937.
Bill was the leading goal kicker in both years and played a starring role with four goals to help the Geelong reserves win the 1937 premiership.
In the Geelong and District Football League (GDFL), the annual medal for the best and fairest is named after George’s nephew Ivan Tansing, who was a prominent player for Herne Hill in Geelong in the 1950s, while George’s great-grandson, Damien Tansing, played for a number of years in Geelong’s amateur league.
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