Standing on Main Road outside the Red Lion Hotel, Patrick Skene has felt there is a near-unknown layer of this city's rich Chinese history "trapped under the bitumen now". Skene is determined to unearth some of these stories. Along Main Road, Skene has tried to imagine the huge street parade of footballers trekking from the hotel to Eastern Oval with firecrackers bursting to ward off evil spirits, and school children practising their freshly learnt cheers in Cantonese. The first Chinese Australian Rules football game on August 26, 1892 was a story Skene could not let go. It was in writing a story for The Guardian that Skene first heard of Celestial football, a showdown between Chinese Miners versus Market Gardeners in a whole multicultural community having a go at a game it hardly knew, amid a deep depression on the goldfields. Skene will launch his deep dive into the story of Chinese heritage Aussie Rules in a special event at Victoria Bowling Club on Friday, December 1. Celestial Footy follows the Chinese football legacy from the Ballarat and Bendigo goldfields to the modern game, featuring a forward and cover design by Carlton footballer Darcy Vescio, whose maternal grandfather migrated from China after WWII. His work also traces the lineage in the Ballarat Football League to Steven, Jamie and Daniel Tung, some of the last remaining players to have represented Golden Point Rice Eaters in the BFL junior ranks. But while Bendigo holds the Golden Dragon Museum, Skene was surprised to find only a plaque as a tribute in Golden Point. Most Ballarat Chinese history disappeared under the White Australia policy. "Chinese history is slowly being erased. It's hard to get into," Skene said. "That's common thing where there were Chinatowns in the goldfields - Chinese camps were levelled, things were renamed and people moved on...some never move on." Skene loved the fact he could find people like Bill Moy and the Tung brothers still proudly carrying their Chinese family name when many others would have become Anglicised during the years. While the Rice Eaters name has dissolved in the past decade with Golden Point and East Ballarat juniors finally uniting under the clubs' amalgamation as the Kangaroos. Only, down at Point's spiritual home, White Flat Oval, the female football program proudly sports the nickname Dragons. These are the threads Skene hoped to pull together in a history the Chinese community and players with Chinese heritage could be proud about. "While racism runs all through the book, there were a lot of cross-cultural friendships. The biggest story of the time was the original Celestial football match and the statement it made," Skene said. "This counters stereotypes that Chinese people didn't assimilate on the goldfields. If you're running out in your footy boots and being abused by people in the crowd, you're still doing your bit for your town and having a go. "One curious thing was the Chinese didn't play sports like soccer, cricket, rugby union or netball - global games - but they counter-intuitively played footy and Aussie Rules still made a space for them. There's something about bush footy teams, that love for the town." There is the story of Carlton player Wally Koochew, recognised as the VFL/AFL's first player of Chinese origin, who was being abused by a in a match for Woodend. The crowd stuck by him. Bill Moy, one of the last Rice Eaters, was also one of Ballarat's last horse-and-cart vegetable guys. Skene said on the goldfields this role would have been particularly important to colonial households in varying the typical diet of damper and mutton, which alone created health issue. Moy played 75 games in the back pocket for the Rice Eaters in the 1950s. Skene also looked to James Henry Lepp, the first Chinese-Australian Aussie Rules umpire. He umpired two Celestial football matches and, Skene said, held a "degree of respect" in the community. Lepp's son Clarence became Rice Eaters' first Chinese-heritage captain in 1922 and served for Australia under heavy fire in WWI. Ballarat Sportsmen's Club's junior sportsperson of the year award is named after Jack Wunhym, who spent many years encouraging juniors across a range of sporting fields. His uncle Willie Wun Hym had played football for Golden Point and Jack Wunhym represented a range of clubs, including Redan, on his way to a call up with Footscray, then Yarraville in the VFL and VFA. Wunhym was also well-known familiar with the railways in the corporate league but took his game to the next level as the first premiership coach at North Ballarat in 1946. Skene found strong friendships between Wunhym's family and renowned artists, the Lindsay family, in Creswick. He said there were so many interconnections that reinforced how Chinese people had been more widely accepted than many might think. Even the community's support for not-quite vagrant Billy Butterfly has a mention. Skene hoped his Celestial Footy would give the Chinese community and players with Chinese heritage an excuse to be proud of all they had achieved. "The Chinese community has tended to keep its head down. It never really went into politics and just worked hard," Skene said. "They don't have to keep their heads down. This is a celebration of their contributions to Australia." Patrick Skene will launch Celestial Footy: the story of Chinese Heritage Aussie Rules at Victoria Bowling Club on December 1 from 6pm. Register here.