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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders both past and present.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that this website contains images of deceased persons.

The Sands Brothers (group photograph), (n.d.)

an unknown artist

gelatin silver photograph on paper (sheet: 10.0 cm x 13.2 cm)

Clem, Percy, George, Dave, Alfie and Russell Ritchie, better known as the 'Fighting Sands Brothers', were members of one of Australia's most remarkable sporting families. Of Dunghutti descent, they were born at Burnt Ridge, near Kempsey, and took up boxing in emulation of their father, grandfather and a great-uncle, who'd had some success as fighters. They adopted the surname Sands as a tribute to a local boxing fan and railway worker who'd allowed Percy (1921–1974) – who boxed under the name Ritchie Sands – to jump a train to a fight in Newcastle in 1939. The brothers claimed numerous victories in a period spanning 20 years, notching up 607 bouts between them and winning a third of that total by knockout. Clem (1917–1989) held the NSW welterweight title from 1947 to 1951; Alfie (1929–1985) was the NSW middleweight champion from 1952 to 1954; while George (1924–1986) won 55 of his 101 fights. The most successful of the sextet, Dave (1926-1952), claimed his first belts in 1946, winning the Australian middleweight and light heavyweight titles. He took out the British Empire middleweight boxing title in 1949; and in 1950 held the Australian middle, light heavyweight and heavyweight titles simultaneously. In all, Dave won 97 of his 110 professional bouts and at the time of his death, aged 26, was ranked number three in the world. Dave's death inspired the youngest brother, Russell (1937-1977) to succeed in the ring. He won the state and national featherweight titles in 1954 and retired in 1959 having won 35 of his 58 fights.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Purchased 2011

Accession number: 2011.74.6

Currently not on display

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On one level The Companion talks about the most famous and frontline Australians, but on another it tells us about ourselves: who we read, who we watch, who we listen to, who we cheer for, who we aspire to be, and who we'll never forget. The Companion is available to buy online and in the Portrait Gallery Store.

The Sands Brothers (group photograph), (n.d.) an unknown artist
The Sands Brothers (group photograph), (n.d.) an unknown artist
The Sands Brothers (group photograph), (n.d.) an unknown artist
The Sands Brothers (group photograph), (n.d.) an unknown artist

Seeing stars

Magazine article by Joanna Gilmour, 2013

Joanna Gilmour explores photographic depictions of Aboriginal sportsmen including Lionel Rose, Dave Sands, Jerry Jerome and Douglas Nicholls.

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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders both past and present.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that this website contains images of deceased persons.