Playing long balls into empty space since 2012.

Saturday, 2 June 2012

How soccer nearly became Tasmania's main code of football

The first piece below appeared in the Mercury on 15 September 1936. I'm not sure that it's good history but it is fascinating nonetheless. It makes the claim that Tasmania only just adopted Victorian rules football. While soccer had its advocates at that time, it didn't have enough to carry the day. Interestingly, while Victorian rules was adopted in Hobart, they initially clung to the idea of a crossbar a la Rugby, over which the ball had to be kicked. The crossbar stayed until the mid-1880s.

Another slightly cheeky point to make is that because of this history the present day Glenorchy Magpies footy club, who trace their lineage back to New Town FC, actually played soccer before they played Australian rules!


Introduced in Tasmania By One Vote Only

Few Tasmanians know that the national code of football, now the predominating code of football in Tasmania, was introduced to the State by one vote only. Major W. T. Conder, President of the Australian Amateur Football Council, told members of the Northern Tasmanian Football Association last night that when the late W. H. Cundy came to Tasmania In the1870s, the Australian game was not played In Tasmania. The football played consisted of Soccer, Rugby and a cross between the two games known as the Tasmanian game. In 1879 those in control of football in Tasmania decided by one vote to play what was then known as the Victorian game, and is now the national game. Mr. Cundy died about three years ago.
My sense is that Cundy was misremembering the history, The Mercury of 27 April 1929 also contained a 'fifty years ago' piece from the Mercury" of 28 April, 1879. It told of the City club's initial adoption of soccer (with the addition of the drop kick, something which had been a legal part of soccer in the 1860s).
City Football Club. - The annual general meeting of members of the City Football Club was held on Saturday evening at the Town Hall. Mr. J. R. Betts took the chair. The attendance was good at first, but the proceedings being of a protracted nature, the members dwindled very much towards the finish. The commitee recommended the adoption of a fresh code of playing rules, as the present code entirely prevented the club from meeting any foreign team. The rules of the British Football Association, with the addition of the drop kick, were recommended. The following officers were elected:- Captain, Captain Boddam; vice-captains, Messrs, Molloy and Pitfield; secretary, Mr. A. D. Watchorn; treasurer, Mr. Lindley; committee, Messrs. Lovett, Finlay, and Paul.
Some were clearly unhappy with this decision and Captain Boddam soon found himself out on his ear.  Undaunted, Boddam moved over to the Cricketers FC and influenced its decision to adopt the English Association rules.

The Cricketers played two games under these rules, one an internal practice match and the second against New Town FC (as a part of the Hobart premiership competition) on 7 June 1879. This fact has forced us to alter the received history of soccer in Australia, which has hitherto placed the first game in Sydney in 1880.

But the history books will really need to be updated if the bolded section of the following letter, from James Sprent to the Mercury, 3 July 1926, could be substantiatiated.
SOCCER.-"Referee'' states that Soccer was first started in Tasmania by the late Mr. J. B. B. Honeysett in 1912. Re-started would be more correct, as the game was played regularly in Hobart during 1900, 1901. and 1902. Australian Football in this State beng under a cloud at the time several old Soccer players com- bined to introduce the game, and the chief credit must be given to the Kev. F. Taylor, of Holy Trinity, now of Longford. He had played, for Durham University, and had, I think, captained the team. Rev. H. H. Anderson, of Hutchins School, was another old player: in fact, the first practice was held on his ground. T. F. Hills, of Friends' School, a gigantic centre forward had also played in good company at Home. Three teams wore formed, University, Gunners, and Sandy . Bay, tile two latter being from the volun- teers. Regular matches were played for three years, and if the skill of the new recruits was, not great, we, nevertheless, had a lot of fun. Later the Australian game regained its , popularity, chiefly owing to the efforts of the late W. H. Gill, and the University declared for the old game again. So for a while Soccer was neglected. But if "Referee" cares to do a bit of research work as to the origin of the game in Tasmania I can give him the address of an old friend, who swears that a round-ball game was played regularly on the Domain over 50 years ago.
We can only wonder whether "Referee" ever got around to visiting the "old friend". In all likelihood his stories died with him. But if he's correct soccer was played in Hobart in 1876 or earlier.


  1. June 2012 at 20:18

    Fascinating, do you have a link etc to the original article?

    1. Thanks for your comments. I've added to the article in response to your request.