Playing long balls into empty space since 2012.

Monday, 27 January 2014

What game is this?

The following images comes from a Sports Memorabilia site. They're beautiful things that date from between 1877 and 1907. I suspect it's closer to 1877 given the qualities of the images. The first raises an interesting question: what game are the South Adelaide FC playing?

This description is found in the listing:
The following four lots are another impressive collection of collector cards, this time South Australian Football Association postcards c.1877-1907 from the renowned Valentine series: South Adelaide Football Club unused card, a few marks and internal creasing else a very scarce and presentable card 

Everything about the South Adelaide players' image points to soccer, except the shape of the ball - which looks more like the conventional rugby ball which was often used in Victorian rules at the time.

Of the images in the series, only one (Norwood) represents a handling game. As the mark and therefore handling were a part of early soccer and also the English Association rules as temporarily adopted in Adelaide in 1873, even this gives us no clearer indication of the code of football being played. The scene represented occurred in every code of football in this period.

The West Torrens image (below right) could well be a classic representation of early soccer with its focus on dribbling and individual head-down charges up the field. Or it could be a rugby scene - or one derived from Victorian rules as played at the time.

The fact that only one of these images involves handling doesn't prove all that much. Though it does suggest that while handling was a part of the game, kicking the ball along and off the ground was a more important component of play.

One more possibility is that the artist's (probably English or Scottish) origins might well have meant that they favoured one code over another, bringing a 'foreign' perspective to bear. As a result the artist imposed or accentatuated the soccerist aspects of the football he or she was meant to be capturing.

It's a conundrum. But nonetheless, these cards are interesting little cameos of one moment in the development of football codes in Australia.

1 comment:

  1. Interesting perspective, Ian. I suspect most Australian football historians would simply accept the images at face value, pleased it confirms Aussies were playing footy as early as this. Adam M