Playing long balls into empty space since 2012.

Thursday 30 May 2019


It's a curse for the football historian that the reports on games in the 19th century rarely give us much direct information about the technical nature of the games being played. We know they were football matches in which the object of the game was to score goals by kicking (and sometimes carrying) the ball through goalposts.

Some historians look back at these games and see them as early manifestations of their own favoured codes of football. The tendency is to see descriptions of passages of play or technical terms and simply transplant aspects of contemporary football codes back in history. Reading about a mark taken in a game in 1875, an AFL historian might imagine a glorious speccy at the MCG while a rugby historian might envisage a brave fullback firmly planting his feet and risking a pummelling at the shoulders of charging enemy forwards. Both images are potentially correct; both are also likely misleading.

So it is with the practice of dribbling

Q: Which code is the dribbling code?

Today, soccer would be a fairly universal answer. But looking to the past things can be very different. Dribbling it seems was common across the football games of Australia in the 1870s. I need to hold my hand up here and admit that I have seen references to dribbling from this period and have imagined Leo Messi with a handlebar moustache and stupidly large knickerbockers weaving his magic across the Hobart Domain. But I have been guilty of that most severe of historian crimes: ahistoricism. Not being historical in my analysis.

Two passages from the Hobart newspapers in 1879 demonstrate this difficulty:


Hobart Tribune 12 May 1879

The choice of the Home rules by the Cricketers is scarcely a wise one, as the game is rendered not only less interesting to sightseers, but is apparently more dangerous. There are not those opportunites afforded for briliancy of play by "marking" and "dribbling" which are not permitted, and unless they conform to the regulations adopted by the other clubs they might as well retire from the practice of the game as it will be a matter of impossibility for them to play any important matches.

Hobart Mercury 26 May 1879

The "drop kick," hardly known in the Association game, was brought to bear with crushing effect by their skilful opponents, while "dribbling," the most telling feature of the Association game (adopted by the cricketers) was almost out of the question in the absence of any rules as to "off side".

Dribbling in Melbourne football

As late as 1879 The Footballer (published in Carlton as a compendium/almanac of Melbourne football) emphasised ground kicking, and warned players against playing the ball with the hand when a kick was an option. Most remarkable however is the advocacy of the practice of ‘Rushing alias Sniggling’ in which a player was instructed to:
Run gently forward, patting the ball before you with either foot, as occasions serve, taking care never to let the ball get above a few yards in front of you. Gradually increase your speed till you can keep the ball well under control without impairing your rate of progression. This is very difficult of attainment, but it is of invaluable service in actual play. In this way a good player will take the ball through a whole host of his enemies, outspeeding this one, eluding that, until he gets a favorable chance at goal. (13) (to my mind, this is dribbling)
These instructions are not applicable to the game of Australian Rules today (nor the Victorian rules in 1879 as present day historians like to envisage them). The instructions are more appropriate to the practice of dribbling in a round-ball, soccer-like game (or in a rugby mode focused on the dribbling method). 

This, and the text’s lack of focus on the mark, suggest that this material has been lifted from an instruction manual for Association football. (the truth is that the piece was first published in Beaton’s Annual 1866) 

One alternative, however, is that this material was actually useful for the crack footballers of Carlton, Essendon, Geelong, Hotham and company. 
What does that do to the story of football in Melbourne as we know it?

Ballarat Star 16 September 1878

The ball "was dribbled through. If the Ballarat goal-keeper had kept in his place he could, have easily stopped it."

Wednesday 29 May 2019

Goals and Glory: Deakin University Library’s Soccer Collection

An exhibition of the rich resources for the study of the history of Association football in Deakin University Library’s collections and other accessible sources. Find out about the game, the people who play it, support it, watch it and where it fits into Australia’s story and yours.

The atrium in the Sally Walker building at Deakin University’s Waterfront Campus in Geelong. Enter from Cunningham Street (closest), Western Beach Road or Gheringhap Street. There is no charge for admission.

Open from 6 June to 29 July 2019, weekdays from 10 am to 4 pm.

Who to contact for information
Kristen Thornton, Curator and Librarian, 03 5247 9332 (Waterfront Campus Library Service Desk).

Tuesday 28 May 2019

100 years ago today 30 May 1919

Toowoomba Chronicle

The fourth general meeting, was held in Herriott's rooms, last night. Mr. W. Lyon was in the chair. Mr. Ryan stated that he was forming the Allies again; thus making six teams for the senior grade premiership. The secretary stated that the Ellena Club (Milton) had wired, stating that they would arrive on Saturday next; arrangements are well in hand for the entertaining of the visitors. The Ellena team are a strong combination, and are brimfull of confidence. Toowoomba has a fully representative team, in the field also, so a sterling game is anticipated.
The following players are chosen -to represent Toowoomba (soccer team):— Goal, Priest; backs, Lyon and Richardson; halves, Fox. W. Wilson, A. Francis; forwards. Cobson, Esier, Beardsworth (captain), W. Brown and Ryan. Extras: Hedgcock, Bowman, M'Nab and Leahy. Referee: Mr. A. E. Hazel. Kick off at 3 p.m. No. 4 pitch, Queen's Park. Linesmen: Private Marsh and W. Brazier.

The Daily News (Perth)

"My best soccer story." I had put the request to that popular Southern League referee, Mr. H. Thompson. 'It is against myself,' he said. In one match in which I officiated there was a rare mix-up in the mouth of the goal. 'Holy' Moses, did you see that trip?' an Irish forward shouted at me. I took no notice. After the match he tackled me again, and I told him my name was not 'Holy Moses.' ''Tis right ye are,' came the swift retort; 'an' 'tis as little ye know about football as that same Moses did when he was aslap
e in the bulrushes.'

Lithgow Mercury

Queensland Times

Friday 24 May 2019

Origins of Soccer in Macarthur

According to the publicity video for the newest A League Franchise, Macarthur Bulls, soccer was first played in the Macarthur region in 1947 (see 1.50 in the video on this page Yet as the voiceover subsequently makes clear, 1947 was the formation date of the first Association in the region, the Southern Districts Association.

Goaded into action on twitter by ēļřāffő who challenged me to find earlier games, I went to Trove and set about doing just that. It didn't take me long to find at least half a dozen, the earliest of which goes back to 1923. Below are three examples of games I discovered in Camden, in 1944, 1943 and 1923. You should be able to click on the links and see the evidence for yourself.

    Camden News (NSW : 1895 - 1954) Thursday 25 May 1944 p 6 Article
    Abstract: Camden Seniors and Juniors visited Guildford last Sunday, and were defeated in both matches, the seniors 4 to 2 and the Juniors 10 to nil. 280 words
    This resource is very relevant to your query (score: 5,755.299)
    This resource is very relevant to your query (score: 5,755.299)
  2. Camden Soccer Club.
    Camden News (NSW : 1895 - 1954) Thursday 13 May 1943 p 3 Article
    Abstract: Some two hundred people witnessed Major Whitelaw open the Soccer season in Camden on Sunday afternoon last at Camden Showground 131 words
    This resource is very relevant to your query (score: 5,738.27)
    This resource is very relevant to your query (score: 5,738.27)
    The St George Call (Kogarah, NSW : 1904 - 1957) Friday 7 March 1924 p 4 Article

Below are two games I found in Picton:

  1. Of Local Interest
    The Picton Post (NSW : 1907 - 1954) Wednesday 26 August 1931 p 2 Article
    Abstract: Picton M.U. Lodge announce a dance for Tuesday, 15th September Barnardo Home Boys defeated the Thirlmere public school boys in a 844 words
    This resource is very relevant to your query (score: 6,144.47)
    This resource is very relevant to your query (score: 6,144.47)
    The Picton Post (NSW : 1907 - 1954) Wednesday 13 August 1930 p 2 Article
    Abstract: There Were more Mittagongites at the match here than Pictonions, and Mittagong Band (under Bandmaster Powell) made the job as easy as 168 words

It could be objected that these are only junior/schoolboy games or that the evidence in some is more indicative than empirical. I'll accept that to some extent. But even given the 'weaknesses' of the evidence, the claim that soccer hadn't been played in Macarthur before 1947 is demolished. And this evidence took me less than 30 minutes to find and compile. Imagine how much more could be found with a more thorough investigation.

Paul Mavroudis and I run a show on Football Nation Radio called If You Know Your History. On it we argue through and tease out historical references and stories and we spend a lot of time unsimplifying Australian soccer history. We are by nature suspicious of blanket claims like the one made on Macarthur's behalf.

There are a number of problems with this particular claim: it's not correct for a start. But perhaps the major problem is that it obliterates the earlier years when soccerites struggled to introduce the game and build a culture. As we have seen across Australia, devotees of our game were widespread, often meeting external hostility and internal incompetence/difficulties in their efforts to get the game going. Their stories are often stories of failure, sometimes half-arsed achievements and every now and then outstanding successes. We need to reveal all of these stories.

There is a mentality in Australian soccer that celebrates the organisation and administration of the game above the actual playing of it. I think this is what's happening here. Can we urge Macarthur to revisit this bit of history and celebrate the efforts of those who came before the first Association in 1947?

Thursday 23 May 2019

Soccer in Hervey Bay

Staying in Hervey Bay last week I thought that i'd search trove for some history of the game in the sleepy seaside town. Unfortunately, I didn't find much deep history specifically located in the town. I found this (I think) exhibition game from 1951 but not much else. There's a thriving competition now but the history seems not to be long.

However, drawing a breath, the game in the surrounding district (Maryborough and to the north) is of an entirely different matter. The townships of Howard and Torbanlea, now remnants of older times, were soccer hubs. Torbanlea 1894; and Howard soccer goes back to 1888. At one stage they played regular games with the bushrats and Rockhampton and were stronger than the Brisbane metro team. Absurdly, Howard played against the touring NSW team in the 1898 and were hammered 9-0. Yet they had assumed that right by beating the Brisbane team 2-0.

This was a phase when the Qld team (in some anti-centralist political fantasy) was made up of players from around the state: Brisbane; Ipswich; Howard; Rockhampton; Charters Towers were all represented.

What is the common thread here: mining (both kinds) provides the basis for the creation of soccer teams all around country Queensland as well as other regions in Australia.

More to come ...

100 years ago today, 23 May 1919

The Propeller

On Saturday last, at Penshurst Park, Hurstvilie defeated Croydon in the senior grade of the Rechabite competition by two goals to one. For the winners Coates scored with a shot from the wing, and Miller from a penalty kick. A special remark must be made on the play of the skipper, Goalie Dudley, whose splendid saves drew much applause from the crowd of onlookers. The junior match was postponed on account of Carlton being unable to secure a team.
The Kogarah Magpies were given a hint in a local contemporary last week not to let Balmain repeat the dose which they gave Hurstvilie the week before, 5 to 0. Notwithstanding the warning Balmain did repeat the dose, with a little to spare, beating the Magpies by 6 to 0.
Saturday's matches are : Hurstvilie A v. Kogarah at Ramsgate and Hurstvilie B versus Marrickville at Penshurst Park, at 3pm.

World (Tasmania)

News has heen received of the death in London on May 9 of Mr. Joseph J. B. Honeysett, a well-known resident of Hobart. Mr. Honeysett, Who was for many years an officer in the Imperial Post Office retired in 1904, and came to Tasmania in search of health. His long service in the Post Ofilice was recognised by H.M. the King by the grant of the Imperial Service Order.
Mr. Honeysett, who suffered a paralytic stroke in 1914 soon after the death of his wife, partially recovered, and last year went home with the hope of obtaining a complete recovery. He succumbed to another stroke when his hopes seemed to be on the point of being realised. His son (Lieut. Honeysett) was recently wounded and taken prisoner at Bullecourt. The deceased was keenly interested in British Association football (soccer), and by his enthusiasm started and built up the interest in the game in Tasmania. He is rightly regarded as the father of the game. Mr. Honeysett was a capable and enthusiastic musician, and was for many years a menbser of the Handel Festival Choir, and secretary of the South London Institute of Music. 
Examiner (Launceston), 23 July 1917, 6

The Age

British Association.— The following matches under soccer rules win be played at Middle Park tomorrow:— Footscray Thistle v. Spotswood- referee, Geo. Hawes. St. David's v. Melbourne Thistle; referee, H. Butler. Kick off 3 p.m.
A special meeting of the association will be held a the Amateur Sports dub on Monday next at 8pm, and all memben are requested to attend

Thursday 9 May 2019

100 years ago today 9 May 1919

The Swan Express

To-morrow the local lads travel to East Perth to contest with Fremantle Rangers on Wellington Square. Kick off at 3, p.m. Midland Junction's eleven will be selected from the following: Brackenridge, Clare (2), Mottram, Wright, Bond (2), Oswald, Hall, Wilderspen, Burge, Hodgson, Christian, Hummerston. Players will travel by the 1.53 p.m. from Midland Junction.

The Adelaide Express and Telegraph
British Association.

Sturt versus North Adelaide at Mackinnon parade.—Sturt (selected from)—Gormlie (captain), Gormlie, Belliss, Armstrong, Armstrong, Croger, Croger, Clark, McLeod, Pride, Corrin, Fuller, Murdoch, Colley. Meet at Bank of Adelaide. 2.30.

Hindmarsh versus; Cheltenham, at Hindmarsh Oval—Hindmarsh—Arden, Hunter, Rowley, Whalley, Leigh, Lowe, Ward, Hines, Johnson, Richardson, Bell. Reserves--Williams, Higgins.

The Melbourne Herald 

BRITISH ASSOCIATION FOOTBALL. — A Meeting of all Interested in "Soccer" will be held at the Amateur Sports Club, Swanston street, Monday next, 8 p.m. Geo. Dempster, acting hon. secretary.

SOCIALIST HALL, Sunday night, Mrs Pankhurst Walsh's farewell lecture, "Atrocities at Fremantle and Elsewhere." Don't miss.

The Newcastle Sun 

  • 24 senior men’s teams in a region with a 67,000 pop
  • This is just as the Spanish Flu epidemic was starting to hit NSW. 1000 deaths per week at its peak in June]

Fixtures' List
Secretaries should cut out their fixtures and keep them for future reference.

Small Scoring
The results of last week's opening games show that six teams failed to score, and nine scored only one goal. This opens up the old question, whether the defenders are superior to the attacking forces. It Is worth pointing out that Williams, Davies, Knudson, Lidbury, Coppock, and Myers were playing full-back last week. The six have all played lnter-dlstrict football, and so with defenders, like these, and goalkeepers Dunne, Puckersgill, and M'Kenilo, forwards find themselves up against a stiff hurdle before they get the ball into tho net.

Evidence on Protests 

At the last committee meeting the protest entered against Holmesville was dismissed. This brings me to the point I desire to explain to clubs. If they enter a protest It is for them to prove the case. On all occasions they are entitled to ask questions, and the committee would assist them. But as the party protesting they naturally become prosecutors, and so should be prepared to prove their cases.

Play the Whistle 
Another important point for players is to play the whistle. If it is necessary to appeal, by all means appeal, but don't stop playing until the whintlA £?rtf*s. T Hnw n_ njutio lnnt TunpV whore a full-back appealed for off side. As he appealed he stopped play ing. Referee Harley ignored the appeal (and I agree with his decision, because the player appealed against was easily onslde). The result was that the attacking forward had a clear shot for goal. Fortunately for the appealing one the shot went wide. But had the full-back played until the whistle went the oncoming forward would never have had his clear shot So don't stop playing until the whistle goes. Play the whistle, is a golden rule of Soccer.

Replying to 'W.J.' (Westy) If a player lives In a district for a season before the next season started, left that district, he would be eligible to play for the district he left. To play with the district he had gone to he would have to be down for two months to complete his three months' residential qualification, such term being demanded by the district rule. His place of residence is where he usually sleeps five nights in the week.

Adamstown Carnival
With the raising of the 'flu restrictions on outdoor sports, the carnival to be run by Adamstown Rosebuds Club will be held on May 24. The original programme will be adhered to, and will allow for five-a-side competition, as well as place kick and other side shows. The competitions set down for May 24 will be put back for one week to allow the patriotic effort a clear day. Clubs should not, in justice to the promoters (Adamstown Rosebuds Soccer Club) arrange friendly games for that day, but should send in their entries for the flve-a-side competitions.

Color Difficulty
Clubs have had great difficulty in procuring the desired colored shirts and more than one secretary has had to give up In disgust the hunt for colors. Hamilton could secure only a few red and white shirts, and so those unable to procure them had to buy white shirts and have broad pieces of red ribbon stitched on. The Idea might be worth copying, with the aid of lady friends to stitch on the colored bands. Clubs have had to change their chosen colors because they found it impossible to obtain the stripes desired.

Hebburn Benefit
The benefit promoted by Hebburn Club for the relatives of their old club mate — Herb Lynch — resulted In £26 being handed over. Hebburn deserves great credit for their effort.

Learmonth Park Collections
Hamilton Soccer Football Club has been granted pormission by Hamilton Council to take up a collection in Learmonth Park, when matches are being played. The club suggests that tho whole of tho collection (minus 7s 6d for expenses) should be handed to any patriotic fund desired by council. Alderman Jenner suggested that the first collection be handed to the committee of the Newcastle Hospital and Benevolent Day.

Fixtures for to-morrow:— The second series of games will be played to-morrow. Following are the fixtures and referees: —

Senior Grade
1. Minmi v. Adamstown, 3.15 p.m.: referee, P. Dolunson.

2. Holmesville v. Hamilton. 3.15 p.m.: referee, L. Tamlyn.

3. West Wallsend, a bye.

Second Grade
Minmi v. Charlestown, 1.30 p.m.; referee, P. Dolunson.

2. Adamstown v. Holmesville, 3 p.m.: referee Donaldson.

3. Rovers v. Hamilton. 3.16 p.m.; referee. A. Harley.

Third Grade
1. Hamilton v. Rosebuds. 3 p.m.; referee, D. Jackson.

2. Dudley v. Catherine Hill Bay, 3 p.m.: referee. W. Stott.

3. Kia-Ora v. Summer Hill. 1.40 p.m.; referee, A. Harley.

4. Adamstown v. Minmi 3 p.m.; referee, Mr. Gall.

5. Woodpeckers v. Teralba, 3.15 p.m.; referee, W. Hughes.

6. Holmesville v. Rovers, at Barnsley, 3 p.m.; referee, D. Johnston.

7. West Walls end, a bye.

Under 18 Grade.
listed along with some team lists