Playing long balls into empty space since 2012.

Thursday 10 December 2020

Mything, the Point

Life Cycle, For Big Jim Phelan

by Bruce Dawe

When children are born in Victoria
they are wrapped in club-colours, laid in beribboned cots,
having already begun a lifetime’s barracking.

Carn, they cry, Carn… feebly at first
while parents playfully tussle with them
possession of a rusk: Ah, he’s a little Tiger! (And they are… )

Hoisted shoulder-high at their first League game
they are like innocent monsters who have been years swimming
towards the daylight’s roaring empyrean

Until, now, hearts shrapnelled with rapture,
they break surface and are forever lost,
their minds rippling out like streamers

In the pure flood of sound, they are scarfed with light, a voice
like the voice of God booms from the stands
Ooohh you bludger! and the covenant is sealed.

Hot pies and potato-crisps they will eat,
hey will forswear the Demons, cling to the Saints
and behold their team going up the ladder into Heaven,

And the tides of life will be the tides of the home-team’s fortunes
— the reckless proposal after the one-point win,
the wedding and honeymoon after the grand-final…

They will not grow old as those from the more northern States grow old,
for them it will always be three-quarter-time
with the scores level and the wind advantage in the final term,

That pattern persisting, like a race-memory, through the welter of seasons,
enabling old-timers by boundary fences to dream of resurgent lions
and centaur-figures from the past to replenish continually the present,

So that mythology may be perpetually renewed
and Chicken Smallhorn return like the maize-god
in a thousand shapes, the dancers changing

But the dance forever the same — the elderly still
loyally crying Carn… Carn… (if feebly) unto the very end,
having seen in the six-foot recruit from Eaglehawk their hope of salvation.

Australian Soccer has no poems like this. No poems that romance the game, mythologise it, treat it like a sacred process, see it as embedded in Australian life. Why?

Is it because soccer has never had that kind of centrality to Australian lives? Because it has been peripheral? I think no and yes.

At times and in places in Australian history soccer has been central. Think of: the image of train loads of 100s of red bedecked and noisy Wallsend supporters travelling to Sydney to take on the metropolis; the social rhythm of the game in Western Sydney and Ipswich and elsewhere; the thousand or so dead soccer ANZACS forever in some foreign field. Thousands of images and stories were developed that could demonstrate just how close to the mainstream this game has been in a cultural sense.

But in terms of cultural memory it is nowhere. At every turn Australian culture (and Australian soccer culture, more particularly) has intentionally, accidentally, incidentally, malevolently or incompetently lost track of the narrative of this game.

We have lots of stories. Many soccer histories have been written in Australia. Fair Play publishing is the latest press to produce and distribute soccer narratives. 

Yet do these stories take? Do they embed themselves in the consciousness of many Australians. Or does the kitchen sink of Australian stories get drained too easily when it periodically fills up with soccer tales? 

Do we have any stories that would help demonstrate a sense of soccer's historical continuity, one that most Australians cannot yet perceive? Unfortunately just about every narrative we have speaks of disconnection either by intent or effect.

So what does an 'Australian story' contain?

  • loneliness
  • homesickness
  • distance
  • sport/conflict/war
  • gambling
  • nature as a threat
  • taciturn or emotionally stunted masculinity
  • boys having fun
  • beer
  • A problematic reflection on aboriginality
  • women cooking

Classic Australian stories contain many or most of these elements. One of my favourites Wake in Fright contains almost all of them. 

CLANCY OF THE OVERFLOW - A.B. "Banjo" Paterson
I had written him a letter which I had, for want of better
Knowledge, sent to where I met him down the Lachlan, years ago,
He was shearing when I knew him, so I sent the letter to him,
Just "on spec", addressed as follows: "Clancy, of The Overflow".

And an answer came directed in a writing unexpected,
(And I think the same was written in a thumbnail dipped in tar)
'Twas his shearing mate who wrote it, and verbatim I will quote it:
"Clancy's gone to Queensland droving, and we don't know where he are."

I can think of nothing in soccer literature that emulates the mood or content of this poem. Our writers are, generally, reluctant to adopt the confidence (if not arrogance) needed to claim a central place for this sport. (I think that Paul Nicholls is an exception here and as he demonstrates, we do have the material for soccer stories to become legend.) Think of Indigenous man Casey Wehrmann growing up in Cloncurry becoming a socceroo. What kind of impossibility is this? Think of the Mount Isa team in the 1950s travelling 2000 km to play one game and Ingham returning the favour the following year. The loneliness of the long distance soccer players, indeed. Think of Perkins, Moriarty and Briscoe growing up together in a boys home in Adelaide and the magnificent careers that blossomed from that most unlikely of situations. Think of war hero Coppock getting struck dead by lightning on Weston's home ground shorthy after surviving the rigours of WW1. Think of the two women's teams who 101 years ago played in front of 10,000 at the Gabba (the then Brisbane home of soccer).Think of Sam Kerr.

As you can probably guess, this absence depresses me somewhat. So imagine the extent to which the following story cheered me when I found it a few weeks ago. It meets many of the criteria I outlined before.

The Homesick Miner

Daily Telegraph (Sydney), Monday 22 September 1941, page 8

Backstages Of Sport


A Sydney newspaper was flung from a train window near Mount Isa, Queensland mining town, two weeks ago. A fettler picked it up, read it, and passed it on. The paper finally came into the hands of Theo Love, 42-year-old mining prospector. In the sport page he read that after 28 years Leichhardt had won their way to the State Cup Soccer final. Thirteen years ago Love played as a forward with Leichhardt. In years of gold quarrying around Mount Morgan and other fields he got his first taste of homesickness. He inspected his bank balance, found he was comfortably off, and looked up train timetables. He reached Sydney on Saturday after a 2000-mile trip by train and coach. Leichhardt were beaten in a premiership game, and he nearly wept when the final whistle blew. A home-coming party given him by 100 Leichhardt supporters at Croydon Park on Saturday night made him feel better. He will stay "to see Leichhardt win the Cup final against Granville next Saturday and to see High Caste win the Epsom." Love has money to back Leichhardt. But as for High Caste— he says betting on races is just gambling. 

Just where did this ethos go?

Wednesday 9 December 2020

100 Years Ago Today, 10 December 1920

South Coast Times and Wollongong Argus, Friday 10 December 1920, page 14


(By H.M.)

Last Saturday Cessnock came to Bulli to do battle against Balgownie in the final of the Nurse Cup. During the first half it was a splendid game, the ball travelling first to one end and then the other, the play being very fast, and neither side scoring. The second half had not been in progress long when Cessnock scored, this being only score in the game. When the game was close up towards the finish a breach was made, the spectators rushing the playing area and refusing to leave the ground. This is one thing that the committee will have to deal with if we want clean sport; we have asked the public to keep outside the line, but they do not try to assist the committee in any way to give the players a chance. There will be a good game next Saturday in Ball's Paddock between Woo nona and Corrimal, the gate receipts to be donated towards the ambulance; These men have given their services free all the season, so roll up and give them a helping hand! This game will be worth going a long way to see. Mr. C. Baker will referee the game. Admission, gents. 6d, ladies 6d.

Propeller (Hurstville), Friday 10 December 1920, page 3


The St. George District Soccer Football Club, which did so well in the metropolitan competitions last year, has decided to enter two teams in the Second League and All-age Competitions for next season. The club had between 20 and 30 members last year, so the formation of two teams will over come the difficulty caused by an excess number of players. A meeting will be held in Colvin's Hall, Hurstville, on Thursday next to arrange details.

Maitland Daily Mercury, Tuesday 21 December 1920, page 4

The December 'Windsor.'

We have received from Mr. H. Pankhurst a copy of the December number of the ''Windsor Magazine.' The country, called Bashan as it is to-day, is described in one of the articles, while another discants on the charm for the crowd of that popular game of football which is known as 'Soccer.' There is the usual good supply of complete stories by favourite authors, and much to give amusement in the 'Editor's Scrap Book.'

Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners' Advocate, Friday 17 December 1920, page 3



THE S.M.B.F.A. will play the Final of Hunter Cup, TOMORROW, SATURDAY, 18th DEC., at Homestead (Weston). Cessnock v. West Wallsend (Woodpeckers) at 3.30. Referee, J. Earp. Woodpeckers have won the State Junior Competition. also the Newcastle District 3rd Grade Competition. Cessnock have won the Nurse Cup Competition, also the Maitland District 3rd Grade Competition. 

Thursday 3 December 2020

FA Trophy: Who Owns It?

While this might seem a rather puerile attempt to create historical conflict, the argument needs to be had out. 

Who owns this trophy?

  1. The last carnival was won by Victoria in 1960
  2. The last state championship was won by NSW in 1964.

Check out Mark Boric's blog for more details.

Mark suggests that the trophy is for carnivals 

Whereas Paul Nicholls thinks that it belongs to NSW as the most recent champions.

Illawarra Daily Mercury, Tuesday 8 June 1954, page 12

The trophy resides at Football Victoria on account of Victoria winning in 1960. Maybe we should just cancel the A League and resurrect the national championships and play for the possession of the beautiful trophy (value equiv to $25,000 today).

A New Twist on the Soccer Controversy

Thanks again to Garry McKenzie

Toowoomba Chronicle and Darling Downs Gazette , Thursday 25 July 1929, page 6


An English educational journal asks why the word "soccer'' is used as a contraction of "association," instead of the legitimate "socker." The paper contends that "soccer" is a hideous affront, as much to the intelligence as to the eye, and points out that, whenever C precedes an E, an I, or a, V it has a sibilant S sound, as in civil, centre, cylinder. To this rule there are only two exceptions, in the word sceptic (which the more logical American spells with a K) and the word Celt— often spelt Kelt. In all other portions in a word the letter C has a K sound, as in record and crime. When two C's occur together, both these rules apply; thus we have a K sound only in such words as account, and succulent, where the second C is followed by A, O, or U; but in such words as accent, flaccid and succinct, the second C with a K value. It is contended that it is into this class that the word "soccer" must necessarily be placed. 

The interesting thing to draw from this is that maybe soccer should be pronounced "soxer" or "sosher". 

I love it when the grammar nazi comes in conflict with sokkahtwitter (should I say soxatwitter?) -- my loyalties are utterly divided. Be interested in what you think.

The Homesick Miner

Daily Telegraph (Sydney), Monday 22 September 1941, page 8

Backstages Of Sport


A Sydney newspaper was flung from a train window near Mount Isa, Queensland mining town, two weeks ago. A fettler picked it up, read it, and passed it on. The paper finally came into the hands of Theo Love, 42-year-old mining prospector. In the sport page he read that after 28 years Leichhardt had won their way to the State Cup Soccer final. Thirteen years ago Love played as a forward with Leichhardt. In years of gold quarrying around Mount Morgan and other fields he got his first taste of homesickness He inspected his bank balance, found he was comfortably off, and looked up train timetables. He reached Sydney on Saturday after a 2000-mile trip by train and coach. Leichhardt were beaten in a premiership game, and he nearly wept when the final whistle blew. A home-coming party given him by 100 Leichhardt supporters at Croydon Park on Saturday night made him feel better. He will stay "to see Leichhardt win the Cup final against Granville next Saturday and to see High Caste win the Epsom." Love has money to back Leichhardt. But as for High Caste— he says betting on races is just gambling. 

Wednesday 2 December 2020

100 Years Ago Today, 4 December 1920

West Australian, Thursday 2 December 1920, page 8

South Coast Times and Wollongong Argus, Friday 3 December 1920, page 15

Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners' Advocate, Thursday 2 December 1920, page 6

WESTON. The South Maitland Soccer Association has arranged for Hamilton and West Wallsend to meet at the Homestead on Saturday, in the semi-final of the Hunter Cup competition.

Monday 30 November 2020


WW1 soccer soldier deaths: a random list

Private A. L. GINN, of the 27th Battalion, brother of Mr. S. H. Ginn, of Messrs. Thompson and Harvey, glass merchants, Flinders-street, was killed in action in France on August 29. He was only 24 years of age and was a prominent athlete. He was a member of the Sir James Fergusson, Hawthorn, and Adelaide Cricket Clubs; South Adelaide Football Club, and a champion 'Soccer' player. Whilst in France he won a medal for a relay race and a medal for best batting and bowling. He was employed by Messrs. Thompson & Harvey, where he was highly eseemed by a large circle of friends.

The friends of Mr. and Mrs. Homer, of Indooroopilly, will regret to learn that they have received a cable message from one of their sons at the Front stating that his brother Harry had died suddenly of illness at the Dardanelles. The deceased was well known in sporting circles, having been a keen "Soccer" Football player, and at the time of leaving for the Front was captain of the Indooroopilly C.E. Cricket Club.

A telegram was received by Dean Drayne yesterday conveying the
news that Private J. A. Allen had been killed at the Dardanelles. Pri-
vate Allen, with his brother, Sergt. Vince Allen, volunteered with the
first contingent from Geraldton. Deceased, who was about 21 or 22 years of age was engaged on the jetty. He was very popular and was a member of the Thistle Soccer Footbull Club. His parents, Mr and
Mrs W. A. Allen, formerly lived in Francis Street, but returned to
England last year, arriving there just before the war broke out.

On Wednesday evening last Mr, P. McMahon, of Balgownie, received the sad information that .his son Fred, had made the supremo sacrifice for his Country in France on June 7th. This
young hero had spent the major portion of his life in this district, but
latterly he had resided in Western Australia. He returned to this State
shortly after the war broke out, and immediately enlisted for active service. He was a popular soccer footballer,and by his kindly disposition had endeared himself to all with whom he had corns in contact. Two Othesr sons of- Mr. McMahon are at present serving, their King and Country. We extend our sympathy to the bereaved relatives.

The death in action, in France, whilst serving with the Yorkshire Engineers, of H. Humphreys, formerly of the St. Kilda and Preston British Association (Soccer) clubs, has been reported.

It has been officially reported to Mrs Waters, of 32 Canning-street, that Corporal R. (Gordon) Powell,: of the 26th Battalion has been missing since August 5. Corporal Powell was- a Well-known
Central harrier, and member of the Elphin Soccer Club.

Thursday 26 November 2020

100 Years Ago Today, 26 November 1920

West Australian, Tuesday 23 November 1920, page 8

BRITISH ASSOCIATION GAME. To the Sporting Editor. 

Sir,-With regard to the cable published to-day concerning rowdyism at London association football matche. A little amplification might be permitted to throw some further light on the subject. Association football in England is this season drawing crowds never before erperienced. Every Saturday the 66 principal league matches (there are 22 clubs in three divisions, and not much to choose between any of them) draw between them 750,000 spectators, or an average of about 12,000 per match, but in the big centres, happening to have winning clubs, the attendances are frequently over 60,000, and once recently 75,000. This year the bonus system, of giving players extra pay for winning and a .consideration for drawing games, has been substantially increased with the result. That very much more spirit has been engendered into the games and has led the spectators to show a corresponding anxiety for victory for their side. The professional's wages are as high as £10 per week this season though not all of them get that much, but about £7 per. week is the lowest wage now for a playing professional. A great deal of illegal gambling goes on and players are now and again proved to have had illegal understandings about results. Only last year a whole team, ground and directors was wiped out Leeds City, a team capable of drawing a 40,000 gate, being so severely dealt with because of nefarious practices. As the association game has proved so immensely popular in (Great Britain it could not help going professional, - but being professional it has around it all the evils that paid sport is beset with.

-Yours etc., PENALTY, Perth, Nov. 22.

Pilbarra Goldfield News (Marble Bar, WA), Tuesday 30 November 1920, page 3




London, Nov. 22,

Serious shooting has taken place in Dublin whereby fourteen were killed, and later two shot at the Gresham Hotel. Military reinforcements surrounded the hotel and fighting was renewed. A civilian and two soldiers were killed. The Centred Hotel was commandeered by the military and the staff/and guests given two hours notice to, leave.

It is officially announced that 12 officers and two civilians were killed and three officers wounded by murder gangs. All the victi s were associated with, the recent Courts Martial. The official theory is that the assassins object is to paralyse the legal machinery, as many recent arrests have been made of persons belonging to the inner circle of the murder gangs and others.

During a Gaelic football match at. Croke Park, Dublin, in the presence of 60,000 spectators, armed forces, accompanied by armed cars and mounted machine guns, entered the field. The crowd tried to escape, but were seized with panic. Shots were fired in all directions and many were injured in the stampede. Seven were shot dead and hundreds wounded by gunfire. All the hospitals are full.

According to a later message from Dublin there were 15,000 spectators present and the game had been in progress a quarter of an hour when the armed forces appeared. Ten persons were killed and 20 wounded.


London, Nov. 25.

In the House of Commons the Chief Secretary for Ireland read the details concerning the murder of the thirteen officers in Dublin on Sunday, which made a deep impression on a crowded house.

Mr. Devlin attempted to speak but members shouted him down. []

In answering a private question Mr. Lloyd George said he shared in the general horror at 'the cold; blooded murders. If experience showed that the Government's powers were insufficient he would ask for further powers. ;

Devlin asked why nothing was said about the appearance of military forces at the football match. Major Molson, sitting behind, seized Devlin round the neck and attempted to drag him over the bench, Devlin struggling violently.

Another member attempted to force Devlin into his seat, Devlin shouting "Is this English courage, English chivalry? Six hundred attacking one man."

Seeing that the scene was highly threatening the Speaker suspended the sitting.

London, Nov. 26.

Mr. Asquith moved in the Commons that this House condemns the outrages committed against the forces of the Crown., Civilisation in Ireland expresses its deep abhorrence at the brutal assassination of officers and other British subjects in Dublin on Sunday last. The House also deplores and condemns the action of the Executive in attempting to supress crime by methods of terrorism and reprisals which involves the lives of innocent people contrary to civilised usage, and believes, that pacification in the matter to be of immediate urgeny. The motion was rejected by 328 votes to 83.

London, Nov. 27.

The second reading of the Home Rule Bill has passed the House of Lords.

In compliance with the Government's wish business in Dublin, was suspended during the procession in connection with the funeral of the murdered officers.

Thirty-three soldiers were killed and 18 wounded in Ireland during October.

Wednesday 25 November 2020

Foreign Games in Ireland and Australian Soccerphobia

One of the terms I have used and tried to make popular is soccerphobia, simply the fear of association football. However, the causes and manifestions of this fear are not so simple; they are manifold and complex.

Issues of class, religion, masculinity, sexuality, identity and culture are all involved. 

One of the avenues I have thought about taking is the connection between Irish nationalism and sections of Australian identity. We can see parallels between the ways in which Gaelic games and Australian Rules argue for their cultural centrality and superiority over 'foreign games' like soccer and rugby. But it would probably be a mistake to assume a causal link between the two.

A few IYKYH episodes ago we saw an argument from a Catholic paper in Adelaide that soccer wasn't really an Irish game and the Irish team was Irish in name only. 

What interests me primarily is the fact that the Irish rejection of British games is widely reported in Australia, especially during the 1930s. I guess it's newsworthy when the GAA is annoyed by De Valera meeting members of the Jugoslav soccer team in 1937, but why is it considered so interesting as to be published in dozens of newspapers around Australia?

The following is a 1906 assertion of the Irish rejection of foreign games reported in a Catholic newspaper in Melbourne. It's worth remembering that during this time Australian rules is beginning to get its own nationalist propaganda in order. 

Advocate (Melbourne), Saturday 6 January 1906, page 14

Great Caman Parade in Donegal.


Speakers delivered stirring addresses on National duty. The resolutions, adopted with enthusiasm, were:— "Resolved—That as men we shall have done with drink and dissension, as men we shall reject the games of our oppressor, as men we shall not serve our oppressor, as men we shall not bend our will to our oppressor, as men we shall break the rule of our oppressor." 

"And that as Irishmen we shall play Irish games, as Irishmen we shall dance Irish dances, as Irishmen we shall cherish Irish customs, as Irishmen we shall buy Irish goods as, Irishmen we shall learn the Irish language, as Irishmen we shall, by noble example, compel respect for Ireland; as Irishmen we shall think for Ireland, work for Ireland; as Irishmen our aim shall ever be a free Ireland."

In 1910, the Melbourne University sport union, using the rhetoric of 'foreign game' refused to allow the Rugby team into the blue system. 
However. It's important to remember that this is not a universal opinion. Some athletic bodies were still keen to play international games. Another Catholic paper reported in 1924 on 

Southern Cross (Adelaide), Thursday 24 April 1924, page 2

Irish News by Mail.


Various athletic associations all over Ireland have passed resolutions to delete Rules 9 and 10 from the official guide of the G.A.A., which put a ban on Rugby and Soccer in the athletic arena. On February 15 the University College Hurling and Football Club (Dublin), by a yote of 37 to 9, decided against the ban, although its continuance was vigorously upheld by the president, the Rev. Dr. T. J. Corcoran, S.J., who seemed to regard the ban as "a fundamental principle of nationhood."

Nonetheless the anti-English position is largely adopted around Ireland as the foreign games start to falter and Gaelic games rise to prominence. In a review of Michael Collins' biography we are reminded that the influential revolutionary saw sport as a vehicle of politics and ideology.

Argus, Saturday 10 September 1927, page 7



"Michael Collins and the Making of a New Ireland, " by Piaras Beaslai (Pierce Beasley ) (London: Harrap; Melbourne: Spencer), is written by one who was a major-general in the Sinn Fein army, an intimate friend of Collins and his senior in the inner councils of the most extreme section of the party. Michael Collins was the eighth and youngest child of a farmer of West Cork, evidently a man of unusual education and intellectual vitality. At the age of 4 1 /2 years, Collins imbibed from his first schoolmaster, a Fenian named Lyons, his hatred of England as the oppressor. Later he became intensely enthusiastic for a Gaelic Ireland, though he could not speak Irish. In boyhood we find him thundering against the clergy for their opposition to physical force, writing a paper to prove that the Great Famine was caused by the English, and as a young clerk in London splitting a league of Irish athletic clubs to uphold the rule expelling all who played the "soccer" of the alien.

In 1925, we are reminded by the Melbourne Weekly times 

Weekly Times (Melbourne, Vic. : 1869 - 1954), Saturday 25 April 1925, page 10


Frank Dempsey, the Victorian jockey, who has been so successful since his arrival in England, is suffering from influenza, and is confined to his bed at the Royal Station Hotel at York. He contracted the complaint while staying at Catterick Bridge for the races. The Gaelic Athletic Association of Dublin has decided by an overwhelming majority to retain the rules suspending from membership any athlete playing, or encouraging the playing of hockey, cricket, rugby and soccer, and participating in dances or entertainments under the patronage of British soldiers, sailors and police. Members of the association who patronise "foreign" games will be suspended for three months every time they watch them.

1931: Irish parliament passed a motion that gave other sports the same tax free status as Gaelic and perhaps this helps things shift. But what we see in the Australian papers is a substantial focus on this period.

Now we get into shenanigans

Nambour Chronicle and North Coast Advertiser, Friday 16 June 1933, page 13

Irish Football.

ANIMUS AGAINST RUGBY. Dance Band Waylaid. -

A night of adventure awaited a dance band from Cork which went, to play at a Rugby football dance in County Kerry says the Cork correspondent of the London 'Times'.) 

COUNTY KERRY has been a great centre for Gaelic football and until recently Rugby had not been played there. However, in the past few years Rugby has made great strides, and among Ihe followers of the Gaelic code it is known as a for eign game, and no player of Gaelic is allowed to play it or even look at it. In order to encourage the game in Kerry, two Rugby sides were arranged, one repesenting Leinster and the other representing Minister, and played a game in Tralee. Some of the most prominent internationals in Ire land look part. After the match a dance was arranged. Pat Crowley's band from Cork was to have played. When the band was six or seven miles from Tralee in their taxicab a man stood out on the road and beck-oned for a lift. The driver was going to pass on. but the man look up a position so that the car had to stop or run him down. When the car slowed down he produced a revolver, and a number of men who were concealed in the ditch rushed out and surrounded the car. Some of them got in and ordered the driver to drive back towards Cork.

When they reached Farranfore, seven miles back, they made the captive musicians get out and march into a farm-house. There they were told that no harm would come to them, but they would not be allowed to play at the dance that night. They were also informed that their car and instru ments would be returned to them after a few hours, and the men drove away in the car with the instruments. In vain the band waited for their return, and when morning broke they decided to set out on foot for Tralee. They arrived in the town after their long walk of nearly 11 miles and re ported their case to the Civic Guards. A search was made and the car was found hidden in a shrubbery outside the town, but no arrests have been made. The men who carried out the raid were unsuccessful in their efforts to stop the dance, for after waiting in vain for the dance band to turn up some of the people present formed a band of their own with borrowed in struments.

Western Star and Roma Advertiser, Saturday 25 November 1933, page 3


Because Rugby football is regarded as a foreign game in the West of Ireland, players arriving at their first Rugby match at Kilrush, County Clare, found the ground covered with broken glass and the goal posts cut to pieces. The players cleared the ground and erected new posts, and the game proceeded.

[also reported in Cairns and around country queensland. Also Perth and Adelaide]

Australasian (Melbourne), Saturday 3 April 1937, page 10



The Gaelic Football Board entered strong protests when Mr. deValera received representatives of the Jugoslav football team, on the ground, that soccer is a "foreign game," which, Mr. de Valera has always stated, should be boycotted.

De Valera was a prominent potician who particpated in the Easter Rising but was saved from execution by his American birthright. He became both head of government and head of state in turn. As is implied, his position shifts from hard liner to liberalisation

Advocate (Melbourne), Wednesday 16 October 1946, page 27

DUBLIN, October 3.

From Our Dublin Correspondent

MR. DE VALERA SMILES Some of our ultra-enthusiastic Gaels regard Soccer, Rugby, Cricket, and Hockey as "foreign games" and preach that no patriot should recognise them. But President O'Kelly went to this "foreign" football match and shook hands with both teams. And Mr. de Valera received the English team at the Dail and was photographed cracking a joke with one of the players. Mr. deValera usually looks very serious in his photographs, but in this one he is obviously laughing uproariously. Both national anthems were played at the match, and both the Union Jack and the Tricolour were flown. It is hard to see how any game which brings nations together in friendly rivalry can be described as "foreign," but some of our more bigoted Gaels still believe that in playing English games we are being false to our best traditions. But the bulk of our people think that the ban on so-called "foreign" games—most of which are now international—is a foolish and petty anachronism, and it is fairly clear now that President O'Kelly and Mr. de Valera think with them. The joke that made Mr. de Valera laugh, however, is still a diplomatic secret.

But still we have the hangover. Here is an objection to the broadcast of the FA cup in Ireland which receives a similar echo of complaint in Australia in the 1960s

Mercury, Wednesday 17 March 1954, page 12

Object To Soccer Broadcast

Australian Associated Press

DUBLIN, Tues. - A St. Patrick's Day broadcast to irishmen overseas has been cancelled because partisans of two rugged Irish sports -Gaelic football and hurling - have protested at the inclusion of a commentary on the "alien and imperialist" game of association football.

Radio Eireann's plan to include the soccer commentary was denounced by the president of the Gaelic Athletic. Association (Mr. M. V. O'Donoghue) as an insult to the nation and "a cunning attempt to give an imperialist game a national complexion."

Radio Eireann planned to switch to a short description of a soccer match during the interval in a commentary on a hurling cup final at Croke Park,


Two questions:

  • why so much press interest in Irish intolerance of foreign or international sport?

  • does this coverage do ideological work in Australia?

Pouring Cold Water on a Soccer Tour in 1885

Sydney Mail and New South Wales Advertiser (NSW : 1871 - 1912), Saturday 8 August 1885, page 312

Football Notes.

By Censor.

Just now the football world is much concerned with the project of an international match between England and Australia. In fact, two such contests are suggested; one is that we arc invited to send a team home next year, and the other that we are to be favoured with a visit from a strong English Rugby team during our next football season. From the activity of the followers of the British Association game here it appears that the English Association have asked Australia to send a team home to play a series of matches at that particular game. Of the two projects, tnat which is the more likely to be supported bv the public here is the visit of the Rugbeans to Australia during next season, but the idea of Australia being able to furnish a team that could hopefully compete with the pick of England, Scotland, and Ireland under Association rules is absurd. Our prestige as athletes would he dragged through the mire, and those to whom such a pleasure-trip would be highly palatable would be hopelessly overmatched in almost every encounter. Our men play the Rugby game fairly well, but not so well as they do in New Zealand, but few of them know anything about the British Association game, and even that small section play it but moderately well. We have no desire to throw cold water on the enterprise of the disciples of the Association game, but we would suggest a few seasons' practice before attempting the task of wresting the supre macy of the football field from the Englishmen, as our cricketers so pluckily did in cricket. All Australian athletes will strongly discountenance the trip of the Southern British Association players from these colonies to England, when they in no measure represent the skill, activity, and endurance of Australia. Moreover, the followers of the British Association game at the antipodes are mostly those who have acquired a knowledge of its mysteries in the English football field, and such a combination would certainly not have a representative Australian character attached to it. At whatever game we are to meet our English friends, let it be one in which, the fleetness and the stamina of our colonial youth will not be handicapped for the lack of practice and harmonious co-operation. The idea altogether seems to be premature. 

Thursday 19 November 2020

State of Australian Soccer 1913

Sun (Sydney), Tuesday 1 July 1913, page 3



(By O.L)

Remarkable progress has been made by the Soccer code this season, not only in New South Wales, but throughout the whole of Australasia. New clubs and associations have sprung up like mushrooms, and the officials of the Commonwealth Association are of the opinion that the day is not far distant when the dribbling code will be as powerful in the Southern Hemisphere as it is in Great Britain. 

Until the present season the game in this State had been confined to the coastal areas, but now it has spread to Goulburn, Cootamundra, Broken Hill, West Maitland, Lithgow, Eskbank, Portland, and Bathurst. There is every prospect of the game being introduced at Tlngha, Emmaville, Tamworth, Glen Innes, and Dubbo, The development of the code is mainly due to the influx of players from Great Britain. It is interesting to point out that the majority of the players are Englishmen, but in the metropolis and suburbs there are over 50 schools taking part in the competitions, and the game is also gradually, being taken up by the high schools and colleges. In the competitions controlled by the New South Wales Junior Association and the Granville District Association the bulk of the players are native born, and they have given creditable exhibitions of Great Britain's chief winter pastime. 

Next season it is the intention of the Commonwealth Association to hold a carnival week in Sydney; and there is every possibility that representative teams from the whole of the States will be seen in action here. Inter-State games have already been inaugurated. Queensland was in Sydney last week, and out of four matches played they were successful in two, one of which was a test fixture. The Maroons, however, declare that last week's team was by no means the best, there being no fewer than five first-class players who were unable to make the trip, but they are confident that when the Blues visit the northern capital in September they will be lucky if they win a match. 

There are so many really first-class players available in Victoria that the selectors in that State are finding it difficult to narrow them down to a representative eleven. They have decided to play a series of "International" games between, English, Scottish, and Irish born players. When New South Wales visits Melbourne on August 16 they will be faced with a hard proposition, and according to Mr. J. A. Simpson, formerly of Victoria, the New South Wales selectors will have to select only the best. 

Mr. J. Wilde, one of the pioneers of the game in South Australia, who held the position of honorary Secretary of the controlling body, there for over 10 years, is now a resident of Sydney. He has seen all that New South Wales can produce, and is of the opinion that there are men in South Australia who can be relied upon to extend the mother State's best. The ex-South Australian secretary states as in New South Wales the game is spreading into the rural districts. For a number of years South Australia has been endeavoring to arrange fixtures with New South Wales, but owing to various reasons, chief of which is the enormous distance between the States, the Wheatfielders have so far been unsuccessful. Possibly the South Australians' wishes will be fulfilled next season, as the New South Wales body intends to entertain a proposition respecting a trip to West Australia, and it is more than likely that if the tour eventuates a break will be made at Adelaide. 

100 Years Ago Today, 19 November 1920

Sunday Times (Sydney), Sunday 21 November 1920, page 2

British Soccer Clubs Disqualified

LONDON, Saturday.— The Football Association has taken drastic action against Millwall and Crystal Palace, both League clubs, owing to the misconduct of spectators.

The clubs' grounds are to be closed for thirteen days, thus losing the revenue from two home matches each. They are also ordered to pay the costs of the enquiry. The spectators invaded the ground and assaulted the referee. Milwall's supporters stoned a visiting team last Monday, and this may be the subject of further enquiry.

Express and Telegraph (Adelaide), Thursday 18 November 1920, page 3


Just how a strike would effect association football is exercising the minds of many people these days. Your Britisher is a long-suffering person as a rule; he is even taking the tremendous taxation on his beer and 'baccy in the most philosophical manner. But he does not like his sport being interfered with. The terrific crowds at league football matches are something to marvel at. Of course, there are some unhappy people who must run down everything and seem to take it as a personal insult that other folk should enjoy themselves. They put down the huge crowds to the spirit of betting which is over-running the country, and deplore the "waste of time that could be more profitably expended in the increase of output." This betting scare has been going on for some-time, but I have run across none of the higher officials who have seen anything of it in dangerous form.

Some people will bet on anything and you can't stop them. On the other side of the picture is the fact insisted on that in coilliery towns, the,- &c., the leagues and cup ties have had a wonderful effect on the workers. Those who go to football, it is in sisted, always go home before a match to get "cleaned up." There, they turn over the house keeping money for the Week before they go out again. The self-respect of a man who. is always "clean" is too obvious to dilate on. And how keen they are on their own side, these workers. One can forgive a lot to real enthusiasm. And yet a habitually "dirty" player is not tolerated by those enthusiasts, however good he is. The money spent and the time "wasted" is comparatively small; whereas the enjoyment and the interest are certainly very big. Association must always be the spectators' delight in football. It is easy to see and easy to understand, even to the finer points, whereas the real work of a forward at Rugger can only be really appreciated and understood by a spectator who has played the game himself for years.

Rugby will be in full swing this week-end. In England and Scotland it. has never had so large a following, but the Northern Union can hold out such strong temptations to players to "come over" that the Welsh clubs are kept a trifle nervous. It is a heautiful game to watch, the Northem Union game, and one cannot be surprised at the enthusiasm it provokes wherever it is played. Your real Rugby footballer, however, is desperately loyal to his own game, and when Jerry Shea refused to be tempted by a big offer it was a triumph for the game all round. [In fact Shea went to Wigan the following year]


Bradford City 0 Huddersfield2 

Chelsea 1 Manchester United 2 

Everton 3 Derby County 1 

Manchester City 3Arsenal   1 

Middlesbrough 0 Burnley 0 

Oldham  0 Liverpool   0 

Prisstoh North-End  3 Newcastle. United  2 

Sheffield United  2 Bradford  0 

Sunderland 2  Blackburn Rovers 0 

Totteidiam'Hotspur 1 Aston Villa 2 

W. B'wich Albion 2 Bolton Wanderers 1

Bowen Independent, Tuesday 16 November 1920, page 1


The next attraction was a Soccer Football Match between teams representing the [HMAS] Melbourne and Bowen, which, after a very exciting game, was won by the former by two points to nil. Kicking the Football, prize 10/-, resulted In a win for G-. Osborne. Messrs Osborne, Cannon and Saker each kicked a goal. In the kick ofi, Osborne got nearest to the goal and won. • The 100 yards pedestrian handicap, was won by E. Ferris, 5 yards from Hutchison (“Melbourne”) 6 yds and R Gray 6 yds.

HMAS Melbourne (1) entering Sydney harbour for the first time 4 October 1913.

"Melbourne was an important element of our first fleet that sailed proudly into Sydney Harbour in October 1913 with her better known sister HMAS Sydney. Of her peacetime complement of 390 about half were on loan from the Royal Navy, all being under the command of Captain Mortimer L’Estrange Silver, RN. In fact all the cooks and stewards appear to have been Royal Naval ratings – does this say something about the standard of colonial catering in these times? Another important factor about the ship that only rates a mention in the amount of time spent bunkering is that she was coal fired, which meant constant evolutions of coaling ship and cleaning up afterwards. The largest department was not seamen manning her weapons but stokers, of which she had more than one hundred." Naval Historical Society of Australia

Arrow (Sydney), Friday 19 November 1920, page 11



The Nurse Cup mutch between Wallsend and West Wallsend on Saturday attracted a big attendance, and at times the utmost enthusiasm prevailed. Wallsend were out to win from the start, and took innumerable risks in order to gain their end. Fortune favored them, with the result that they won 2-0. West Wallsend played a solid game; but missed many chances. Tomorrow will see the same teams engaged in the final of the Kerr Cup competition. West Wallsend are at present holders of the Cup, having defeated Balmain Fernleight last year; but they will need to be at the top of their form to retain it. They will play the same team as last week, while Wallsend will probably replace Urwin by Rop Lidbury. The N.D.B.F.A, fully intend that finality shall be reached, and have ordered a double amount of extra time if necessary. Immediately the game is concluded Mr. J. H. Bloomfield, president of the N.D.B.F.A., will present the winners with the cup. The early attraction will be the final of the Richardson Cup competition, in which Wood peckers and Hamilton, both Newcastle teams, will meet. Woodpeckers are regarded as the probable winners, for on the two previous occasions this pair has met a one-goal draw, and in the A grade final a 6-1 win for 'Peckers resulted. The end of this season much resemblce the end of last, for with the exception of the Gardiner Cup, which goes consistently to Sydney, the other cups will remain with Newcastle. 

1968 Newcastle Grand Final at Speers' Point between Adamstown and Lake Macquarie (4-2)
Thanks to Bill Walker on Facebook

Thursday 12 November 2020

Newly Online Foreign Language Newspapers in Trove

During the week I discovered the work of Tim Sherratt @wragge

Like some of us, Tim is a Trove nerd. One of his projects is a map of Trove places, basically a map of all the places in Australia that have published newspapers scanned into Trove.

Recently Tim had noticed a bunch of new foreign language newspapers that had been put up this year. This is the link.

So with visions of finding new historical sources I entered Trove armed with this new knowledge and terms like fussball and calcio at the ready.


Paul Hunt and Garry Mackenzie leapt straight into action vis a vis fussball and found a number of articles using the term.

but what does fussball refer to? 

  • Soccer overseas
  • Soccer in Australia
  • Soccer or Australian rules?

The age old conundrum is solved efficiently by the Germans: "Fussball (soccer) und australischer Fussball (football)".

Without having gone to far into it I suspect the references to fussball are mixed.


There are a tremendous number of references to calcio in the Italian press (both Italian and English language). This one seems to talk about the origins of the Savoia Club in Melbourne and something I don't understand about the Kingswood club in Adelaide. 

Read Tony Smith. p97

This one reports on the game between the Melbourne and Adelaide Juventus teams at Port Melbourne in October 1956 (a game in which Max Lucchesi played).

Vanessa Lucchesi generously translated some of it for me. (Mention Tony Persoglia also). These are the comments on the Port Melbourne ground at which the game was played. The writer thought:

it wasn’t good enough for the purpose of the game in that they needed more space for spectators! ‘The Australian authorities know know very well that there are many New Australians and they love soccer’.


Tuesday 10 November 2020

100 Years Ago Today 12 November 1920

Townsville Daily Bulletin, Tuesday 9 November 1920, page 5


Old Towers footballers will regret to learn of the death of Davy Quinn, the crack right wing forward of the Queenton Rangers British Association game, about 20 years ago. He was the best dribbler at the game in the Towers and his bowed legs appeared to assist him in screwing the ball to the centre. His great mates of those days were the Lauders, Alex Smith and his big brother, and Ferguson. Those were great days for the Rangers but the mines petered out and they had to go afield, and the sport knew them no more. Davy, who was universally esteemed, died in Kuridala Hospital.

Kuridala Cemetery, south of Cloncurry

Queensland Times (Ipswich), Wednesday 10 November 1920, page 4

SOCCER FOOTBALL. At a meeting of the Ipswich and West Moreton B.F.A. It was decided to replay the senior challenge cup final between Rats and Stars at Bundanba Racecourse, on Saturday. Mr. L. Lonie was appointed referee. The junior and Junior minor finals will be played on the following Saturday. 

Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners' Advocate, Wednesday 10 November 1920, page 7

FOOTBALL. SOCCER CODE. Hamilton entered a protest against their defeat in the Kerr Cup semi-final on Saturday, alleging that West Wallsend were not on the ground until 3.45 instead of 3.30 p.m., which was the time for the kick off. The committee last night dismissed the protest. Hamilton gave notice of appeal, and the matter will be further considered at a delegate meeting to be held in Premier Hotel, Broadmadow on Saturday night. Only two games will be played on Saturday, the first a challenge match, and the other the Nurse Cup tie between West Wallsend and Wallsend. The winners of the latter will Journey down the South Coast. The fixtures are :-Nurse Cup.-Wallsend v. West Wallsend, 3.15 p.m., referee, Mr. T. Crawford. Challenge Game.--Rovers v. Woodpeckers, 1.45 p.m., referee, Mr. L. Tamlyn. Lincsmen, Messrs. Sanderson and Smith.

Arrow (Sydney), Friday 12 November 1920, page 11



The Kerr Cup semi-final, in which Wallsend and Weston were engaged, was decided at the Tramway Ground, Hamilton, on Saturday, before a comparatively small attendance. There was little to recommend the game, which resulted in a win for Wallsend 3-0. In the early match Woodpeckers ousted Pyrmont from the Richardson Cup competition by winning the semi-final 3-0. The match at Wallsend, where West Wallsend met Hamilton for the benefit of the Wallsend Hospital, attracted a very fair attendance, and also resulted in a 3-0 win, West Wallsend being the winners. Hamilton protested on the grounds that West Wallsend were not on the ground until 50 minutes after the game should have started, but this was subsequently dismissed by the committee. To-morrow a Nurse Cup game will provide the chief interest, Wallsend and West Walkend being the opposing teams. The winners will have to journey to the South Coast to oppose a team there. On the following Saturday these two teams will meet in the final for Kerr Cup, and this match will bring the season to a close. Wallsend will play Irwin to-morrow in lieu of Gardiner, while West Wallsend will place the same pack in the field that has done so well lately. The early match will see Woodpeckers and Wallsend Rovers engaged. The Richardson Cup final is also expected to be played to-morrow week.

Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners' Advocate, Thursday 11 November 1920, page 3

SPORTING. SOCCER FOOTBALL. At the Homestead, Weston, SATURDAY, NOV. 13th. CESSNOCK v. HEBBURN (Nurse Cup), 2.30. Referee, A. Linsley. MINMI v. HAMILTON (Hunter Cup), 4 o'c. Referee, J. Earp. Admission 6d. 

Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners' Advocate, Saturday 13 November 1920, page 5

WALLSEND AND PLATTSBURG The secretary of Wallsend Hospital has received £6 19s 4d towards the funds of the institution from the Northern, District British Football Association, being the takings at the gate when Hamilton and West Wallsend met in the semi-final round of the Kerr Cup competition. 

Daily News (Perth), Tuesday 9 November 1920, page 4


Children's Hospital.— Donations received for the month of October are acknowledged by the general secretary of the Children's Hospital (Mr. C. G. Killick) as follow: — Donations: Farmers and Settler's Association, W. Bendering, £2 11s; W.A. British Football Association, £4 6s; ....

Fremantle Herald, Friday 12 November 1920, page 7

The wind-up function of the 1920 W.A.F.A. premiers took place in the form of a, smoker jat the Caledonian Hall, in the presence of a large representative gathering.


Mr. Linkson, in responding, thanked the Fremantle Club from his heart for the appreciative way they had honored the toast of the ruling body. He also thanked them for their kind references to himself and the other representatives of the W.A.F.A. who were present. It was pleasing to know that their efforts in the furtherance of the national game in this State were being appreciated. He stigmatised the W.A.F.L. on account of their lack of encouragement to the grades below them, and acquainted his hearers of the fact that fifty per cent. of the boys in the schools paid allegiance to the soccer code. In conclusion he hoped that next season the W.A.F.A. would secure a more influential man [ie not himself], a man with time and means at his disposal to take the presidential chair on the association, it being essential, in his opinion, to do same justice. 

Fremantle Times, Friday 12 November 1920, page 2


A very enjoyable evening was spent at the Fremantle Rovers' social on Saturday last. The items rendered by the Drop Bros were excellent, and the games and dances were thoroughly enjoyed. About half past ten the company adjourned to the supper room where a dainty supper was partaken of. During supper various toasts were proposed, the chief being those of Lieutenant Shand, the president (who, unfortunately, was unable to attend), the supporters of the team, and the skipper (Mr. J. Groves). A hearty vote of thanks was passed to the lady helpers Mesdames Groves, Clarke, and Drennan. Special praise is due to Mrs. Groves, "the Mother of the Team," for the originality and genius shown in the decoration of the table. The proceedings terminated at midnight with "Auld Lang Syne," and a vote of thanks to the pianists. Miss Regan and Mickle and Mr. Little.

Friday 6 November 2020

Victoria's Soccer ANZACs

These are a number of articles I wrote for the FFV for Anzac Day in 2015. They went missing until found recently by Tony Persoglia on the Wayback Machine. I hope to write more such articles soon.

Behind the lines 
Victorian soccer and WWI

For many Australians, this 1918 photograph and text from the Melbourne Weekly Times (3 August 1918, p. 21) would be an enigma. A team mostly of Victorian soldiers playing soccer and beating a team of English soldiers in France during the First World War must surely be a rarity.

Yet the truth is far from that.

Sporting contests between Australian troops and their allies blossomed in all theatres of war for purposes of morale, fitness and recreation (not to mention gambling). Australian rules, rugby and cricket were popular games. But there is an argument to be made that soccer was even more prevalent; first because it was far easier to find an opponent from within the British troops, second because soccer was a much more popular game in pre-War Victoria than historians sometimes acknowledge, and third because soccer players tended to enlist with almost unanimous enthusiasm.

Evidence suggests that 1500 soccer devotees were at the Broadmeadows training camp in March 1915. Discoveries such as this photograph convinced me to investigate the position of soccer in the Victorian community and the Australian armed forces between 1914 and 1919.



Soccer enjoyed a migrant-fuelled boom in pre-war Melbourne. Participation more than doubled between 1908 and 1912 and kept rising before the war. Harry Dockerty, the man most responsible for the game’s Victorian regeneration in 1908 was not afraid to be boastful for the game he loved. So researchers must consider his statements on soccer participation carefully.

Dockerty suggested at various points during the war that soccer’s pre-war playing numbers were between 500 and 550. On 21 October 1914, Melbourne sporting newspaper, The Winner claimed 597 registered players in the Victorian Amateur British Football Association.

When it came to enlistments in the armed forces Dockerty had maintained in the early war period that around 40 per cent of Melbourne players had enlisted in the initial push while after the war much higher percentages were claimed. The Argus reported in 1919 that the Association claimed “90 per cent of the players had enlisted for service abroad or at home.”

Unfortunately all Association records from the period have long-since disappeared. (One of the few existing remnants of the period is the Dockerty Cup itself, along with some team photographs.) The quandary was how to confirm or rebut the claimed figures, which were:

  • between 500 and 600 players in Victoria,
  • 150-200 enlistments before the end of 1915,
  • around 300 further enlistments throughout the war.

The only thing for it was some hard slog through the archives.

We went through every soccer article we could find (mostly match reports) in the Argus and The Winner in 1914 and 1915, extracting the names of players and their teams. Each report listed the goalscorers and the better players as well as noting injuries and other matters. Lists of players were found but only occasionally.

The data collected therefore is necessarily incomplete. Those poor souls who never scored and never shone remain largely invisible in our method. Rarely are first names given, though first initials are sometimes included. Moreover, spelling of surnames seemed not to be a major priority for reporters. Even star players, like the Northumberland and Durham’s goalkeeper Robison/Robinson, were subject to misnaming.

One final irritation was the fact that own goals were represented as being scored by the unfortunate player who scored but were not registered in the list of scorers as an own goal. If not careful we could name a player in the wrong club.

The research process benefitted from the discovery of what we refer to as ‘motherload’ documents. The first was published on 28 April 1915, soon after Gallipoli but too soon to represent a response to that event. The Winner released a list of the names and clubs of 143 enlisted players.

The second vital list was the 1919 Age publication of the names of the 34 Melbourne Thistle players who enlisted and the eight of that number who perished in the war. From these sources and within the limitations outlined above we expected to uncover the names of perhaps 80 per cent of Victorian soccer players in the years 1914–1915. So we were confident of getting around 400 player names – as long as Dockerty had not been gilding the lily. 

As it turns out Dockerty’s figures were inaccurate; but he was understating them. Using our admittedly incomplete net, we have already gathered more than 500 names of Melbourne senior soccer players. Additional to these are 22 referees, and the 150 non-metropolitan players discovered in places like Mildura, Geelong and Kyabram.

To this figure needs to be added the 40 or more Wonthaggi players yet to be identified and named. One of our main findings is that there were probably more than 800 soccer players in Victoria in the pre-war period. Moreover, a total figure of 1000 players is not out of the question.

Other perhaps tangential findings include: Melbourne soccer players were mostly of Church of England or Presbyterian faiths while Catholics represented a 10 per cent minority against their national proportion of over 20 per cent; very few soccer players were from the professions, most being skilled tradesman or labourers.



The second part of our task has been to investigate enlistment numbers. As it stands we have established that just under 40 per cent of the players on the database enlisted.

We have done this via a triangulation method between the names we have gathered and the databases available at the Australian War Memorial and the ‘Australian Anzacs in the Great War’ project at the Australian Defence Force Academy.

Some of the names are easy to find. The enlistment and death of Lieutenant Goodson, a star player with Thistle were easy to confirm; the path of W. Anderson from Albert Park remains much more difficult to trace (given that 42 Victorian enlistees were named W. Anderson). Nonetheless we are not fazed and some ingenious detective work correlating age, birthplace and residence by Athas Zafiris has seen us identify a number of difficult cases.

Another process of identifying enlistees included looking at the date of embarkation. If a player's name kept appearing in news print in, for example, August 1915, it would eliminate the men with the same name who had already left Australian shores before that date. It is a painstaking process, yet we will continue with this detective work on dozens of individuals.

Another significant problem is the fact that a great number of Victorian soccer players who were British by birth returned to Britain to enlist very early in the war. Many of the names on our database fall into that category and obtaining costly access to the British databases will be the next stage in this part of the project.


Killed in Action

This is the most harrowing part of the story.

Soccer players not only enlisted in high numbers, many of them also paid the ultimate price, either dying in battle or later from their wounds.

The database reveals that of the 250 identified as enlisting, 52 died at the front. Of these, nine were from the Irymple club and eight from the Melbourne Thistle club.

Through our research, we found five stories telling the stories of these clubs and individuals from the Victorian soccer scene who gave so much to the war effort, which will be posted on in the week leading up to ANZAC Day 2015.

You can read them below.


While the project is continuing with a great deal of work yet to be done, we have established some important facts and arguments.

The first is that more adult men played soccer in pre-war Victoria (800–1000) than had previously been assumed. The second is that Victorian soccer players enlisted at a rate at least equal to that of the general population (40 per cent) but probably at twice that rate (around 80 per cent). Finally enlisted Victorian soccer soldiers suffered a mortality rate (20 per cent), a good deal higher than the general morality rate across the Australian Imperial Forces (15 per cent).

The next stages of this project will include an assessment of those who returned after the war. Did they stay in Australia? Did they play soccer again?

Soccer boomed once more in 1920 and exploded through the early 1920s. To what extent was it a game heavily influenced by veterans and their commemorations? A vital question will be: How did soccer seem to lose contact with the Anzac legend to which it had contributed so much?