Playing long balls into empty space since 2012.

Thursday 29 April 2021

Soccer in Victorian Schools in the 1950s

Last Saturday I received a call from Barbara at the Footscray Historical Society, alerting me to some photos she had found in Blue and Gold, the annual publication of the Footscray Technical School. She had noticed some soccer photos and thought I might be interested. 

Their holding runs from 1941 to1965, so I started at 65 and worked backwards. I found a healthy soccer culture that ran back to the formation of the senior team in 1956 [Horsham moment]. Prior to that soccer existed more marginally in the junior school but nonetheless with a sense of commitment.

After looking through the Footscray tech mags:

  • Soccer first played there in 1949 (though subsequently I have found references to a pre-war Footscray U14 school team)
  • First played by senior college in 1956
  • Rugby, baseball and lacrosse have a stronger presence
    • Indeed Rugby team seems to play in APS comp.
  • Continental European names gradually become dominant

Much of this seems to accord with what I thought I'd find -- though the pace of change seemed rapid:

  • 1956 Olympics?

Had to be more than that. And I think the main reason is the instutional push from the VASFA

Argus, Monday 30 June 1952, page 2

SOCCER men are after your boy!


IN a few days, maybe, a soccer football organiser, known as the Director of Schools' Football, will "grab" your son.

Overnight he may "convert" him from Australian Rules - which you, your father, and your grandfather played - to a "foreign" code.

The organiser is Mr. V. J. M. "Dick" Dixon, who last week was given this propaganda mission by the Victorian Soccer Association.

Under the very eyes of the Victorian Football League, he will distribute soccer balls and rule books, show the lads a trick or two, and encourage our many migrant teachers to spread the game.

Already soccer's strength has increased by about 400% in the last five years!

A professional man who last week heard of Mr. Dixon's "nefarious" plan lost his temper.

"Quit the sentiment," he snapped, "and let's kill soccer."

"If my kid took up a foreign, sissy game, I'd feel like kicking him out. I'd certainly pull him out of a soccer school."

NEED our friend really have worried?

Let us look at Victoria's football statistics. The following table lists the estimates of the various codes controlling bodies. Rugby Union and Rugby league are grouped together.

The table gives the total number of clubs, players and supporters, respectively.

Aust'n Rules           Soccer       Rugby

1,594                         170              46 

49,500                      2,200           950 

528,000                    8,000           6,000

The national code - Australian Rules - appears to be in an unassailable position.

Essendon district, alone, has 32 clubs and 1,300 players-almost as many as the State's entire rugby following!

Where, then, lies the danger?

Unquestionably it lies in the support of almost 600,000 migrants and in the brilliant and sustained organising zeal of the soccer controllers.

RUGBY, although not a spent force, is not as powerful as it was before the war. It is not a serious challenger in Victoria.

But soccer's backing has increased fourfold in five years - and it is said to be still rising rapidly!

And now, with "sinister" intent, the soccer men plan to attack our State schools. The future power of our own game may well depend on the ensuing football battle in the schools.

There's nothing slipshod about the Soccer Association's methods. Not satisfied with Mr. Dixon's activities, they also plan to appoint an English or Scottish professional as "coach of coaches."

He will be paid £1,000 a year - big pay by. English standards - and begin his campaigning on January 1, 1953.

The "pro." will devote much of his time to polishing the school coaches.

And what has Mr. A. H. Ramsay, the Director of Education, to say about this soccer infiltration into his schools?


MR. RAMSAY mastered both our game and rugby and has an open Mind.

"I'll leave it to the head masters," he says. "If they want soccer they can have it."

"My only concern is that every fit boy should be given the chance to play a winter game in which he can acquire skill and enjoy himself.

"It's a good thing for a lad to get some skin off his nose now and then. It makes a man of him."

You might be surprised what Mr Like McBrien, secretary of the all-powerful V.F.L., says about schools and soccer.

"The V.F.L. has no desire to "dictate what game boys play," he comments charitably.

"Any sport that requires teamwork is a marvellous game.

"We're not at war with soccer. But we are proud of our game, and, naturally, we'll do our utmost to foster it.

"One thing is certain: Soccer won't succeed by revolution; maybe it'll get somewhere by evolution."

Some school authorities would not be as kind as Mr. McBrien.

The Christian Brothers, for instance, are most unlikely to let soccer get a hold In their schools In Victoria.

One Brothers' sportsmaster said: "Australian Rules is the game in our schools. And it will stay that way."

But Mr. C. M. Gilray, head master of Scotch College, adopts the tolerant attitude.

His boys get a choice"Rules," rugby, hockey, basketball. . . . "It's better that way," he says.

Mr. George Langley, principal of Melbourne High School, Victoria's biggest school, agrees with Mr. Gilray. His boys play lacrosse and baseball also, and they used to play rugby, but It lapsed for want of support.

CONTRARY to popular opinion, there is no quarrel, overt or hidden, between the V.F.L. and the Soccer Association.

Certainly, there have been hot words over the V.F.L.'s alleged "selfishness" with its enclosed grounds. "But that's all forgotten now," the football men say.

Mr. E. B. Coles (of G. J. Coles'), who is president of the Soccer Association, emphasised the "harmony" between the two codes.

"You couldn't even say we are challenging Australian Rules," he says.

"All we're doing is to try and provide facilities for all those who want to play the international game."

Mr. Ray Locke, secretary of the Victorian Rugby Union, is emphatic that there is room in Victoria for all football codes.

He believes that many small men, incapable of succeeding in Australian Rules, can be champions at rugby. And Mr. Locke, too, has his eye on the schools.

Ten years should tell the story.

The "goalie" saves . . . a familiar scene to Victoria's

growing number of soccer players and supporters. Soccer men are now infiltrating school territory with this international game.

So indeed there was a driving force behind the shift. And there were a number of responses also.

The problem was the difficulty of finding a coach which took three years. Len Young came and instituted a lot of improvements in Victorian soccer culture

Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1957), Tuesday 29 March 1955, page 20

Soccer in schools this year


The Victorian Soccer Council will allocate un limited funds this season for the propagation of soccer in Victorian schools.

Mr. Len Young, imported soccer coach from England, last night asked the council for £500 to start a school competition in Victoria.

He said that in the 10 months he had lived in Melbourne he had been in touch with a number of schools and had been surprised at the response he had received.

Made friends

Some masters had told him that soccer, because of its liberal distribution of footballs, training books, and referees' charts, had made many friends among Victorian schools.

Mr. W. R. Thomas, V.A.S.F.A. chairman, told the council that Mr. Young's request for £500 needed no discussion. He suggested to council that the £500 should be only a first payment.

"We have more than £3,000 in a trust fund, and this should be made available to Mr. Young to propagate the game here," he said,

The association decided to organise a school competition in soccer this year and to buy equipment and lease grounds.

I spoke with Socceroo Ted Smith about the process, figuring that his development occurred during this time.

He told me that in 1950 there were 4 high school teams

  • northcote
  • uni high
  • melb high
  • hampton

went to Preston tech old boys

vic colts coached by Len Young

at 18 he went to moreland.

In Ted's case the soccer in schools program certainly produced a result and he points to a number of players who made it to a pretty high level. He also bemoans the colts program being squashed after on two years. This 1953 article from the Australian Jewish Herald also points to the value of this program



Negotiations are under way for the Swinburne Technical School senior soccer team to join the ranks of Hakoah.

Hakoah easily outmatched their slower opponents, Preston, in a charity game at St. Kevin’s Oval last Sunday.

Final scores were Hakoah 8, Preston 5. (Friday 4 September 1953, page 17)

Then there is the response of Australian Rules, not directly to soccer in schools but rather the whole growth of the game.

Age (Melbourne, Vic. : 1854 - 1954), Tuesday 28 July 1953, page 15

Collingwood's Offer on Northcote Ground

Collingwood Football Club made an offer to Northcote city council at its meeting last night to pay the rental of the Northcote football ground in the event of Northcote Football Club disbanding.

Three representatives of Collingwood club waited on the council — the president (Mr. Sid Coventry); secretary and manager (Mr. G S. Carlyon), and treasurer (Mr. Neil Kearns). Mr. Carlyon explained that his club had received a letter from Northcote club saying it might have to disband. 

"Collingwood, as a friendly body in this area, felt it should make a move to ensure that Northcote ground was retained for Australian football, even if only by a junior club on a Saturday," he said. "We do know that foreign codes of football desire to obtain, the ground. . . "

Lest we think that Collingwood was a loose cannon on this instance, a year later this analysis of the problems facing Australian rules in Melbourne was published in the Argus given the threatened collapse of the VFA.

If this went out of existence - and that is a real possibility - the way would be opened for other codes to take over the grounds in the growing outer districts.

The threat from these other codes means little at the moment. Any expansion, they may have made in recent years is due solely to the number of New Australians now in our midst. Nothing can draw them from their national games, so what they do has no effect upon Australian Rules.

What does matter, however, is what their children do.

In this lies the danger to Australian Rules if these other codes get control of the outer ring of grounds now occupied by the Association. This would give them a tremendous impetus in the rapidly growing areas of Melbourne.

Not only would it make the way easy for the New Australians to have their children play the other codes, it would also give them a splendid opportunity to woo young Australians, for the major ground in any district is the focal point for all young sports lovers.

Consequently the League must decide whether to bolster the Association sides or, somehow or another, hold their grounds. (17 April 1954, page 4)

Tuesday 27 April 2021

100 Years Ago Today 29 April, 2021

Portland Guardian, Monday 2 May 1921, page 2


On Wednesday next on the Lighthouse ground the A and B teams of the Cupid will give an exhibition of the popular English game of Soccer football. Both are capable exponents of this outdoor pastime, and the public are assured of an interesting afternoon's sport, and will gain a knowledge of the various points connected with this skilful game, so much the rage in the Old Country. The proceeds will be devoted to the Portland Hospital, the President of which (Mr F. Marshall) desires to heartily thank the captain of the ship and others instrumental in organising the match in aid of the institution's funds. The kick-off is timed for 3 o'clock sharp. 

Australasian (Melbourne), Saturday 30 April 1921, page 17




During the course of a recent hurried visit to Eastern parts, I tried to note any signs of athletic vitality. The climate of the Celebes, Java, Straits Settlements, and Malay States, is not of a type to encourage any unnecessary exercise. The temperature rarely exceeds 95 degrees, but is still more rarely under 80 degrees, and its accompanying moisture makes it enervating. A day at Macassar, where, as in Java, the Dutch are in charge, showed that Association football (soccer) was played, for the goalposts were up on the padang, or playing space, in the centre of The town. Still better evidence was the sight, towards evening, of some 10 or 12 Malay youngsters, aged eight to 12 or so, getting keenly excited over a game amongst themselves—barefoot, and with a round bladder merely, for ball. In Java, the Dutch schoolgirls were found playing basket-ball and tennis. I was told that here, too, soccer throve, but that running and athletics, as we know them, were but rarely practised. At Singapore and in the Malay, where Britain rules, the evidences of sport were more frequent. Every sizeable town has its playground, where cricket, tennis, and football (both soccer and Rugby) are held, and generally an annual athletic meeting. The Chinese (who form about half the population) are quite keen athletes, and hold their own meetings, and produce, I was told, some quite respectable performers, especially in Singapore. I saw lots of Chinese practising soccer, and that is quite the most popular game among the non-European population. At Seramban (F.M.S.). the Malay boys as they came out of their high school, went straight to the soccer field, picked sides, and played keenly and well. These lads learn English, and use all English terms, such as "off-side," "goal," "left wing." They are acquainted with overhead kicking, heading, and the other tricks of the expert soccer player. 

Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners' Advocate, Saturday 30 April 1921, page 10


The season will open to-day with a record numbler of teams, 61 having entered. The entries (which include lodges and schools) exceed the number of teams play ing under any other winter sport in New-castle, and the prospects for a successful season never looked brighter. At the Tramway Ground the new elevens of Lysaght's United and Newcastle City will meet. Lysaght's consist of players who are practically new to this country. Morgan, the ex-Weston back, Williams, who for a few seasons played with Canterbury (Sydncy) being practically the only exceptions. They include three Oughtons, one in goal and the other two In, the half-backs. Thomas, the centre for ward, played for Lysaght's (England) in the same position, and is stated to be in a fine player. Newcastle City include such well-known ex-Merewether and Hamilton players as Robson, Frew, Gill, Sneddon, Watson, Coppock, Manderson, Williams. The teams met in a practice match a few weeks ago, City winning one to nil. The early Tramway Ground game will be be tween Hamilton and Wallsend Rovers. West Wallsend seniors will be at home to Wallsend, and these two teams, whose following is a good one, generally provide a hard game. Wallsend Rovers will visit Adamstown, Rovers receiving their initiation into the top ranks of Soccer. All Junior grades will be set in full swing.

Mail (Adelaide), Saturday 23 April 1921, page 3


The fourth interstate railway football carnival 

...... The visitors were prominent for their smart work, but were apt to overrun the ball and frequently displayed British Association methods.

Advertiser (Adelaide), Saturday 30 April 1921, page 2



All Players and intending Players roll up To-day at McKinnon parade, North Adelaide, for Practice Match.

Journal (Adelaide), Friday 29 April 1921, page 1


By Left Wing.

An All-Australian Game. 

The one regrettable part about football in Australia that appeals to me is that our purely Australian code does not reign supreme among the footballers so that we could have interstate matches for the premiership of this great continent (writes "Kickers" in The Melbourne Herald). I am not unmindful of the fact that we have matches between teams representing all the States at the carnivals—one is to be held in Perth this season—but it cannot be declared seriously that the game in either Sydney or Brisbane is of that standard which would make a Melbourne combination extend itself. This is due to the fact that the great majority of footballers in those cities play either the Rugby League or Rugby Union game. It is what they have been educated in. That football as played by the "rugger'' man or the "soccerite" is a fine game nobody can deny. All health-promoting games are good. The "rugger" man swears by his code: the "soccer" player sings the praises of his, but, having seen all kinds. I shout for the Australian code. Eventually our game may become deeply rooted in Brisbane, where leading grounds have been secured for this season. A prominent man active in the interests of the Australian game there was in Melbourne recently and spoke most hopefully of its progress. In New South Wales, too, there is a forward movement in favour of it. The Rlvcrina District has adopted it, and last season operations in Sydney were more encouraging than ever they have been. This has been attributed to a great extent to the fondness for something essentially Australian of the Australian soldiers, thousands of whom, when in France, either played or took the keenest interest in the game. Since their return they have stuck by it. As everybody knows in all the States, with the exception of New South Wales and Queensland, our code is followed as that of the king of football games. 

Also 100 years ago spurs beat wolves in the FA Cup final. 73K and the Australian cricketers were guests of the FA

Monday 26 April 2021

Merewether Advance Roll of Honour

I've brought this up to date given that the replica board is well under construction.

Northern Times 23 October 1917 reported that "a pleasing feature as far as Newcastle was concerned, that since the war began, and recruits had been called for, the numbers that had gone from the Newcastle district were far in excess in average, of any other district in Australia." The piece argued that the "Merewcther Football Club had done that part well by sending 71 of their members who had made a name for themselves on the battlefield, as well as the football field." These were words spoken at the occasion of the unveiling of the Roll of Honour for the MAFC enlisted players.

The board was described as being "constructed of Queensland maple, measures 6ft wide by 5ft. 6in. high, with canopy top, supported by fluted pillars and scrolls, and bearing the Union Jack and Australian flags and a football. The colours of the club are hung on each side ot the board, which is inscribed: Merewether Advance Football Club, Roll or Honour; for King and Country."

Unfortunately, the board seems to have been lost, perhaps demolished along with the arts building that housed it. Hopefully it was rescued and is sitting somewhere ready to be discovered when I venture to Newcastle this Saturday for a bit of a research and discovery trip.

Below I have transcribed the names as best I could. I'm still haing difficulties with a few (see the asterisks). Also, the board lists only 67 names and not the 71 claimed so there are more names to find. A subsequent article suggests that the number was as high as 76

Merewether Advance Roll of Honour 1914 – 1918

E. Back
A. Lewis
F. Poole [D]
E. Poole [D]
W. Victor
R. Betholli
H. Wallace
C. Pickersgill
J. Pickersgill
A. Shepherd
W. Westhead
E. Clark (E. Clarke was killed)
J. Bartley
J. Doyle
A. Jennings
J. Thorpe
T. Wardaugh
F. Albert [D]
E. Richardson [D]
H. Grey*
F. Newburn
P. Coppock
D. Lloyd
J. Pearce
W. Powell
J. Jones
G. Adamthwaite
H. Finch
E. Peacock
A. Jones [D]
T. Allanson [D]
J. Allanson
E. Firth
J. Ferguson [D]
F. Banks [D]
C. Stewart
J. Powell
G. Ruddy [D]
J. Stewart
C. Hobson (wounded)
T. Hope
J. Gill
R. Twist
W. Twist
J. Ruddy
A. Wright
T. Bell
R. Trimingham
R. Mallen
A. Searle
G.* G**** (Alfred Gibb?)
F. Thopmpson
G. Houghton
G. Barnes
A. McLean
J. McKenzie
F. Harvey
D. Williams
G. Searle
W. O’Neil
J. Elliott
E. Sparkes
A. Williams
J. Blackburn
J. Banks
J. Mitchell
J. Winters
M. Gidley
J. Hobson

Sunday 25 April 2021

Soccer and Anzac

This piece was written in 2012. Yet I think it retains a freshness and perhaps a timelessness that is important. It is by far the most popular article on this site and I'm sure people keep coming back to read it. 
It formed the basis of 9000 word piece "Fronting Up: Australian Soccer and the First World War" published in June 2014 in the International Journal for the History of Sports
Each year on Anzac Day members of the Australian soccer community wonder, sometimes aloud: does this day have anything to do with our game? Where do we fit in the Anzac picture? 'No,' and 'Nowhere,' are the usual answers.

Considered by many a 'foreign game', soccer can seem so out of place and time in any story about Australian national development, growth and maturity. So surely the game played by Sheilas, Wogs and Poofters (and Poms and children, two categories missed by Johnny Warren) has no place in the tales of our warriors and heroes at Gallipoli and elsewhere? It just doesn't quite sit with the received legend. Perhaps these attitudes are breaking down today but there is long history of excluding soccer from the 'legend'.   

In 1931 a most extreme example of this exclusion was published in Hobart where soccer authorities sought access to the North Hobart football ground, normally reserved for Australian rules. They requested its use for representative games on the two days of the season when it was not needed by the STFA for first grade matches. Typically there were expressions of resistance to this desire, one of which was a letter to the Mercury penned by ‘Derwentside’. He argued that 
“Soccer” players and followers in Hobart are in a minority only a self-centred, and, which is worse, a selfish, player or supporter, would deny. Whatever merits “Soccer” has as a winter game, it has not here the following, status, or genuine sportsman-like appeal to the average Australian as the game which some fifty odd years has evolved under the name of Australian football. The proper development of a nation’s national pastimes, particularly the winter ones, does more to build up a virile nation than attempts to foster - or is it foist? - an exotic pastime upon them. Among the many thousands of Australians who manned so doggedly the trenches and trudged the fields of France and Flanders - to say nothing of the Gallipoli campaign - not a small percentage got the qualities which made the A.I.F. world renowned from the fields in at least four States devoted in winter to football played under Australian rules. 
This is one more letter published in relation to one more moment in the interminable squabble for playing space in Australian sport. And it articulated many of the sentiments that had come to take hold in the Australian sporting imaginary: soccer is low, unpopular, unestablished, minor, foreign (“exotic” in fact) and is being imposed/foisted on Australians by selfish and self-centred agents of foreign influence. More significantly here, it excludes soccer and its culture from the realm of Australian miltary history, particularly Gallipoli.

Yet soccer does have its place in the story. Indeed, soccer was at Gallipoli, and not merely in spirit. It was played there. The stunning image below of a soccer match being played at Gallipoli is the kind of picture that leaves nothing to be said. An organised game of soccer was played between Allied troops and they were being cheered on by hundreds of others. At Gallipoli.

The image is located at 5.49-5.52 in this public domain video. The game was
conducted as part of the illusion that the Allies were carrying on as normal when
in fact plans were being made to evacuate the Gallipoli Peninsula

While more evidence is needed to connect this image directly with Australian troops, they certainly played soccer on Lemnos in December 1915. Lemnos was loaned by Greece as a base "for operations on the Gallipoli Peninsula" and the following image shows members of the 6th Battalion playing there against a team from HMS Hunter. The men were likely en route to Egypt after participating in the Gallipoli campaign.

The team from the destroyer HMS Hunter playing a game of soccer against a 6th
Battalion team at a camp on the Aegean island of Lemnos. Australian War Memorial.

More symbolic and potent evidence of the Australian game's intimate connection with Gallipoli lies in the remarkable story of the Soccer "Ashes". They were conceived in 1923 during New Zealand's tour to Australia.

Mr. Mayer (manager of the New Zealand soccer team) took back to the dominion the ashes in a box with a history attached to it. Mr. W. A. Fisher (secretary of the Queensland association) possessed a silver safety razor case presented to him when he left for the war, and it was with him when he landed with the Anzacs. He presented it to Mr. Mayer, and it contains some of the soil of Queensland and New South Wales, whose representatives played in the test matches. Mr. Mayer intends to have it mounted in New Zealand woods so that it may be a prized memento in connection with international matches between Australia and New Zealand. (The (Adelaide) Register, 10 August, p7)

The "Ashes" tag appeared to be a typical symbolic nod to the cricketing Ashes until it was revealed by the Sydney Morning Herald 13-years later that the case literally contained ashes.
The "Ashes," incidentally, are a genuine trophy. They are a relic of the New Zealand team's visit to Australia 13 years ago, when the ashes of cigars smoked by the captains of the New Zealand and Australian team were placed In a plated safety-razor case, which, in turn, was enclosed in a casket of New Zealand and Australian timbers, honeysuckle and maple, suitably ornamented and inscribed. This trophy bears a record of the test games between the two countries since 1922, and was won three years ago by Australia, which beat the visiting New Zealand team in every test. (3 July 1936)

The Sydney Sun-Herald (5 Sep., p 41) reiterates the story of the
Australia-NZ soccer "Ashes" during the 1954 New Zealand tour of Australia.
The 'Ashes', courtesy Ozfootball
Frequent test series over more than 30 years between the two Anzac nations, playing for a trophy that 'saw' action at Gallipoli and is inscribed with powerful cultural icons seems to be clear evidence of a deep and abiding relationship between soccer and the Anzac story.

But it is not so simple. Soccer is a game whose high points and poignancies are explained as statistical spikes or historical curios whereas its low points are seen to be the norm; its joys are accidental and its miseries systemic. The burden of proof for the soccer historian is eternal in its recurrence. So the soccer historian needs to work harder than most to have their stories even registered.

Four examples

There are many other examples of soccer being present in Australian military contexts in the First World war. The four presented below are not particularly special or significant. Indeed, they are presented precisely because of how low-key and mundane they seem.

1. A wartime awards ceremony in which a team receives winners' medals in an inter-company soccer competition.

Feuquieres, France. 3 January 1919. Presentation of medals C Company "soccer" team,
winners of inter-company football competition, on steps of the Town Hall in the village
square. Australian War Memorial

2. Another decorated wartime soccer team, runners-up in a divisional competition.

3. Soccer balls ordered for the troops.

The Euroa Advertiser reports in July 1916 seeing
. . . a cable from Cairo to headquarters, 'Send immediately six tents, 10 small pianos, 5,000,000 printed letter paper and envelopes, 50 sets of cricket material, 50 soccer footballs [my emphasis], 50 association footballs [presumably Sherrins]'.

4. HMAS Sydney's soccer team, October 1918

Group portrait of the soccer team representing the crew of HMAS Sydney.
HMAS Sydney was at the southern naval base of the Royal Navy's Grand
Fleet, near the Forth of Firth, Scotland, during a break from patrols of the North
Sea with the 2nd Light Cruiser Squadron. Australian War Memorial

These four moments, along with scores of others that could be identified and presented here, speak for themselves. And for most historians such a collection of evidence could begin to suggest a pattern. Yet the soccer historian struggles against the idea that that is all they are: a collection of instances; random, special cases that defy and deny the truth of the overarching myth that soccer, even if it was there, was never really there.

Yet it was there.

Soccer into the war

Prior to the First World War soccer had undergone something of a renaissance in Australia. After fitful beginnings in the 1880s, organised soccer spluttered into life in the first decade of the new century. Recovering from the depression and energised by waves of migrants, the game bloomed around Australia. Sydney, Brisbane and Hobart had thriving competitions. The 1912 Townsville competion, for example had 8 clubs in a population of just over 10,000. In large country towns like Rockhampton and Toowoomba, the game emerged and re-emerged like migrant-fuelled spot fires. In Victoria, the Dockerty Cup commenced in 1909 and became a central plank in the game’s re-growth. Club fixtures were regular and 1913 saw the reinstatement of the NSW-Victoria clash after a 25-year break.

War brought much of this expansion to a grinding halt. The Hobart Mercury recollected prior to the resumption of the interstate rivalry between Tasmania and Victoria in 1921:
The last occasion on which a Victorian team visited Tasmania was in August, 1914, and it was at Hobart when war was declared. Seven of the team volunteered for active service immediately on return to Melbourne. They beat the Tasmanian team on that occasion by two goals to nil, and earlier in the season at Melbourne had won by six goals to nil. Victoria have an exceptionally strong team, and Tasmania is also well represented, three members of the team, J. H. Honeysett, Stonor, and Beattie being in the team which was defeated by Victoria in 1914.
Like their Melburnian brethren, soccer players across the country were enlisting in droves. Each state felt the slashing of player numbers to the point where competitions were starting to look unviable. The Mercury claimed that "Soccer football stood out as a fine example to all sporting organisations in Tasmania. The Elphin Club had sent every one of its playing members to the war." (31 March, 1915) In South Australia player losses were also mounting. In April 1915 the Sturt Club reported losing "the services of eight of last year's players, who have enlisted in the Expeditionary Forces, and are now in Egypt, but several new men having been secured the prospects are bright." (The Register, 1 April)

While these departures were causing the game to wane, the clubs 'happily' sent their members off to war with a sense of duty and pride, as well as a semblance of ownership. The Adelaide Tramways team placed its enlisted members in a prominent position in its 1914 team photo (below).

Even though plans to form a national association were scuttled by the outbreak of war, the game carried on as best it could. The Argus of 9 August 1915 reports:
The annual international match between teams representing England and Scotland, under the auspices of the Victorian Amateur British Football Association took place on Saturday on the Fitzroy Cricket ground the authorities of which on this occasion granted the free use of the ground as net proceeds from the match were to be handed over to Lady Stanley's fund for Wounded Australian Soldiers.
Yet it was clear that the inescapable war was taking its toll. The Argus goes on:
Four of the players who took part in last year’s match are on active service, namely Lowe, Golding, Guthrie and Hyde, the latter of whom is at present in hospital at Plymouth, England, wounded. Of those who took part in Saturday's encounter 13 of them represented their various countries last year - seven for England and six for Scotland. Three of England’s representatives and two of Scotland's have enlisted and were relieved by their respective commandants to enable them to take part in Saturday's match.
The massive commitment made by soccer players to the war effort meant that the game was being played on borrowed time. And by 1916 the Melbourne competition was suspended, not to be resumed until after the war. According to the Argus, when soccer did resume, in 1919:
At the first annual meeting of the British Association, on June 16, the report covering a period of four years commencing 1915 disclosed the interesting fact that 90 per cent. of the players had enlisted for service abroad or at home. No competitive football had been played during the war.
In Toowoomba (then a town of 13,000 people) the commitment was remarkable. On the resumption of soccer in Toowoomba in 1919:
At the annual meeting of the British Football Association it was reported that 140 members of the association had gone to the Front . . . During the evening the Chairman extended a hearty welcome home to the returned men present, and Mr. S. Morgan responded on behalf of the returned men. The secretary stated that the British Football Association ("Soccer") was the only football association that had an honour roll in Toowoomba. The names of Syd. Cousens, Lit. Groom, (both pictured below) A. Dundasch, Colin Groom, W. Bury, and J. McManus were recorded in the minutes as having paid the supreme sacrifice in the late Great War. (Brisbane Courier, 4 April, p11)
Private. Littleton Campbell Groom. 42nd Bn. Australian Inf. Killed in action
10th June, 1917. Age 28. Son of Frederick William and Fanny Matilda Groom,
of Lorriane, Herries St., Toowoomba, Queensland. Australian War Memorial
Private Sydney Leake Cousens, 26th Battalion, of Toowoomba, Qld; formerly of
Yorkshire, England. Killed in action at Villers-Bretonneux, France, on 8 August 1918. He was
33 years of age. His brother 816 Sergeant Stanley Clifford Cousens, 15th Battalion,
was killed in action at Pozieres, France, on 9 August 1916. Australian War Memorial

Irymple and the Caledonians

Pre-war soccer had not only grown in the metropolitan and larger regional centres. It had taken root in the country as well. Small towns like Broken Hill, Charters Towers and Renmark had bustling soccer cultures.

Mildura's developing two-team competition in this period rescuscitated a game that had flowered there briefly in the mid-1890s (curiously, at a time when the game virtually vanished in Melbourne). Weekly matches were played between clubs based in Mildura and the neighbouring town of Irymple. This microcosmic competition provides its own story and gestures towards the general tragedy of war. Of the 11 players pictured in the Irymple team of 1913 (below), at least seven enlisted. Of this number, five lost their lives.

Yet the scale of this tragedy is sadly exceeded by the example of the Caledonian team in Perth. Eight members of the club lost their lives in active service. The following image depicts, in uniform, the club's first XI and marks its six members who died. John Williamson's Soccer Anzacs (from which the image is extracted) documents the Caledonian story from origins to the club's final demise.

Commemorating Anzac Soccer?

The Toowoomba, Irymple and Caledonian tragedies (among so many others) underline a question that many in the soccer community have asked: "Why don’t we honour the Anzac legend with a commemoration similar to those arranged by other codes?"

Perhaps the failure is for good reasons - like not wanting to get caught up in a perceived jingoism or not wanting to rain on someone else's parade. But perhaps it's because soccer doesn't actually know its own history.

And it's not as if the game has never seen a role for itself in the remembering of Anzac.
Charity Match at Moonee Valley. Under the auspices of the Metropolitan and District “Soccer” Association a match for the benefit of the Anzac appeal will be played on the Moonee Valley racecourse. Moonee Ponds United will play Metropolitan and District Association. (Argus, 9 April 1927, p25)
It's just that soccer no longer seems not to know how to approach Anzac. In 2009, Football Federation Victoria tried to institute an Anzac match between Hume City (Turkish) and South Melbourne (Greek). It produced neither the desired symbolism nor the expected fireworks. After three years, the idea appears to have been shelved.

Personally, I'm not sure I would want to see a blockbuster Anzac soccer match develop - though in the unlikely event that it could be arranged, a game between Australia and Turkey might be appropriate. I think there is already too much hoop-la around what should be a solemn and sacred occasion. But the soccer community needs to work harder to make the broader community conscious of the game's role in Anzac and military history in general, whether that be seen in a positive or negative light. We need to understand why and how it came to be that a game so 'foreign' in the popular imagination participated so thoroughly in a campaign that for many is a founding moment in a vital Australian legend, or myth. We owe it to the memories of the men who formed the Returned Soldiers team in Brisbane to remind people they were there and then returned. After all, their team's very foundation was an assertion of memory.

Finally, we owe something to the men of Irymple and the Caledonians, the ones who didn't return. War is a waste of youth and life and it is driven by people who don't get their hands dirty or bloody, but we cannot afford to forget the stories and the details of those who paid that terrible price.

We must remember but we must remember well. Lest we forget, indeed.

Ian Syson

Friday 23 April 2021

Early WW1 soccer casualities from WA

Western Mail (Perth), Friday 28 May 1915, page 29


(By "Soccer.")

As was to bc expected with such a large number of soccer players serving the Empire the lists of casualties and injured that have come through have contained the names of those who have at one time or another taken an active interest in the fame. Since the Australian Expeditionary Forces have left these shores five have sealed their loyalty to the flag with their lives and two have been injured. Those that have been called are Majors Parker and Carter (Perth club), Privates Amos (Referee), Courtney (Training College club) and Lance Corporal Hale (Claremont Glebe), whilst Lieutenant Rockcliffe and R. Wigzell (referee) have been wounded. The Association is preparing a roll of honour which is to include players and officials. 

Western Mail (Perth), Friday 25 June 1915, page 29


(By "Soccer.")

Since my notes of last week Association football has sustained a great loss in the death of three players who have been killed in action at the Dardanelles, viz Privates Will. H. Nicholl and Leslie Cecil Price, and Lance-Corporal W. B Blair. The deceased were members of Fremantle, Perth, and Training College teams, respectively, and were good exponents. "Nic," as the former was designated by his friends, represented this State against the English cricket team in 1908. and the latter was Scotland's outside right in the international against England last season. Truly soccer exponents are contributing to-wards the blood tax being exacted, as up to the time of writing 10 have paid tor their loyalty to the Empire with their lives. May they rest in peace.

Don't forget the Caledonians whose 8 deaths (6 first teamers) were not noted until towards the end of the war.

Thursday 22 April 2021

100 Years Ago Today, 22 April 1921


Townsville Daily Bulletin, Friday 22 April 1921, page 5


Idalia Rovers v. Railways.— V. Smart, McLennan. Cheetham, B. Lynam, Paterson, F. Bennett, Morrison, Birchell. Price, T. R Bennett, Sheehan. 

Queensland Times (Ipswich), Saturday 23 April 1921, page 3

LINKS WITH THE PAST. ------(Compiled from the files of the "Queensland Times," of 25 years ago), 


Bush Rats Football Club-The annual meeting (Mr. W. J. Lynch in the chair) was held in the Dinmore Workmen's Club-room. Reported that the past season had been a most successful one, the first team having succeeded in winning the Challenge Cup and badges of the Queensland British Football Association. 

Election of Officers. - The Rev, A. Boran, patron; president, Mr. W. J. Lynch; vice-presidcnts, Messrs Lewis Thomas, M.L.A., J. Hudson, W. Reynolds, Wmin. Stafford, Joll StafforJ, M. Jeffrey, M. Bognudf, T. Scheofield, J. Hodgson, E. G. Morgan, and A. H. Roberts; committee, Messrs H, Campbell, W. Caddie, W. Jeffrey, A, Stewart, Mat Bailey (secretary), and T. Schofield, with Mr. Peter Levacey r.s a referee in the Brisbane matches.

Tweed Daily (Murwillumbah), Saturday 23 April 1921, page 4




SOCCER. -There was a good attendance at the meeting held on Thursday by those interested in soccer. It is hoped during the coming season to place before the public a game worthy of their support.


Mercury, Tuesday 19 April 1921, page 8



The annual general meeting of the British Association for Soccer football was held in the Town-hall last evening, Mr H Oliver presiding over a good attendance of members, and others interested. The report for the year stated that keen interest had been maintained in the various competitions, the standard of play, especially in the Tasmanian born players, being a noticeable feature of last season's games. The Cottrcll Dormcr cup, carrying with it the State championship, was won for the second time in succession by the South Hobart Club, who did not suffer a defeat. Corinthians were runners up. On the completion of this competition the St George's Club did not enter for the Falkindcr charity cup. and it was won by the Corinthians, who met Hobart in the final, and drew with them after extra time had been played. In the resultant play off they proved themselves the stronger team and annexed the cup. The Nurse cup competition for second division teams resulted in some excellently contested games, Corinthians eventually winning by a comfortable margin. 

During the close season the committee took advantage of the visit of HMS Renown to play a representative match against the naval men which was played on the association cricket ground before several thousand interested spectators who evinced keen interest at the cleverness displaycd by the contesting teams. The Tasmanian eleven showed excellent form against their more experienced opponent, the match resulting in a draw. The prospects for the coming season were full of promise and the committee was at present in communication with the Commonwealth Football Association Sydney, with regard to the proposed visit of a reprcsentativc English team to Australia in 1922. The Granville Club, one of the strongest clubs in New South Wales was desirous of visiting Tasmania this season. The association was indebted to Mr R H Kirfoot for his services as referee during the season. The balance sheet showed a credit of £7 16s 6d

The Chairman, in moving the adoption of the report and balance sheet expressed pleasure at the large attendance there that evening. The annual report appeared to him to augur well for the sport, and he hoped that the game would go ahead. The question of securing a playing ground for the growing sport was going to prove troublesome, but the members would have to help in this direction and not leave all the work to the secretary.

The motion was seconded and carried The election of officers resulted as follows: Patron Sir William Allardyce, vice patron, Col Snowden president Major Cottrel-Dormer, vice presidents (re-elected), hon secretary, Mr L Honeysett, assistant hon secretary Mr J H Honeysett, treasurer Mr E V Williams, auditors, Messrs Bennison and Followes

The question of securing a site for the club to hold their matches was discussed, and a motion by Mr J H Honeysett that "a committee be appointed to inquire into the feasibility of obtaining a ground for the club," was seconded and carried.

It was decided that the opening day of the season be left to the executive committee, opinion by the meeting appearing to favour next Saturday week for the first game.

Mercury (Hobart), Saturday 23 April 1921, page 5


There is to be a practice match for Corinthians at Lindisfarne today. Players please catch the 2.15 p.m. boat.


Port Adelaide News, Friday 22 April 1921, page 8

The British Association football match between Patrick Thistle and Glasgow Rangers, in the Scottish Cup final, resulted in a win for Patrick Thistle, who scored one goal, and Glasgow Rangers failed to score.