41000 Watch a ‘Strenuous’ Match of Girls’ Football (1929)

In the week leading up to and following the AFLW match between Fremantle and Collingwood on 10 February, there was plenty of talk around concerning the crowd, and how the attendance that day beat a record that had stood since 1929 for women’s sport.

There was so little information about that game 89 years ago that I decided to do a little digging myself, to see what, if anything, I could discover.

Using Trove, the wonderful (and free) resource provided online by the National Library of Australia, I went to the Adelaide Advertiser of 1929. Assuming that a football match would occur during football season, I began my search around late March, looking through Monday and Friday editions. It turns out that the match in question was played on Saturday, 10 August 1929 at the Adelaide Oval, in front of an officially estimated crowd of 41,000. But there’s more to this than meets the eye. The good people of Adelaide got an awful lot more than a “girls’ football match”.

That Saturday was the day of the Charity Carnival in Adelaide, something of a tradition in that city at the time. Most sporting associations took the weekend off to support the carnival, and it was a bye weekend for the SANFL, with the South Australian team in Perth to play WA.

Before the action at the Adelaide Oval, there was a parade down King William Street to the oval. The  Advertiser estimated that upwards of 60,000 people saw the parade, the Carnival, or both.

The “girls’ football match”, reported in the Advertiser of 12 Aug 1929 under the heading “STRENUOUS FOOTBALL”, was the last of many amusements put on for the punters that day. The match was played in two fifteen-minute halves, which was apparently enough “…especially for those who carried weight”.  The game between Charles Moore & Co., and the Mirror Shirt & Pyjama Company was begun with a ball dropped from an aircraft (something AFLX should probably look at).

In the reporter’s summary, which runs to 8 paragraphs, there are a number of disparaging comments about the style of play and some flagrant disregard for the rules. Moore’s, who “…seemed to have had more practice than their opponents”, came from behind in the last couple of minutes to win 5-5-35 to 4-0-24.

Curiously, in the previous Friday’s (9th Aug) edition, under the heading ‘Carnival Calendar’, there is no mention of this match, although there are directions for the massed bands, girls’ clubs, boy scouts and so on. It seems that the attendance at the Charity Carnival may have topped 43,000 the previous year, but there was no women’s football on the bill. There was, however, Lacrosse, but because both men’s and women’s teams were participating that crowd doesn’t count as a ‘stand alone’ women’s match. But does the 1929 one? There was a lot more going on than a game of footy.

 

  • The Adelaide Chronicle, 1 August 1929 (the teams at training, and the Mirror team)
  • ‘Carnival on Adelaide Oval’ State Library of South Australia
  • The Melbourne Argus, 17 August 1929

About

Retired teacher and sports fan originally from Victoria, now in southern inland Queensland. AFL, cricket, MLB (and anything else where I might have an opinion) Gold Coast Suns

Comments

  1. Jarrod_L says:

    How good is Trove? Can easily spend hours going through their fascinating media.

    Seems like there’s a common thread with this game and the AFLW, if STRENUOUS FOOTBALL is code for being hard at the contest. “Disparaging comments about the style of play” also seems relevant.

  2. bring back the torp says:

    Enjoyable article, Damien.

    We have known since 1915, and later on during WW1, that many women wanted to play AF. There were also 200+ other games, until the VWFL started in 1981. Of course, many females enjoyed having a kick with their father, brothers etc -but they received very little encouragement, outside WW1 & WW2.

    Women who wanted to play were generally mocked/ignored or had legal obstcales erected. Parents had to take court action in 2003 to force Football Victoria to create a girls comp, so girls could continue to play after turning 12. They played in boys’ comps. until they were 12 y.o., some winning B & F, finishing in the top 4 players etc. against the boys.
    The first girls’ comp. was created in 2004

    It has taken AF Organisations nearly 100 years to realise their folly, & give females a fair go. Many females love playing AF. Now, we are just seeing the tip of the iceberg.

    To the phys. ed teachers at schools in Melb. around 2000, who, re kick-to-kick sessions, said to their female students (perhaps apocrypaly) “Wanna have a kick”, we salute you.

  3. Yvette Wroby says:

    Great research! Thanks for adding to the conversations. Why wouldn’t women want to have as much fun as the blokes? And this weekend of footy shows again how tough and willing to commit their bodies to the game players are. Loving it.

  4. Hi Damien

    Thanks for looking into Trove to give us all that info. Really interesting.

    Love the footy from the plane – of course planes and world flying records and so on were all the rage then.

    Cheers
    JTH

    PS Trove is magnificent.

  5. And, Damien, how is Dalby? And Oakey? Wet I assume.

  6. Damien,

    The swamp on the 18th at the Oakey Golf Club (at Jondaryan) will be full – as it was for a portion of the 70s. And Doctor’s Creek will be overflowing.

    JTH

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