The AFL’s official 150th anniversary history is a collection of essays by various writers. I have two pieces in it: one on fans, one on the nature of the game.
The most critiqued essay is by historian Gillian Hibbins about the origins of the game. It’s best you read it for yourself. It seems to me to be an attempt to put in place a definitive foundation story.
There has been much debate over the influence of various forms of kicking and catching and running games from around the world – including the public schools of England, Ireland, other cultures and Indigenous Australians (known by various names but especially marngrook).
The topic has become contentious and historians, working in good faith, have their view. However it is more complicated than just having written evidence as authority. There are many types of evidence. Some historians value certain types of evidence – in keeping with some approaches to history. So there are layers to this complication.
This is interesting from Professor Jenny Hocking of Monash University:
This is the type of evidence valued by all historians.