Footy in NSW 1883

The following article was published in the Maitland Mercury, and Hunter River General Advertiser Thursday 19 July 1883.

It is astonishingly long and speaks to the idea that footy was getting a strong foothold in NSW. There seemed to develop an intense and passionate culture that only a few short years later was no more in the Maitland region.

I was originally attracted to the article because my search terms led me to a team called Northumberland playing the English game of football under association rules. This suggested I had found a soccer team. Well I was misled. It was a useful warning about the problems of taking words and cultural forms used 100 years ago to mean what we take them to mean today.

I haven’t picked up all the typos yet but you’ll get the gist.




No game was ever yet worth a rap
For a rational man to play.
In which no accident, no mishap,
Could possibly find its way,

So sang poor Adam Lindsay Gordon, and so apparently think the thousands who annually follow the grand old English game, football, as a pleasure and a pastime. Tuesday last will long be regarded as a red-letter day in the history of football in Maitland, as on that day the players of the north were honoured by a visit from a team of the famous South Melbourne Club, which had been carrying on a successful series of engagements against the principal Sydney Clubs and combined teams. When the visit of the Victorians to New South Wales was first mooted, the Secretary of the Northumberland Football Club, Mr. E. J. Young, knowing the incalculable benefits which would arise, and the good such a visit would do the Association game, endeavoured to arrange a match with a northern team and the visiting club. For long his efforts had been unsuccessful, but patience and perseverance will do all things, and his efforts were at length crowned with success. As it was a very expensive undertaking for such a young a club as the Northumberland, the generosity of the public was largely depended on.

Tuesday was the only day upon which the Victorians could visit Maitland, and this was another disadvantage, as the attendance on that day could not be expected to be as large as on a Friday or Saturday. The idea that a team from the northern district could compete successfully, with so accomplished a team as the Victorian one was hardly ever entertained, but to make the game more interesting it was decided to play with a combined team from Newcastle and Maitland, and to ask for a handicap of three men, which we may say was readily granted. Here it may be noted that the business pursuits of some of the most prominent of the Newcastle players did not permit their taking part in the match, and their absence was severely felt during the progress of the game.

On the arrival of the early train at the High-street station on Tuesday morning, the embers of the South Melbourne Football team, and a few friends who accompanied them, were formally met and welcomed by Messrs. Williams, Hassall, and Young, captain, vice – captain, and secretary respectively of the Northumberland Club. The visitors were then driven to Hodgson’s Royal Hotel, where, we need scarcely add, their wants and comforts were promptly attended to by the genial hostess and her efficient staff of assistants. After breakfast Mr. T. Miller’s two four-horse drags were placed at their disposal, and an opportunity afforded them of viewing the surrounding country.

The day was a beautiful one for football, there being but a very slight breeze, and the air being cool and pleasant. The attendance was large, there being about 500 persons present, and the assemblage included a large proportion of the fair sex, and everyone appeared to take great interest in the match.

Some of the South Melbourne team were unable to visit Maitland, but their places were taken by Messrs. G. Rossa and Fairfax, two of the Sydney Club’s most prominent members.

A quarter to three sharp was the hour fixed tor the commencement of the match, but it was after that hour when both teams took the field. A wonderful difference was perceptible in the physique of the teams: The Melbourne men were mostly tall, massively made fellows, and their figures were well set off by their red and white sleeveless guernseys, their dark nickerbockers, and their red and white stockings. The Northerners were light, small generally, and active looking; they wore the purple and black uniform of the Northumberland Club. Mr. W. Gordon, captain of the East Sydney Club, officiated as central umpire, and gave satisfaction. Mr. J. Young, the South Melbourne captain, won the toss from Mr. Williams, who commanded the Northerners, and elected to defend the Southern goal, which gave him the partial benefit of a slight breeze which was blowing. The Victorians took their places as follows: – Elms, back in goal; Brooks, and Woods, backs; Smith, G Rosser, and B Fawcett, half – backs; H. Rosser, centre; C. Fawcett and Fairfax, right wing; Robinson and Birrell, left wing; Bushell, Roy, and Grey, forwards; Minchin, Horan, Merriman, Gliddon, and Young, followers. The combined team were – Genge, back in goal; Williams, back and roving; Hogue, Murrell, and Pullen, backs; Hyndes, W. Woodlands, and Maher, half – backs, Graeme, centre; Duncan and Watson, left wing; Ross and Hassall, right wing; Osborne and M’Lauchlin, forwards; Wyndham, goal sneak; Bushell, Clark, Varley, E. Woodlands, Baker, and Howe, followers. The Northern captain set the ball going with a fair kick, but the Melbourne half-backs at once returned it to the centre, where a little wild play ensued, until both teams settled down, when it could be at once seen that the combined team was much the faster without the ball.

G. Rosser was the first to get away with the leather, and he drove it down to near the Northern goal before he was stopped. Hogue returned it nicely down the centre, where E. Woodlands made himself conspicuous by a splendid mark. The ball was soon brought down to the combined team’s goal again chiefly through the instrumentality of Young, Elms, and Rosser, but the Northern skipper Williams took it out of danger and “brought down the house” by a fine dodgy run, ending by passing on to ROSR, who sent it on by a fair kick. It was brought down the right wing again by Fairfax and Bushell, and Minchin got a mark within easy kicking distance, but he tried to pass it on to Roy, and they lost possession, Williams taking it on to E. Woodlands, who got it out of danger. The ball was then driven into the centre, where Varley, Howe, and Francks were playing little marks very neatly and unselfishly. When brought down again Young had a shot at goal, but the ball flew wide, and out of bounds. When thrown in Maher got away with it and took it on to Franks, but the latter fumbled and lost it, and the Melbourne followers, among whom Young was conspicuous, got hold of it, and brought it down in front of the northern gaol, where Roy got a mark, and kicked a goal off a place kick. When set going again Baker did more nice dribbling, but the combined team appeared to be entirely over matched, and Neely had an easy shot for goal, but it only resulted in a behind. When kicked off again Baker, Clark, and Varley got the ball up near the visitors’ goal, and Osborne had a possible show of scoring, but only a behind was kicked. Shortly after Roy kicked the second goal for the Victorians, and the hearts of the supporters of the Combined team sank. Woodlands kicked off and Rosser returned the ball, when Maher made a nice run, but he would have got the ball much further away if he had kicked sooner. Taken into the centre the oval remained there for a long time, and here Pullen was well cheered for a fine bit of dribbling. Varley, E. Woodlands, Clark, and Howe had been playing splendidly, but their opponents were two heavy, and kicked a bit too well for them, and Roy marking splendidly on to Gliddon, he netted the third goal. When play was resumed Ross and M’Lauchlin were noticed for good marking, and the latter drove the leather behind off a possible show, but almost immediately after the northern goal was placed in danger through the slowness of Hyndes, and Elma kicked another behind for Melbourne, Varley and E. Woodlands did some nice marking in the centre, and the latter very cleverly passed it on to Williams in front of the enemy’s citadel; he in turn kicked it to Wyndham who amidst great cheering scored first goal for the north. Upon resuming the Melbourne men at once dashed the leather down to the northern goal, where Roy had an easy show but marked to Bushell, and he by a very nice kick scored the fourth goal. For the next few minutes the play was all on the left wing, and W, Woodlands had a possible chance, but only got it behind. Rosser repeated the dose the other end, and Wyndham returned the compliment. A bad kick by Watson got the combined team’s goal into trouble, but Osborne got it away very nicely. Shortly after Roy had another shot, off which he kicked behind. Shortly after W. Woodlands got a mark, and by a good lengthy kick scored second goal. Good play by both sides on the wings for a few minutes, in which the Northern followers showed to advantage in little marks, but they did not know half as much as their opponents. Bussell marked to Hassall, who bad been playing very well on the wing, and he in turn gave it to Williams, who took it in front of the southern goal, where Franks got an easy show and kicked the third goal for the Combined team amidst great applause. Young, Gliddon, G. Roaaer, Neely, and Horan had been playing grandly all through, and now aided by Roy and Merriman they soon changed the scene of operations, and the onlookers had an opportunity of seeing how the game should be played by watching their marking and passing. Pullen and Osborne, however, were in their places, and aided by Williams they took the leather along the wing out of danger. Shortly after half time was called.

Up to this time the game was very even, and the excellent play of the northern team was a matter of wonder. Shortly after resuming an unfortunate accident occurred, which threw a damper on the game for a few minutes. E. Woodlands, who had been playing grandly for his side, was running with the ball when he was collared, and his feet slipping in his attempts to get away he came down heavily, and dislocated his left arm at the elbow joint. He was at once removed in a buggy to the residence of Dr. Morson, where the injury was attended to, and we are happy to state the doctor pronounced the injury not a serious one. Upon re – commencing Mr. W. Gordon, the umpire, took the injured man’s place, and Mr. J. O. Thomas went on in Mr. Gordon’s position. The team now consisted of but twenty – two, W. Woodlands having accompanied big brother for medical assistance. The play now became very fast, the good play of the combined team evidently putting the South Melbourne men on their mottle, and they, indulged in little marks and other points of the game to an alarming extent. Varley and Watson were playing well on the wing, and took the leather down to the visitors’ territory, but Elms and Bushell as speedily returned it. Maher, Graeme, and Williams were playing well about the centre of the ground, but the first named appeared to play selfishly, and would persist in holding the ball too long. Roy, Rosser, Elms, Young, Horan, and Fairfax were playing well for the visitors, and continually besieged the southern stronghold, where Murrell did invaluable service by several very long drop – kicks.

Bushell at last had a shot for goal, but only a behind resulted. Another chance was soon afterwards obtained by Horan, but Clark spoiled the kick, and he and Varley took it on to Gordon, who made a grand run along the wing, and being well shepherded by Hyndes, he had a shot at goal, but only got it behind. The ball was now traversing the ground with great rapidity and everyone was playing well. The bearers of the red and white were twice as clever as their opponents in the intricacies of the game, but the Northerners’ speed almost made up for their ignorance, and they played the plain little marks very freely, Varley. Howe, Hassall, Pullen, and Osborne being very noticeable in this department. M’Lauchlin and Varley also tackled well, but they had no show with their weighty adversaries. Gordon made some brilliant runs along the wings, but he was always stopped, and the ball sent back by long marks to its old place in front of the combined men’s stronghold, where Williams was working very hard. Pullen made a mistake in one of his short runs, and took the ball right in front of his own goal, where he was stopped by Fairfax, who marked to G. Rosser, and he kicked the fifth goal for the visitors. “Needled” by their reverses the local men made a grand rush when the ball was again in play, and carried the ball with them, when Hassall invaded the visitors’ territory, and kicked the ninth” behind scored for Maitland.

The Melbourneites made an answering Bally when the ball was brought out, and Rosser kicked the sixth goal by a fine drop, and Neely and Horan added two more behinds Clark was instrumental in taking the ball down to Watson, and he had a long shot at goal, but only got it behind, but the combined men playing desperately kept the ball hovering about the visitor’s goal, and at last M’Laughlin by a lucky kick scored the fourth goal. The play for the last ten minutes was superb, and within five minutes of time Howe got a mark, and by a very good kick netted the fifth. Time was soon afterwards called, when the game stood – South Melbourne 6 goals 9 behinds, combined team 5 goals 10 behinds. The usual cheering was indulged in and the visitors were driven to their hotel. The result of the game was a surprise to many who imagined the South Melbourne team would romp over their opponents, but the latter played up splendidly, so well that it is hard to speak of any individually, but it is only fair to say E. Woodlands, Gordon, Williams, Clark, Varley, Howe, Murrell, Francks, Maher, and Hassall worked very hard. Among the most prominent of the Melbourne men were G. Rosser, Young, Robinson, Roy, Bushell, and Elms.

About eighty gentlemen assembled at the Masonic Hall in the evening, where the South Melbourne team were entertained at dinner by the Northumberland Football Club. The repast was prepared by Mr. Jacob Small, and was of a choice description, and nicely served, The President of the Northumberland Club, the Bev. Canon Tyrrell, was in the chair, and was faced by the Vice – president of the Newcastle City Club, Alderman Keightley. Supporting the President were Mr. Crowl, the manager of the visiting team, and Mr. E. Weller, the Secretary of the New South Wales Football Association.
After the inner man had been thoroughly satisfied, The Chairman proposed “the Queen and Royal Family,” and the company sang the National Anthem.
The Chairman said he again rose with pleasure to propose the toast of the evening.He would ask the company to drink the health of the Melbourne team. The members of that team had come a long way to give a lesson to their fellow footballers in the northern district, and certainly they had given it to them. Their visit would do the Association game a great deal of good in the district, and of that he was glad, as he was fond of all athletic sports. Football in his opinion was fully equal to cricket – (hear, hear) – and that he considered almost equal to his favorite pastime, boating; in fact football was the best “dry – bob” game (laughter).

Football was a very ancient game – how old very few people knew, and perhaps it was referred to by Homer, who lived 3000 years ago. Ho was not sure that it was not an Olympian game, and played by the Greeks and Romans, but if so he had not a copy of the rules it was then played under (laughter). He approved very much of the game as played under Association rules, and would say those rules were superior to those played by him years ago at Eton, and certainly better than Rugby (cheers). Football, as played under Rugby rules, tended to give players and onlookers savage, barbarous feelings, and he thought a person might as well look at a prize fight. He did not expect for a moment that the Melbourne men would have been run so closely, but he was happy to see so good a game. The speaker referred to the accident, and said it might be used as a handle to work down the game, but so far as he could see it was a simple fall, and might have occurred at any time. As President of the Northumberland Club, he would specially thank the Melbourne team for its kind and courteous game that day. (Cheers.)

The toast was drunk with musical honors.

Mr. Crowl said he rose on behalf of the Melbourne boys to thank the company for the kind manner in which they had been treated that day and evening. When they first came to Sydney they imagined they would be unable to visit Maitland, and he was sorry for it, but now that they had paid the visit he was just as glad. He referred to the accident that day, and expressed the regret felt by the Melbourne team that it should have happened. He wished the company all the good wishes in return that had been expressed towards “his boys,” and said he hoped to see the game prosper in the north, and perhaps next season meet a team from there in Melbourne, when he could promise them a great welcome. He called on the South Melbourne team to drink in bumpers the health of the Northumberland and Newcastle City Football Clubs, and said he wished it would always be his team’s lot to meet as many gentlemen in the football field.

The toast was drunk as the preceding one, and cheers were given by the visitors for Canon Tyrrell and Mr. Williams.

Mr. H. WILLIAMS, captain of the Combined team, said it was with feelings of great pleasure he responded for his own club. He would not speak for the Newcastle Club, as he noticed gentlemen present quite capable of doing that. He was quite dismayed when he heard Maitland was not to be visited by the Melbourne team, but he felt as much pleasure when he found out the opposite From his experience of football, extending over 8 or 9 years, be could say it was the best game he had ever seen.

Mr. W. WOODLANDS responded on behalf of the Newcastle Club, and in doing so said he had much pleasure in stating that the accident to his brother was not serious, as his presence there that evening could testify. (Cheers.)

Mr. HASSALL proposed “the Umpires” Messrs. GORDON and THOMAS responded.

Alderman KEIGHTLEY said he had a toast to propose which he could term the essence of football, and that he thought could be found, in the Victorian play. (Cheers) The game as played in England was inferior to that played in Victoria, the Rugby game was not superior to the English, so he thought that made the Victorian game the essence of football. When the public saw the game as played that afternoon they must lose all prejudices, and become converts. He would take the liberty to say that the full strength of the Newcastle section of the combined team did not take part in the match, as their business would not allow their presence. He did not see why the game should not be as well played here as in Victoria, and if all goes well with the Newcastle club he hoped to see a match with that Club and the next visiting Victorian team, and also one in Maitland. He felt confident the Victorian game would become the popular game in New South Wales. He proposed “The Victorian and New South Wales Football Associations.” (Cheers.)

Mr. ROBINSON said as no delegate of the Victorian Association was present, he had great pleasure in responding for that body to whom he thought a lot of credit was due for the promotion of the game.
Mr. E. WELLEE responded on behalf of the New South Wales Association. He referred to the spread of the Association game in the colony, and stated that on Saturday last they had an attendance never equalled at any match in the colony. The game was also becoming a favourite in many of the principal schools about Sydney, the teachers being much in favour of it. He referred to the efforts of his friends Messrs. Young and Williams in promoting the interests of the Association. In conclusion he would state that there were now fifteen clubs in the colony playing the Association game, and 1000 members. (Cheers.)

Mr. YOUNG, Secretary of the Northumberland Club responded. He did not think he deserved all the complimentary remarks passed on him by Mr. Weller. What he had done was with Mr. Williams’ assistance. When first started his club had but thirty – nine members, the next year seventy, and now it had ninety, and he hoped to make the hundred. He would always do his best for the Association game. (Cheers.)

Mr. CROWL proposed in eulogistic terms the healths of the Chairman and Vice Chairman.

Both gentlemen responded, and expressed their intention of doing everything possible in the interests of the game.

Mr. GORDON proposed “The Press,” and the toast being responded to Mr. CROWL proposed three cheers for the Chairman, and the evening’s entertainment ended.

The Melbourne team left by the 9.15 train the same evening, and were heartily cheered as the train rolled away.


  1. haiku bob says


    Could you confirm the author of this article coined the phrase: “The day was a beautiful one for football!”

    Just love the description of rugby: “Football, as played under Rugby rules, tended to give players and onlookers savage, barbarous feelings, and he thought a person might as well look at a prize fight.”

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