Mark Pennings’ Origins of Australian Football Vol 3

Mark Pennings Origins Vol 3


The third volume of Mark Pennings’ book series “The Origins of Australian Football” is now available. Pennings’ critically acclaimed first volume covered the period from 1858-1876, the second volume dealt with 1877 to 1885, and the latest third volume 1886 to 1890. This new text is called “Covert ‘Professionalism’: The power of the wealthy clubs 1886 to 1890” and continues the story of football in Marvellous Melbourne during the 1880s. At this time the game became ever more popular and world record crowds of over 30,000 attended matches between the bigger clubs. The Victorian Football Association also established conventions that are still in use today. These included dividing matches into four quarters, goal umpires waving two flags to announce a goal, the construction of new grandstands and erection of large scoreboards, and the introduction of time clocks and bells to mark the end of quarters.


The VFA expanded to 18 clubs (including three from Ballarat) during the 1880s, but the stage was being set for the eventual formation of the Victorian Football League, for by the end of the 1880s the VFA had become in effect a two-tier competition of rich and poor clubs. The most popular clubs in the VFA were South Melbourne, Geelong, Carlton and Essendon and they collected the lion’s share of the gate money, which was used to build their wealth and entrench their position as the dominant Victorian teams. The lower tier clubs had to make do with paltry gate money and season fixtures that advantaged the strong clubs.


At this time, no team was as powerful as South Melbourne, which collected triple premiership crowns in 1888, 1889, and 1890. It was an ambitious club and spearheaded the move towards professionalism, although this could not be made public. The fine teams South Melbourne produced at this time contained some of the greatest players of the era, and it looked after players with health insurance, jobs, inter-colonial trips, and other incentives.
This soft cover text is 500+ pages and has 32 black and white and colour illustrations.

The recommended retail price is $45 (+ postage). The book can be ordered via Col Hutchinson at [email protected] or Mark Pennings at [email protected].

FL House tomorrow and I will ask him to send you a copy of vol. 3.


Vol 3 of Mark Pennings early history of Australian football follows on from his first two critically-acclaimed books. This volume is being launched at the MCC Library at 1pm on Aug 20. All welcome.

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