The 2013 ‘Mopsy’ Fraser Cup – Round Five

Greetings Tipsters 

History was writ anew this round, with the first AFL premiership match played outside of Australia.  A few posters were kicked, the first two by opposing captains.  Remember that, your grandchildren will be asking you about it. 

Australian Football is the oldest football code in the world.  The first set of rules were writ in May 1859, predating soccer and rugby by four years.  The Sydney Morning Herald, which I never buy but occasionally peruse, insists on titling its various football pages as ‘Rugby League’, ‘Rugby Union’ (can’t argue with those) ‘AFL’ (that’s the business, not the code) and ‘Football’ – by which they mean soccer.  Several years ago the Age ran a series of articles about football codes and all the soccer writers carried on about how it was the first and all others evolved from it, yeah, yeah, blah, blah, read some history, dingbats. 

Soccer was known as Association Football in the late nineteenth century, the first word abbreviated to Assoc, hence the term Soccer.  It’s a good word, it has historical weight.  In a country with four professional football codes, it makes nothing but sense to give each a distinct name and no one code can call itself ‘Football’. 

Especially when the indigenous code pre-dates all others.  

Football has been played for centuries.  Sometimes in the town square, sometimes on the village green or the space between villages.  Around the sixteenth century, the King of England banned football because too many men were getting hurt and not spending enough time practicing archery.  The Italians kept playing it, on the cobblestones, fatalities were common. 

Some bizarre examples, the Eton Wall Game being one, survived into the Twentieth Century.  Football, played on a violent and, one presumes, a mostly amateur basis until 1850 or so, was a game that involved a ball and several dozen young men whose sole intent was to get ahold of it and move it to their goal.  A tree, a fence, a gate, there were no rules and rucks of 20 or 30 were the rule, not the exception. 

‘Tom Brown’s Schooldays’ was published in 1857, a recollection of the author’s days at the Rugby school in the 1830s.  It has a wealth of historical detail and the longest chapter in the book is a description of a football match. 

Oh, in case you were wondering, that tale of William Webb Ellis running with the ball and thus inventing rugby?  Didn’t happen. 

Tom’s football match reads like a collision between rugby and Australian football.  There’s massive moving rucks, there’s no offside rule.  Blood is spilt, bones are broken.  It is the first detailed account of a football match I know of and if you know of an earlier one, let me know. 

In England’s 1830s, football was a game played by villagers and schoolboys.  Twenty years later, the Industrial Revolution was changing the country more than anything since William The Conqueror. 

Australia did not have much of an industrial base, it was an agricultural economy.  But tides of history care not – it aint a coincidence that Karl wrote ‘Das Kapital’ in the same decade that football started to be organised.  They sprang from the same place, the huge mass of people, for the first time in history, living in crowded cities, literacy becoming the norm, workers organising and realising their potential, weekends being invented. 

“Bill, we get to finish work at midday on Saturday now.  Bloody oath, what we gonna do?”

“The lads have put a football team together, Harry.  They’ve lined up a match against the tannery.” 

Cheers, Tipsters 

P&C, a Stop Privatisation Of Footy Production

Brought to you with the assistance of ‘Good For What Ails You – Music Of The Medicine Shows, 1926 -1937 (Volume 1)’


About Earl O'Neill

Freelance gardener, I've thousands of books, thousands of records, one fast motorcycle and one gorgeous smart funny sexy woman. Life's pretty darn neat.


  1. The Wrap says

    Probably take ’em another 1,000 years to make another significant change over there too Mopsy

  2. Earl O'Neill says

    As opposed to here, where they suggest changes on a daily basis?

  3. Tasman Hughes says

    Aussie Rules goes back thousands of years, to the Aboriginal sport, MAarngrook.

    What are the soccer, sorry, FOOTBALL, freaks going on about.

  4. Earl O'Neill says

    Tasman, Australian Football goes back to the late 1850s. There is no evidence that Marngrook had an influence on the game. It was, like many indigenous sports that we might call football, a natural way for young men to have fun, and far less dangerous than the Napoli football.
    Thomas Wills lived with blackfellas and took the first Australian cricket team to England – he was the only white player – but the high mark didn’t come into fashion until the 1880s, long after Tom died. Given that the game was invented by and played by rich Protestant urbanites, it is unlikely to the point of impossible that Marngrook had any serious influence.

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