I’m surprised there hasn’t been some discussion of Woggabaliri. It’s threatening to go viral on bigfooty/fourfourtwo/the world game and so on.

Woggabaliri is supposedly an Aboriginal game that resembles keepie uppie and has been claimed by the FFA as an indigenous form of soccer. The FFA are using it as a plank in their World Cup argument. The ASC dates it as being earlier than marn grook. There is a lot of symbolic significance to the debate — hence the heated tempers on a number of those sites mentioned.

But I (and others) look at the word and immediately see HOAX. From Woggabaliri to wogball is not all that far!

Yet the term does have some provenance, especially via the work of Ken Edwards — so if the term is a hoax it has been a long time in gestation.

This is from a booklet on Indigenous games published by ASC and sanctioned by ATSIC in 2000:

Game play and basic rules

This is a kicking volley game. The players do not take sides in this cooperative game emphasising skill. One player kicks the ball up in the air and other players try to kick it (one touch only) again before it hits the ground. Younger or less experienced players may use two touches.

The main object is to keep the ball from hitting the ground.

No player may kick the ball more than once in succession. All ‘kicks’ are made with the feet or knees.

Players must have one foot on the ground when kicking the ball.

The game as described sounds very much like the one described by Blandowski in 1857 and captured in this etching:


A couple of the things that I’ve noticed on bigfooty are 1) there’s a lot of mention of the ASC being anti-footy and 2) the stakes seem to be pretty high for those posting in this thread.

Any thoughts or opinions on the matter?


  1. John Weldon says

    IS 2000 the first time this game gets a mention in anything official? When did Ken Edwards write about it? Has anyone approached any Aboriginal organisations for corroboration?

  2. Edwards published a book (Choopadoo : games from the dreamtime) in 1999 on indigenous games that was based on anthropological research I think. I’ve ordered it from the library to check it out.

  3. Thanks for drawing our attention to this Ian.

    The argument that the ASC is anti-footy probably comes from its hostile response to the (2009) Crawford Report. Crawford drew attention to the fact that the majority of funding went to elite minority (Olympic) sports. He compared the huge ASC expenditure on sports like Water polo or archery with mass popular sports like Australian Rules and Rugby League. He was not only concerned with the relatively low Government support for AFL and NRL (which do have huge commercial support) but also with the relatively low support for lawn bowls and amateur golf – both of which are lifelong sports and involve many times the number players that archery and water polo involve.

    Despite the comments on Big Footy I don’t think soccer was a major point of controversy. What is undeniable is that the AOC bureaucrats drew attention to the footy and League connections of several of the committee mambers connected with the Crawford Report and so far Coates et al have not had their gravy train derailed.

  4. So the FFA are claiming a connection between woggabalira and soccer rather like the AFL’s claim of a connection between marngrook and aussie rules. Methinks it’s pathetic that we can’t take such indigneous games on their own terms, instead using them as propaganda to push them as an antecendent to a modern codified version of football. Anyone aware of whether other countries use their indigneous / historic ballgames in this way?

  5. Adam. I missed this. Mussolini used the ancient game of Calcio as a justification of his support for soccer (which he really didn’t like; apparently he was a Carlton supporter).)

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