Crowd - early small
Bigger Crowds at the New Game?

The two opposing football bodies, the Australian Football Council, representing all states for the Australian game and the NSW Rugby League, again got together to discuss the formation of a game that would see an amalgamation of the two codes.  Well that was the thinking.

This time it was in 1933 and once more at a time when a national 10 day carnival was held in Sydney.

A preliminary meeting with representatives of both groups was appointed to establish some starting rules of the game and a secret match under those rules was played on the morning of Friday, 11 August at the RAS Showground, Moore Park (now FOX Studios).

Most of the players who took part in the encounter were members of the Queensland Australian Football team who were in Sydney for the carnival. Needing enough for two fourteen man teams, their number was supplemented by some local Rugby League players.  The trouble was that all players were not familiar with these new rules and the Queensland players, in particular, had played a tough match the day before against ˜Canberra.”

At a more formal meeting at Rugby League Headquarters held on the night of the game, 165 Phillip Street, Sydney,  Horrie Miller, Secretary of the NSW Rugby League gave a detailed report on the drafting of the rules, a brief description and a few of those rules, appears below:

It was suggested that the field of play would be divided up in a manner somewhat similar to the Rugby field with the exception that the goal posts be put on the (rugby) dead ball line and the touch-in-goal area in front of the goal posts instead of behind them.  In place of having a 25 yard line from the posts, it was set at 35 yards at each end.  In the central area it was proposed the Australian game should be played with the pass back and the tackle, there being no off-side in that area.  However, inside the 35 yard areas, the off-side rule would apply, as recognized by Rugby League.

The rules provided for fourteen aside, but only twelve aside were available, the Australian Rules men being mainly Queenslanders. The Rugby field was used and a 35 yards area at each end set aside in which offside, applied and not elsewhere. It was said there was a touch of soccer in the game. Tries and goals were the means of scoring.

There were many other rules to this new game but the one concerning the off-side rule, appeared to be a point of contention.

It would appear that Mr Miller was a leading proponent for the introduction of a new game and went to great lengths to get the two groups talking as well as making arrangements for the trial game.

Various speakers expressed the view that any amalgamation would have to be gradual and that if each code introduced features of the other, the game could be brought together in a few years.

Mr Miller made a very interesting point when he said “I may say that the idea in drawing up this code of rules was to make the play as open as possible.  We are giving what you Australian rule (sic) people are asking for and what the Australian public require, that is action.”

“In fact” he added, “it is action all the time.  At no stage of the game would the ball be dead.”

The meeting was chaired by Mr E H Tassie who was the South Australian Representative on the Council.

After listening to the speakers from the NSW Rugby League, he made the comment that  ‘his group’s sincerity over the matter (the amalgamated game) might have been questioned, but, as delegates on a trip to Sydney, our actions have been such as should stay any criticism in that respect.”

The delegates from both sides kept their comments to what we would describe these days, as “niceties”.rugby - early small invert

Eventually, the following motion was carried unanimously by the combined seventeen man delegates:

That the suggested rules drawn up by the sub-committee for that purpose, form the basis of a report back to the various clubs, and, if in their opinion, these bodies consider a further conference desirable, such conference be held.

It was fine for the Rugby League delegates to give such a commitment but the Australian Football Council was comprised of delegates who represented each state and while most took notice of the resolutions of this body, it is reasonable to say that these were not all binding and this was particularly the case of the VFL.  In many eyes, particularly towards the end of its life, The Australian Football Council or later, the National Football Council, were considered by many as a toothless tiger.

One significant matter on both sides was the strong personalities “who would not have a brass tack of the other game. They think they have a good thing, and that if the other party wants to come into the fold he must do so and not expect any amalgamation. ‘Let the Rugby League take on our game,’ said an Australian Rules hard citizen. ‘Let the Victorians take on the Rugby League game. They would play it well,’ said a Sydney man.

The whole issue had its fate decided when the NSW Rugby League met on 14 August where the matter was discussed in detail.

Mr.S.G Ball proposed and Mr. J. Craig seconded that the report be received and no further action taken. He added that their own game at present needed all their care and attention.  This was carried, after debate, by 15 to 10.

It was doubted that the respective state leagues would have supported such an extraordinary change to the rules of their (Australian) game so the early decision of the Rugby League, in a way, put a dampener on any possibility of a future mission into changing rules or the combining of games and the issue having any caustic repercussions to the AFC delegates.

Locally, a later proposition was put whether a new game would have supplanted the Australian code on the one hand and Rugby League on the other, is quite another matter. It was thought old sympathies, ties, friendships, and traditions would probably, have held the present games intact.

We shall never know.