– 1888 Northern Districts Football Association

1891.10.01 - Illustrated Australian NewsThe following is an excerpt from the 12 April 1890 Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners Advocate.

Its a bit of a long read, but interesting read and it is fascinating to note the perceived strength of the game in and around Newcastle and the detail to which the newspaper goes to record the Association’s annual meeting.  You have to ask yourself, “what happened to the next 110 years?”

NORTHERN FOOTBALL ASSOCIATION
The second annual meeting of the above Association was held last night at the Centennial Hotel, there being present representatives from all the Northern clubs. Mr. William Jenkins, vice-president of the Association, occupied the chair, and having – declared the meeting open, Mr. H. Williiams, the secretary read, the report for the past year, which was as follows:”

Northern District Football Association
(Australian Rules).
SECOND ANNUAL REPORT
“In presenting their second annual report, your committee have every reason to congratulate all footballers on the success which has attended the efforts of the Association in promoting the Australian game of football in the Northern district. The game being first started in the north by the formation of the Northumberland Club at Maitland five years ago, has rapidly spread all over the district, no less than seven new clubs having joined the Association last season there being now 14 subscribing clubs on the roll.

“The balance-sheet shows a small deficit, but your committee think, considering the very heavy undertakings of last season, that they may well congratulate themselves on the financial state of the Association.

“Early last season arrangements were made with the Fitzroy team, of Melbourne, to visit the Northern district to play a series of matches. The first match, played at Wallsend on the 24th May, was won by the Victorians by 10 goals 15 behinds to 5 goals 5 behinds (although behinds were shown in the score they were not counted). This game was witnessed by 8000 people.

The Wallsend representatives played up splendidly towards the finish, and considerable excitement and enthusiasm prevailed. The second match, played at Maitland, also resulted in a win for the Fitzroys. The Maitland men had the lead up to three-quarter time, the score then being Maitland three goals, Fitzroy two. On the following Tuesday a match was played against a team of Maitland juniors, and on the Thursday against the Newcastle District clubs; both matches resulting in the defeat of your representatives: The final match of. the tour against the combined Northern District – although resulting in a win for the Victorians, showed that the full strength of the .North is well able to cope with the strongest terms that can be sent here. Some splendid form was exhibited by players on both sides; the excitement amongst the spectators being exhibited by loud bursts of applause. The result of the match was six goals six behinds Fitzroy four goals eight behinds to the Northern District team. (It is interesting to note that two of the Fitzroy players were “deaf and dumb” and the tour of the region cost in the vicinity of £300 ($39,000 in today’s money – ed).

“The annual interprovincial match, played at Newcastle on the 14th July, was won by your representatives. “The match played against the Englishmen at Maitland, on the 14th August, resulted in an easy win for the North by nine goals to three. Footballers may well feel proud of this victory, as we were not represented by the best team in the North on this occasion, several prominent exponents of the game being unable to take part in the match ,through business engagements. In passing, it may be noted that this defeat of the English team by your representatives was equal to the defeat administered to the visitors by the crack Victorian teams; and this, after the experience they had undoubtedly gained at the Australian game during their Victorian and South Australian tour, speaks well for the improvement made by your representatives towards the close of the .season.

R L Seddon
Dick Seddon

“It may also be noted with satisfaction that this defeat of the English team by your representatives was the only victory scored against them in N.S. Wales. “The sad accident which caused the death of Mr. R. L. Seddon, of the English team, was deeply regretted by every one. The kindly expressions of sympathy from fol lowers of all games of football in Australia, ten’ed to show the great popularity of the English captain in whatever part of the colonies he had visited. “The Wallsend Club were the successful competitors for the Black Diamond Cup, kindly presented by the Richmond Tobacco Company, of Newcastle, having gone through the season without sustaining defeat. This cup will be competed for again during the coming season, having to be won twice before becoming the absolute property of any club.

“For the Junior Cup, Our Boys, of West Maitland, were returned the winners, alter a series of most interesting matches. “Your committee would strongly urge upon their successors the advisability of continuing these Junior Cup contests.

“Mr. W. Jenkins, the late secretary of the Wallsend Club, having left the district, your committee cannot let this opportunity pass without expressing the deep regret they feel at his departure. Mr. Jenkins was an enthusiastic supporter of the Australian game, and during his short stay in the district did much to promote the welfare of the Association.

“The Northern Association was represented at the conference held in Melbourne in November last to consider and revise the rules by Mr. W. Marshall, of Sydney.

“During the coming season several important fixtures have already ‘been arranged. The Port Melbourne team (one of the best in Melbourne) will , visit the north on the 29th June and 2nd July. A team will also be sent to Victoria to play a series of four or five matches during July. The first match on the 13th July will be of an intercolonial nature, that day having been set apart for a representative match be tween the players of the two colonies. Satisfactory arrangements have been completed with the Victorian Association, and the Melbourne Cricket Club have most generously decided to hand over the whole of the proceeds from this match to the N.D.F.B.A., to wards defraying the expenses of the trip. Matches have also been arranged with the Fitzroy, St. Kilda, Port Melbourne, and probably Ballarat will be visited during the tour.

“In view of these important fixtures, your committee would impress upon all players the necessity of at once getting into practice, and improve themselves at the game, so that they may be able to cope successfully with the formidable opponents they will be called upon to meet during the coming season, and help to place New South Wales football in the same position that this colony occupies in other branches of sport. To achieve this, a certain amount of training will be necessary by those players who desire to be selected in the representative matches; and after arranging such important fixtures, it is to be hoped one and all will do their utmost, not alone to hold their own, but to score a majority of wins in the matches arranged against players of the other colonies.

“The election of office-bearers for the ensuing season will be held to-night, The following gentlemen held office last season, viz. :– Patron, Mr, J. C. Ellis; presidents, Rev. Canon Tyrrell, Mr. H. Rushton; vice presidents – Messrs. S. Keightley, J. Fletcher junr, John Gillies, W. Jenkins, F. W. Reay, R. F. Watson; hon. treasurer, Mr. John Murrell; hon. secretary, Mr. Harry Williams.” Mr. Murrell, the treasurer, read the balance-sheet, which was as follows :

North Districts Football Association – Financial Statement for 1888

INCOME EXPENDITURE
Particulars Amount £ Particulars Amount £
Balance from 1887 2-19-0
Gates from Fitzroy FC matches 253-15-11 Fitzroy FC tour expenses 253-15-11
Gate – interprovincial match 9-15-9 Interprovincial match expenses 8-4-0
Share interprovincial match with NSWFA 16-0
Gate – Northern Dist FA v Englishmen 39-12-3 Expenses Englishmen’s match 72-12-10
Delegates fees (club affiliation) 13-13-0
Canon Tyrrell donation towards junior cup 5-0-0 Purchase Junior Cup 7-7-0
Donations towards Englishmens’match
Wallsend Club
Newcastle City Club
Merewether Club
3-4-0
3-4-0
1-1-0
Sub total 332-4-11 Treasurer’s expenses (telegrams etc.) 1-6-0
Bank Overdraft 12-14-10 Secretary’s expenses (same) 1-10-0
Interest paid to bank 8-0
TOTAL 344-19-9 344-19-9

Against above debt balance there are promises:of donations towards loss on English team spec. Northumberland Club £3. 4s; Summerhill Club £1 12s; Our Boys Club £1; Hamilton Club £1.6s Total, £6.16. J. MURRELL hon: treas. March 13th, 1889. Audited and found correct, ALBERT ALLEN, JAMES CLAYTON.”

Mr. KEIGHTLEY, in moving the adoption of the above said that the number of clubs subscribing to the club is about thirteen, and that it redounds to the credit of those taking interest in the Association game. The speaker eulogised the great help which Mr. Jenkins had given to the different clubs playing under their rules, He (Mr. Jenkins) was a very enthusiastic member, and had done all in his power to make the game go ahead. Mr. Keightley also passed a few words of praise on Mr. Murrell, of the Newcastle City Club, for the vast interest he had taken in forwarding the interests of the Association. He thought that if all the clubs took the same interest in the game as Mr. Murrell, we would soon be able to beat all comers from other parts.

The Wallsend Club deserved great credit for the way in which they had played during the past season, and they well deserved the cup which they had so nobly won. However, he hoped that during the coming season our Newcastle Club would improve enough to wrest from them the cup which they so deservedly won. After passing a few more remarks, the speaker proposed “That the report and balance-sheet be adopted.” – This was carried unanimously. The election of officers then took place, and resulted as follows: – Patron, Mr. S. Keightley; presidents, Rev. Canon Tyrrell and Mr. H. Rushton; vice-presidents : Messrs. J. Fletcher, junr., R. F. Watson, J. Williams, J. Gillies, H. Berkeley, J. Murrell”

The SECRETARY read a letter from the Port Melbourne Football Club, in regard to their visit to New South Wales. He also read a letter from the agent of the Maori team of footballers, in regard to a visit to the Northern districts. It was decided to leave’ the arrangements in connection with these teams in the hands of the delegates of the Association. Thee SECRETARY announced that Mr. Keightley had promised five guineas towards purchasing a cup for junior matches. Mr. BERKELEY, on behalf of the proprietors of the Newcastle Morning Herald, said he would make up another five guineas, so as to make the cup a 10-guinea one. (Cheers.) It was decided that the title in regard to the cup, should be “The Junior ‘Challenge Cup.” A vote of thanks was passed to Mr. Keightleoy and Mr. Berkeley, for their hand some donations, which both gentlemen suitably acknowledged.

A long discussion ensued as to which clubs are to be styled “Juniors,” and it was eventually decided to leave the matter in the hands of the delegates. A vote of thanks was unanimously passed -to the Melbourne Cricket Club and the Victorian Football Association, for placing their ground at the free disposal of the Northern Football Association for their matches which take place in July.

Mr. WILLIAMS, the secretary, moved a vote of thanks to the press (specially coupled with the name of “Glenco”‘, the sporting representative of the .Newcastle Morning Herald), for the assistance he had rendered the Association, which was carried unanimously. The proceedings then terminated.

The Old Argument of Who Invented the Australian Game of Football

H C A HarrisonGoing through various newspapers of past years we came across the following article in a September 1908 issue of the Referee (Sporting) Newspaper.

It refers to Harrison as often being referred to as the father of the game (of Australian Football) and decries that title.  It goes on to say the initial rules were drawn up by an ad-hoc committee, over a few drinks following what would be described as a rough game.

One of our members, Greg de Moore wrote a especially interesting book, a Game of Our Own, on the one he labels as the game’s founder, T W Wills.

Nevertheless the article from 1908 makes interesting reading and it was written after there was much celebration in Melbourne at the time over the 50 year anniversary of the game:

“I previously touched on the origin of the Australian Game of Football, and quoted evidence to show that the title, ‘The Father of the Game”, has been incorrectly conferred, by the Press of Melbourne upon Mr. H. C. A. Harrison. The evidence was from the writings of Mr T W Wills and J. B. Thompson, two of the committee of four which drafted the first set of rules just 50 years ago. I received two letters on the subject from Melbourne footballers, but while agreeing with the statements I put forward they throw no fresh light on the matter.

As Mr. Harrison is still quoted on all sides in the Press and at official functions as the father of the game, further reference to the first code of rules to what is to-day known as the Australian Game having been drawn up by a committee consisting of Messrs. T. W. Wills, J. Hammersley, J. B. Thompson and T Smith, is timely. The evidence of Messrs. Wills and Thompson is thoroughly born out by the late Mr. Hammersley, who for 18 years was sporting editor of The Australasian.

In 1883, after he had withdrawn from regular journalistic harness, Mr. Hammersley, in an, article referring to football in Victoria, made the following statement:” When the game was first started in Victoria on anything like a sound footing (and that was in 1857) , it was a very rough game and no mistake. My shins now show honourable scars, and I often had blood trickling down my legs. No wonder, for hacking [kicking at another’s leg] was permitted and no objection was taken to spiked shoes. One day however, after a severe fight in the old Richmond Paddock, where blood had been drawn freely and some smart raps exchanged and a leg broken, it occurred to some of us that if we had rules to play under it would be better. Tom Wills suggested the rugby rules but no one understood them except himself and the result was, adjourn to the Parade Hotel, close by. This we did, with the following result: several drinks and the formation of a committee consisting of: Tom Wills, myself, J B Thompson and Football Smith, as he was termed, a master at the Scotch College, rattling fine player and a splendid kick, but of a very peppery temper. We decided to draw up a simple code of rules and as simple as possible so that anyone could quickly understand. We did so and the result was the rules then drawn up form the basis of the present code under which the game is universally played in Victoria and in most other parts of Australia. I feel sure that neither Rugby nor the Association code will ever supplant them.

This article has gained some merit over the years and is recognized as good foundation at which to consider the actual starting of the game of Australian Football.  The above quote is not entirely accurate, there were others whose signatures appear at the bottom of the original rules of football which are still in existence and are on display at the MCG Museum.

It is true though, that in 1866, H C A Harrison was asked to revise the rules of the game, which he did.  His amended rules were accepted without change and they remained the code’s principle rules until they were further revised a number of years later.

Harrison was prominent in very early football He was captain of both Melbourne and Geelong football clubs at various times.  When the VFA was formed he was made a vice president and when the VFL was instigated they made him their first life member.  He was also made a life member of the Australian Football Council when it was first formed.

He was also deeply involved in cricket, in particular with the Melbourne Cricket Club which he had an association, first as a player, then an official from 1861.  Harrison died in 1929 and while the title Father of the Game may be up for argument, he was certainly there and active in the very early days of the game.