– Port Adelaide v Suns not the first game in China

The round 8 game AFL between Port Adelaide and the Gold Coast Suns is the first AFL/VFL game to be played in mainland China, but is it the first to be played in China itself?

Given that we have the Hong Kong Dragons which commenced in 1990, the Beijing Bombers which were started in 2004 together with the Shanghai Tigers and a team in the Pokfulam district of Hong Kong that was kicking around in 2014 playing as the Pokfulam Vikings, we have found evidence of another game way back in 1940 before Japan entered the war.

The article, which was published in the May 18 edition of the Sydney Football Record begins with the line: “Some day Australia may be playing Test football against China?

It goes on to report:
“Australian Naval Reservists recently staged an exhibition match on the No. 3 football ground at Causeway Bay, Hong and greatly impressed local sports enthusiasts.

A description of the match was given more than half a column on the main sports page of the South China Morning Post which describes “spectacular high marking and extra ordinary long drop kicks and punts” as features of the Australian Code.

Apparently the paper’s special sports writer ‘Spectator’ was assigned to cover the match.  These are extracts from his story of it:

“The actual progress of play struck me as being twice as fast as the rugby union code, this was probably due to the fact that there are no scrums given for knock-ons or for forward passes.

High Marks Impress
Spectacular high marking was featured throughout and the ball did not have to be caught ‘dead’ for a mark to be given.  On several occasions the ball was taken 10 ten and eleven feet off the ground with several hands reaching up…..

“Given a big ground and normal conditions, the Australian Rules game should prove popular with football followers and it would not come as a surprise to see the Chinese adopt this game, which is a combination of football, rugby and basketball.

“Drop-kicking and punts, some of which were between 40-60 yards occurred at many stages and after the second quarter, players were scoring goals fairly regularly….

“The main scoring tactic is the high mark and spectacular and very accurate punting from player to player, each in turn marking.  This makes the pace very fast and the game thrilling.

“The ball is not allowed to be passed in the traditional rugby union manner, but is either fisted or struck with the palm.  Carrying the ball, as in the case of a football goalkeeper, is not allowed and the ball must be bounced every ten yards or so…..”

[Back to the Football Record text:] If a scratch game by Naval Reservists could make this impression, to what raptures would a Hong Kong Crowd be moved by such Victorian League stars as Ron Todd, Jack Regan, Jack Muller, Jack Dyer, Dick Harris, Bert Mills, Dinny Ryan, Sel Murray, Frank Gill, Ken Baxter, Roy Fountain and a dozen other such exponents, who we see every Saturday on the grounds every Saturday during the winter.”