– 1888 Sydney University Football Club


Professor W H Warren and Engineering students in the 1890s

The following was taken from an article written in the Sydney Mail in April, 1888.  It briefly describes the Sydney University Australian Football Club which unfortunately, only survived for two seasons.

The University only had a limited number of students at the time but increased significantly after John Henry Challis bequeathed a sum of £200,000 in 1889 and seven new professorships were created.

Be that as it may, the 1888 annual meeting of the University Football Club, playing under Australian rules, was held on Monday night, 16 April 1888 at Miithorp’s Hotel. (Milthorp’s Hotel was on the corner of York and King Streets, Sydney) Mr. F. Challands occupied the chair.

Quoting from the annual report which stated “that the club was only formed on July 7, 1887, late last year, when other clubs were closing the season.

The club could not claim to have done much more than make a start. Three matches were played, but, as the number of members was small, it had to depend in a degree on tho assistance given by the Sydney, East Sydney, Waratah and West Sydney clubs. Members should go into regular practice in order that they might be prepared to accept an invitation from tho Melbourne University this season.”

A further report on the meeting continued: “The balance sheet was of a satisfactory nature. The report and balance-sheet were adopted. Letters were received from his Excellency the Governor and Dr. Brownless according their patronage to the club. Tho following office-bearers were elected : Patron, his Excellency the Governor; president, the Chancellor (Sir William Manning) ; vice-presidents, Dr. Maclaurin and Dr. Brownless ; hon. secretary, Mr. M. M. Ryan; assistant hon. secretary, Mr. H. Davis; hon. treasurer, Mr. F. E. Wood: committee, Messrs. R. Kidston, W.J.W. Richardson, Cock, Waters, and T. Challands ; auditors, Messrs. J. P. Leahy and Fitzsimons; delegate to . the association, Mr. W. J. W. Richardson. ”

Ref. Sydney Mail and New South Wales Advertiser (NSW : 1871 – 1912), Saturday 21 April 1888, page 865


1888-08-25 The AustralasianIntervarsity sport but more particularly intervarsity (Australian) football has been a feature of university life for many years now.

It’s when students from most universities throughout Australia converge on a particular venue and play each other in various sports.  And as university students do, “they have a good time.

We have located what we believe is the first match between Melbourne and Sydney Universities played in Melbourne.  Articles in both the Argus and Australasian Newspapers of the day state that the contests” were the first intervarsity football matches played.”

In 1888 a club playing under the name ˜University” was formed in Sydney on 7 July.  Although they played three matches, the number of members was small and to a degree very much dependent on the assistance given by the Sydney, East Sydney, Waratah and West Sydney Clubs (for players).  The suggestion of playing Melbourne University was first mentioned in mid-1888.  That year the club finished the year with a satisfactory balance sheet and had as their patron the NSW Governor, and the club president, the University’s Chancellor, Sir William Manning whilst the vice-chancellor was elected vice president.  Mr M M Ryan was elected secretary and J. Davis the treasurer.  The captain was T. Challands and vice-captain G P Evans.  The club’s committee was comprised of Messrs J Leahy, T. Kidston, Edwards, Norris and J. Gordon.  W J W Richardson was the club’s delegate to the Association.

It should be noted that the position of president in clubs of those days was simply titular and more than likely all the university sporting clubs of the period would have had the chancellor and vice chancellor recorded in some official role.

This University football club nearly always struggled for numbers and in their match v West Sydney on Moore Park on 1 July only 13 turned up to play.   One Sydney newspaper said the team was wasting their time.

Final arrangements had been made by the University Football Club under Australian rules to play a number of matches in Melbourne in the latter half of August, 1888.  Obviously in an effort to supplement their numbers, St Ignatius College were asked to permit some of their students to accompany the side but “this kind offer” was declined.

A selection committee had to choose from thirty the three players who nominated to travel to Melbourne.  Not all were students, many were players from other Sydney clubs however the following were chosen:

Arnott, Button, Cohen, Davis, Evans, Fattorini, Fitzgerald, Fitzsimons, Flynn, Greaves, Harris, Howell, Hughes, Jamieson, Kennedy, Kidston, Leahy, Maher, McKellar, O’Sullivan, Richardson, Scott and Wren with Mr M M Ryan as Manager.  Those who trained received first selection preference. The team left Sydney on the 5.15pm Express train on 31st August.

The matches the team participated in included:



Sydney Uni Score



 30 August



Melbourne Uni Medical Students 2.8
  1 Sept



Melbourne Uni 4.8
  3 Sept Public Schools – no result found.

Note: Behinds were not counted in the total score in those days.

The first match was against Melbourne University Medical students on Thur. 30th August Melbourne University past and present on 1st September, one against the and another against a 23 selected from public schools on 4 September. There were also plans to play a game against the Wagga club en route to their destination but this did not eventuate.