Thursday, 2 May 2013

QUOTE OF THE DAY: Know your history

“Australian Football is the oldest football code in the world.  The first set of
rules were writ in May 1859, predating soccer and rugby by four years.”

- Earl O’Neill, The Footy Almanac


  1. The first set of written rules for any football code were set down at Rugby School in 1845.

  2. Aye, but it's not the football you think it was. From the article to which I linked: "Football, played on a violent and, one presumes, a mostly amateur basis until 1850 or so, was a game that involved a ball and several dozen young men whose sole intent was to get ahold of it and move it to their goal. A tree, a fence, a gate, there were no rules and rucks of 20 or 30 were the rule, not the exception.

    ‘Tom Brown’s Schooldays’ was published in 1857, a recollection of the author’s days at the Rugby school in the 1830s. It has a wealth of historical detail and the longest chapter in the book is a description of a football match.

    Oh, in case you were wondering, that tale of William Webb Ellis running with the ball and thus inventing rugby? Didn’t happen.

    Tom’s football match reads like a collision between rugby and Australian football. There’s massive moving rucks, there’s no offside rule. Blood is spilt, bones are broken. It is the first detailed account of a football match I know of and if you know of an earlier one, let me know."

  3. Which is true, but doesn't alter the fact that Mr O'Neill would have been more accurate to state that Australian Rules are the oldest currently played set of rules, since both Rugby and Soccer are the products of attempts to standardise and allow competition between players of earlier codes.

    Interestingly I find that Sheffield Rules (1858) seem to be an acknowledged influence on both Australian and Association football.

  4. I'm not sure about the Sheffield Rules being an influence on Australian Football, which is as hotly debated as the theory it derived from the Aboriginal game of Marn Grook, but it's interesting that the founders of all the three codes seem to have come out of games first played at Rugby School and Cambridge (the latter of whose rules was codified in 1856 for a game similar to the one Tom Brown was supposed to have played.).

    I think it's certainly true however that Sheffield is the oldest of the present-day football clubs of any code, forming in 1856 I think. (Oldest in the sense being a professional club, and having played their game continuously since formation.) I think Melbourne Demons and Geelong Cats are next, both having been formed in 1859.


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