Pre VFL Rules of Football

In 1850 the year before the gold rush, Victoria's population was approximately 76,000, and by 1860 it had risen by for than five times and had reached 400,000.
The introduction of the eight hour working day began first in Victoria. Image
The Stonemasons won the right in 1856, spreading to other trades and most occupations by the 1860's, and by 1879 the Labour Day public holiday was introduced to celebrate the eight hour day movement.
There is a monument opposite Trades Hall in Carlton with and entwined 888 on top to indictate 8 hours rest, 8 hours work, 8 hours recreation.

Victoria became the first place in the world to introduce the "three eights."

With this increased leisure time the ordinary working person now had the opportunity to be involved in sporting activities. This, combined with a favourable climate and plenty of open space, led to sports such as athletics, cricket, rowing, horse racing, and the Australian game of football being enthusiastically indulged in.

In 1871 in answer to a question to The Leader newspaper, July 08, on the origins of the Australian Football the paper mentions Tom Wills as the father of the game in Victoria.
Other people associated with Wills and took a prominent part in the formation of the game are J. H. Thompson, Hammersley, W. L. Rees, Smith, and Alex Bruce.

The Referee newspaper on September 09 1908, looking at the history of the game quotes W. J. Hammersley who in 1883 said;

"When the game first started in Victoria on anything like a sound footing (that was 1857), it was a very rough game and no mistake. My shins now show honorable scars, and often I had the blood trickling down my legs. No wonder, for hacking was permitted, and no objection was taken to spiked shoes. One day, however, after a sever fight in the old Richmond paddock, when 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 nobody understood them except for himself, and the result was - adjourn to the Parade Hotel close by, and think the matter out. 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 in the Scotch College, a rattling fine player, and splendid kick, but of a very peppery temper.
We decided to draw up a simple code of rules, and as few 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 of the present code under which the game is universally played in Victoria and most other parts of Australia. I feel sure the neither the Rugby nor the Association code will ever supplant them."

William Joshia Hammersley 1826 -1886, was for 18 years the sporting editor of The Australasian newspaper, he had retired from regular journalism when he wrote this in 1883.
James Bogne Thompson 1829 - 1877, journalist for The Argus
.*Thomas Henry Smith 1830 - ?, teacher and then journalist for The Australasian.
Thomas Wentworth Wills 1835 - 1880, cricketer and footballer.

The first set of rules of Australian Football were the 1859 Rules Of The Melbourne Football Club.
These rules were adhered to by the Melbourne Football Club, but when playing some other clubs some variation to the rules was allowed.

The Rules Of The Melbourne Football Club, May 1859. (From fullpoints footy)

1. The distance between the Goals and the Goal Posts shall be decided upon by the Captains of the sides playing.

2. The Captains of each side shall toss for the choice of Goal; the side losing the toss has the Kick Off from the centre point between the goals.

3. A Goal must be kicked fairly between the posts, without touching either of them, or a portion of any player of either side.

4. The game shall be played in aspace of not more than 200 yards wide, the same to be measured equally on each side of a line drawn through the centres of the two Goals; and two posts to be called the "Kick Off" posts shall be erected at a distance of 20 yards on each side of the Goal posts at both ends, and in a straight line between them.

5. In case the Ball is kicked behind goal, any one of the side behind whose goal it is kicked may bring it 20 yards in front of any portion of the space between the "Kick Off" posts, and shall kick it as nearly as possible in a line with with the opposite Goal.

6. Any player catching the Ball directly from the foot may call "mark". He then has a free kick; no player from the opposite side being allowed to come inside the spot marked.

7. Tripping and pushing are both allowed (but no hacking) when any player is in rapid motion, or in possession of the Ball, except in the case provided for in Rule 6.

8. The Ball shall be taken in hand only when caught from the foot, or on the hop.
In no case shall it be lifted from the ground.

9. When the Ball goes out of bounds (the same being indicated by a row of posts) it shall be bought back to the point where it crossed the boundary line, and thrown in at right angles with that line.

10. The Ball while in play, may under no circumstances be thrown.

Foltsam and Jetsam

..... "When the game first established (in the "Richmond Paddock" towards the concluding "fifties") the distance between the goals was usually between 300 and 400 yards, and the width of the playing space in due proportion.
Some years afterwards, when a proper code of rules were framed by Delegates B. Goldsmith and L. W. Bell of Melbourne, S. Wallace (who is now in Perth), and T. P. Power (Carlton), M. McDonald and L. J. Bracken (Albert Park), A. Hastings and J. McIndoe (North Melbourne), G. L. Skinner and H. Jennings (St.Kilda), and G. Down (Geelong), the first rule read as follows: -
"The distance between the goals shall not be more than 200 yards, and the width of playing space (to be measured equally on each side of a line drawn through the centres of the goals) not more than 150 yards. The goal posts shall be 7 yards apart of unlimited height."

This was written by former pioneer Carlton player and co-club founder George F. Bowen alias Nunquam Dormio of The Inquirer and Commercial News (Perth) June 19 1896 p13.


At the end of the 1861 - 1862 cricket season, The Melbourne Cricket Ground was altered from a square shape to "ovalise" the ground. (Argus June 30 p5 1862)
Football would still be excluded and played on the Melbourne Football Ground outside the MCG.

In 1866 delegates from the Carlton (Tom Power, Ben James), Melbourne (H. C. A. Harrison, R. W. Wardill), Royal Park (Harry Chadwick, Jim E. Clarke), and the South Yarra (H. Murray, Geo. O'Mullane) clubs agreed to an updated version of the Rules Of The Melbourne Football Club.
From Wikipedia; the main changes were;
Players must bounce the ball every 10-20 yards when carrying it (this had previously been adopted as one of the Geelong Football Club's compromise rules)
Games must be officiated by umpires. Not one but two umpires (independant of the players) must control the match. The closest umpire to the play adjudicated all aspects of the game, including scoring and free kicks
Time limit established for matches.
Behind posts used for the first time.
Goals to be 200 yards apart.
To read the 1866 rules click here> http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article65465123

1869 A time limit - 100 minutes - was introduced to the game for the first time.

1869 - 6 Behinds Equals a Goal?

"Fair Play" of The Australasian complained of the number of drawn games, especially now that the side kicking the greatest number of goals won the match.
To reduce the number of draws he suggested that;
"When the ball is kicked 6 times behind it's adversary's goal, the side so kicking should score a goal and the game be recommenced as if a goal were kicked."
Behinds were later noted, but not used for scoring for many years, until the formation of the Victorian Football League (V.F.L.) in 1897.

1870 June 18
Carlton played Melbourne, this was the first time Carlton had played in a game where ends were changed at half time.


The Australasian May 25 1872 p12
To read click here> http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article138090348


From The Australasian, to read click here> http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article138090331

1872 June 18 Tuesday
Illustrated Australian News for Home Readers;
"The summer having departed and taken in it's flight that pastime of cricket, football is at present the reining out-door amusement.
The commencement of the season was chiefly remarkable for a desire being manifested by the various football clubs of the colony to amend in some way the present undue roughness which characterises the play. At a meeting of delegates from the chief clubs of the colony it was decided to give the umpires unlimited power to check the "scrimmages," to the occurrence of which is chiefly ascribed the numerous accidents which have taken place.
The alterations in the rules have worked very well, the players having accommodated themselves to the changes with alacrity.
The Metropolitan club, up to the present time, has been the most successful, the South Yarra, and her old rival of Carlton having each in turn to succumb to her prowess. Each game was witnessed by a very large assemblage of spectators."


Delegates from the Senior clubs met at Nissen's Cafe, May 05
To read http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article138636541
"Fairplay" from the Australasian discusses these changes; http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article138636722

1875 THE FOOTBALLER (1875-1881)

Edited by Carlton player/administrator Thomas P. Power this annual was the first publication dedicated to Australian Football.
It contains a history of the game, plus write ups on teams, games, players and results.
To read the initial 1875 edition, courtesy of the State Library of Victoria, click here> www.slv.vic.gov.au/footballvicpam/gid/slv-pam-aaa19900/1
Click onto each thumbnail to enlarge the page.


The Australasian Sketcher with Pen and Pencil (p39) June 12,
We present our readers this month with an illustration of the most popular sport, perhaps, in Victoria - namely, football.
(To view picture, click here> http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-page5985783 )
The scene chosen by our artist is the Melbourne football ground, and we may suppose ourselves looking on at a match being played between the chosen twenties of two crack clubs, the Carlton and the Melbourne or Albert-park, these being supposed to be the three strongest clubs in the colony, and, indeed, the records of past matches played between them show that there is little to choose, as regards to skill and strength of the players, between the three clubs.
Football vies with cricket in the popularity it has acquired and the eagerness with which it is pursued, and the number of clubs in existence. Ten thousand spectators have frequently been gathered together at a match on the Melbourne ground, at Carlton, or in the Albert-park; and not only is the game popular in and about the metropolis, it is carried out with equal ardour in the country districts, and at Geelong, Sandhurst, Ballarat, Maryborough, Kyneton, and Kilmore there are regular clubs established, and matches between the picked twenties of those places and of the metropolis, as well as between themselves, are of frequent occurrence. As a rule, the country clubs hardly play with that skill and agility which the metropolitans display, but they make up for it in rude strength, and many a fleet Melbourne player has succumbed to the vigorous charge of a miner or bushman, although skill in the long run generally wins the day.
It is now nearly 20 years since that some half dozen footballers from the old country met one afternon at the Parade Hotel, Richmond-road, which overlooks the ground our artist has depicted, and drew up a short code of rules, which, with very few alterations, have been accepted as the rules of football all over the colony, and very well have they worked.They are, very simple and such a player fresh from Rugby, Winchester, or Eton, or, in fact, anywhere, can easily accommodate himself to after a very short acquaintance.
The ball used in all matches is the small Rugby oval ball. The ground is usually 200 yards in length, by 50 or 60 in breadth, and is marked off by posts and rope. It is a very pretty sight when the rival twenties, in their distinguishing uniforms and knickerbockers, first range themselves on opposite sides for the "kick off" - although, if the weather be at all damp, the neatness of the uniforms is quickly destroyed after half an hour's play with it's inevitable spills - and great is the excitement when a player makes a catch from the foot near goal and calls "mark."
The players defending the goal drop back towards it, whilst the aggressive party watch their champion as he places tha ball carefully for the "kick." The crowd surge round, a breathless silence ensues for a few seconds until the leathern sphere is sent on it's journey. Every eye watches its course, and if the kick be true and the ball drops neatly between the posts, and the umpire gives it a goal, cheer on cheer re-echo through the paddock and tell that a goal is won. If the ball falls wide, derisive cheers from the defenders and their "party" on the ground greet the abashed "kickist."
The ball is soon sent off again, and once more the mimic strife waxes warm. Many a hairbreadth 'scape is recorded at football matches. Sometimes the goalkeeper just manages, by a high jump, to touch the ball as it is going through the post - sometimes the ball misses by a few inches only, or hits the posts, and not unfrequently some unskilful kickist sends it in the wrong way altogether, admist deafening shouts of derision from players and spectators.
The game is played in the colonies with great vigour and determination, and is maintained for two or three hours at a time with unflagging energy. Fortunately, very serious accidents have been recorded against these veritable exponents of "muscular Christianity," although the rough element is frequently displayed, and even a free fight over some disputed goal is not entirely unknown.
It is a manly pastime, one requiring fleetness of foot, quickness of eye, and stamina; and as success in matches depends on the men working well together and obeying their captain, it also may be regarded as inculcating and fostering those qualities of mind and body which are useful in the more serious business of life. In pluck and endurance the colonial players are certainly not behind those of the old country, and the thorough manner in which so active a pastime is pursued proves that manliness and courage are qualities that are characteristic of the colonial youth.


1876 Football Field Placings
Ground maximum size 200 yards by 150 yards
Ground minimum size 150 yards by 100 yards
Diagram from "The Footballer", 1876 edition, courtesy State Library of Victoria.


The Argus September 30
In this article "Vagabond" observes the crowd behaviour at the recent Carlton vs Melbourne match played on the Madeline Street Ground.
To read the article click here. http://nla.gov.au./nla.news-article5904254


The Australasian's football writer Peter Pindar, June 23, replied to a letter by "Merrivale."
"Merrivale" criticised Australian Football and said that Victoria should adopt the Rugby code.
Pindar says that the founders of the Australian game were;
1. "Messrs. Hammersley, Wills, and Thompson who were all old Rugby Union men - the most conservative in the world - and drew up our rules fully alive to all the advantages and disadvantages of their old game, and would not have been likely to put it aside without grave deliberation.
2. Because our rules are so few and simple that he who runs may read, and the R.U. rules are so numerous and intricate, while our game is not by any means so rough - and it is quite rough enough - as the R.U. game
3. Because our game is so firmly established and so highly esteemed that it is now too late to attempt to bring about such a radical change as the proposal would involve.
4. The progress which it has made and the success which has attended our game - I repeat it - our game - are unprecedented in the history of football, and afford the strongest testimony to it's inherent excellence. Look at the number of our players and also at the number of spectators at any important contest; why, we have more onlookers - and paying ones too, as the last match showed - at any Melbourne and Carlton match than they have at an annual international match in England, where there are 20 people to every one here; while in New South Wales and New Zealand, under the R.U. rules, the players are not proportionately nearly so numerous, nor do the public evince any great interest in the matches."


Carlton played the Waratah Club in Sydney under Rugby rules and two days later under Australian Football rules.
After the second match, The Age ran a Sydney Morning Herald reporter's view of the game.
To see part of the reporter's comments, see 1877 June 25.


July 01 Tuesday, Separation Day Holiday.
Victoria played South Australia in the first Intercolonial Match on the East Melbourne C.G.
(Carlton's Jack Gardiner was was Victoria's first captain.)
The sketch (below) of this match clearly shows the playing area to be oval shaped.


Former Geelong and Essendon player James Pike first played in 1883 and retired in 1893. He celebrated his 90th birthday in 1954 and was asked about the team placing of 20 men.
"He answered an oft-repeated question on the placing of the team when there where 20 players on the field, by saying that the two additional men were stationed on the wings, making five men across the centre." (Argus February 22 1954)


Delegates from all the various Australian Football Associations and New Zealand, were invited, and met in Melbourne on 9 November to discuss the rules of the game.
Some minor amendents were made to the rules.


The following are the complete code of rules as published in The Australasian newspaper, November 1883.

Laws Of The Australasian Game Of Football

1. The distance between the goals shall not be more than 200 yards, and the width of the playing space not more than 150 yards, to be measured equally on each side of a line drawn between the centre of the goals.
The goal posts shall be 7 yards apart, of not less than 20ft in height.
The ball to used shall be the No.2 size Rugby ball (26in. in circumference)

2. Two posts, to be called "the kick-off posts" shall be erected at a distance of 20 yards on each side of the goal posts, in a straight line with them; the intervening line between such "kick-off posts" shall constitute the "goal line."

3. Matches shall be played with not more than 20 a side, unless where handicaps are conceded.
Any club found playing more than the number arranged for shall have all goals kicked prior to the detection of the same anulled.

4. The captains of each side shall toss for the choice of goal. The side losing the toss or goal has the kick off from the centre point between the goals. When half the time arranged for play has expired, the players shall change ends, and the ball being thrown in the air by the field umpire in the centre of the ground.

5. The game shall be won by the side kicking the greatest number of goals.

6. That all matches shall be commenced and played out to the time arranged, and shall not be stopped except by the consent of both captains, but in the event of the captains disagreeing, the field umpire shall be constituted sole referee, and the side disputing his decision shall lose the match.

7. A goal must be kicked by one of the side playing for goal kicking the ball between the posts without touching either of them (flags excepted), or any player, after being kicked.
Should any of the spectators, standing between or immediately in front of the goal posts, interfere with or stop the progress of the ball going through, a goal shall be scored, unless the goal umpire is of the opinion one of the players whose goal is attacked would have touched it, or that it would not have gone between the goal posts if not interfered with or stopped.

8. The goal umpires shall be the sole judges of goals, and of cases of the ball going behind goals; and in cases of doubt may apeal to the field umpire.
The field umpire shall decide in all other matters during the progress of the game and may appeal to a goal umpire.

9. In case the ball is kicked behind the goal line by one of the opposite side (except when a goal is kicked, in which case the ball is kicked off from the centre of the ground), anyone of the side behind whose goal it is kicked may bring it 10 yards in front of any portion of the space within the goal line, and shall kick it towards the opposite goal.

10. That if the ball stikes any of the goal or kick off posts it shall be counted as a behind goal.

11. In the event of a player kicking or forcing the ball wilfully behind his own goal line, it shall be thrown in by the field umpire at right angles from the point where it crossed the said goal line.

12. Any player catching the ball directly from the foot of another player may call "mark". He then has "free kick" from any spot behind, and in a line with his mark and the centre of his opponents' goal posts, even if he have to go out of bounds or behind his goal, no player being allowed to come inside the spot marked, or within five yards in any other direction.

13. The ball may be taken in hand at any time, but not carried as further as is necessary for a kick, unless the player strikes it against the ground at least once in every seven yards.
In the event of a player, with the ball in hand, trying to pass an adversary, and being held by him, he must at once drop the ball.

14. Tripping, hacking, rabbiting, slinging, or catching hold of a player below the knee, are prohibited; pushing with the hands or body is allowed only when the player is in rapid motion within five or six yards of the ball.
Holding a player is allowed only while such player has the ball in hand except in cases provided for in Rules 9, 12, and 13.

15. When the ball goes out of bounds, it shall be bought back to the spot where it crossed the boundary line, and thrown in by the umpire at right angles with that line, but shall not be playable until it touch the grounds within bounds.

16. If any player wilfully touch the ball before it before it reaches the ground when thrown in from out of bounds, the umpire may allow a free kick to the opposite side from the spot where the ball was so wilfully touched.

17. If any player wilfully kicks the ball out of bounds when kicking off after the ball has gone behind, the umpire may allow a free kick to the opposite side from the spot where the ball went out of bounds.

18. The ball while in play may under no circumstances be thrown or handed to a player.

19. The field umpire, on being appealed to, may either award a "free kick" call "play on" or stop the play and throw the ball into the air, and stop all attempts at scrimmages, enforce as strictly as possible, the running, pushing and holding clauses of Rules 13 and 14, and in every case his decision shall be final, and the club disputing same shall lose the match.
But in the event of an umpire refusing to to decide on any matter in dispute, clubs may appeal to the local association, whose decision shall be final.

20. No one wearing projecting nails, iron plates, or guttapercha* on any part of his boots or shoes will be allowed to play in a match.

21. In case of infringement of any of the above rules, any player of the opposite side may claim a "free kick" from the place where the breach of the rule was made, the player nearest the place of infringement being the only one entitled to the kick.

22. No member of an associated, non associated, or junior club shall play with more than one club during one season except he permanently change his residence from town to country, or vice versa, and has first obtained the consent of the local association; but in the event of a member not having played with his club for three consecutive Saturdays immediately prior to his application for a permit he shall be allowed, with the consent of the committee of his club and the approval of the association, to join one other club during the season.
Should the committee of his club withold it's consent the association shall have the power to grant a permit without such consent.
No permits will be granted after the 15th. day of July.
Schools and universities are not to be considered clubs within the meaning of this rule.

23. That any club playing a player of another club shall lose the match in which it plays such member, and shall, in addition, for the first offence, be fined £5, and for the second £10, and for the third shall be disqualified from playing any of the associated clubs during the remainder of the season.

24. In the event of a club disbanding, it's members may be at liberty to play with any other club, with the consent of the local association. But no club shall be considered to have disbanded after the 15th. day of July.

25. None of the above laws shall be altered or rescinded, nor any rule repealed, altered, amended, or adopted, without the concurrence of an absolute majority of intercolonial delegates, at a meeting specially called for that purpose.

1. A KICK (for goal) must be made direct from the player's foot or below the knee.
2. A DROP KICK OR DROP is made by letting the ball drop from the hands to the ground, and kicking the very instant it rises.
3. A PLACE KICK OR PLACE is kicking the ball after it has been placed on the ground.
4. A PUNT consists in letting the ball fall from the hands, and kicking it before it touches the ground.
5. RABBITING is one player stooping down so as to cause another to fall by placing his body below the other's hips.
6. SLINGING is the act of catching a player by or round the neck, and throwing him to the ground.


That in any match played between associated clubs, or under the control of the local associations, the captains shall appoint their respective goal umpires, and either of the competing clubs, if they cannot agree upon a field umpire, may apply to the association to appoint one, such application to be made in writing prior to such match, and the said umpires shall be chosen by the special committee appointed under the rules, and the field umpire shall be paid, if required, with travelling expenses; each competing club to pay one half of such fees.

(*guttapercha is a form of latex and is resistant to water.)


Jack Baker played and captained Carlton 1882-1888 before transferring to Geelong for a season or two.
"One does not get the same chance in football as in cricket to see old-timers at a match. One is the question of two hours, the other of days. But Jack Baker came from his farm at Gheringhap to see his old love, Carlton. There are some names one always reveres, and Jack Baker is one of them. I have alluded before in these columns to his wonderful and manly play, so will not repeat it.
He was not only a great player but a pioneer in some respects. He is given the credit of being the originator of handball, and there was no doubt about the fairness of his methods. He was also an unconscious reformer in what is called bouncing the ball. The law states that the ball shall be struck on the ground at least once every 10 yards. But from what I can gather it did not mention the ground at all.
Many years ago when Carlton were playing Richmond on a shocking day, when bouncing the ball was out of the question, the resourcefulness of the champion came to his aid. On one occasion during the game he ran 50 yards, bouncing the ball in the air the while. There was no law to stop it; the umpire allowed it, and there was quite an argument over the incident, which resulted in the framing of the present law.
Mr. Baker is an expert on red polled cattle, being a judge of the breed at the show."
(Trove: By "J.W" (Jack Worrall) Australasian September 30 1922, p30)


Some of the rule changes brought in this season;
So that one side doesn't have too much advantage with the wind and virtually ending the game, the teams will change ends after each 30 minutes of play, with a break at half time.
Previously any player catching the ball directly from the foot of another player may call "mark".
Now the ball has to travel at least 5 yards.
Up to four boundary umpires can be used to throw the ball in from out of bounds.
They are to be chosen with the mutual consent of the captains.
This rule is to relieve the central umpire of this burden so he can concentrate on his other duties, and to make the game faster by opening up the scrambling and pushing of the followers.
The Australasian believes as this is optional, it doubts whether the four boundary umpires will be used.

For a more detailed look at the 1886 NEW FOOTBALL RULES,
click here> http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article66037215

1887 THE AUSTRALASIAN GAME OF FOOTBALL - Modification of the Rules

The Referee May 05
- Kick-off posts (behind posts) to be placed 10 yards from the goal posts instead of 20 yards.
- Any club found playing extra players will be fined £10
- At quarter, half and three quarter times, after ends have been changed the ball shall be bounced in the centre of the ground.
- As soon as the bell first rings the ball shall be dead.
- Each half shall be of 50 minutes duration in the months of June and July, and 60 minutes in May, August, and September.
- Goal umpires shall be the sole judge of goals and behinds and their decisions are final. A goal and behind will be indicated by distinctive flags.
- Little mark will have to travel at least 2 yards.
To read the full account;
Click here> http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article127596791


The Argus July 02
This article deals with fixturing, a second division, numbering of players, etc.
To read click here> http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article7948754



Tuesday May 01, the newspaper in England, U.K. published a description of Australian Football.
"A Lancashire paper gives the following description of Australian football as played under the Victorian rules:-
"The ball is kicked off from the mid-field, as in our games, with the sides in their respective halves, but no sooner is a start made than part of the back division on each side cross over, and, as in lacrosse, the men stand about in pairs all over the field, each intently watching the other.
There is no cross bar to the goal, no goal line, the touch line being brought round on a curve from the sides to the goal posts. It will be seen that there is no such thing as an off-side.
The prettiest piece of play is what they term "little marks." A man may catch and run with the ball, bounding it every five or seven yards - a rule not strictly adhered to - but when he wants to pass he may not throw direct, but, so to speak, transfer with the touch of a knee or toe to a partner, who, if he catches it, make a "little mark," and has a free kick, which he can drop or place without being charged as in the Rugby Union game. A "little mark" near an opponent's goal generally means mischief, as, if the ball goes over or between the uprights, a point (goal) is scored. A series of little marks will often take the play from end to end of the field.
The throw-in from touch is peculiar. This is done by the umpire on that side, who throws the ball over his head with his face away from the field, and it is not in play until it has touched the ground.
There are no scrummages or close play, while a man can only be tackled round, or, I believe below the waist. The only penalties are for unfair charging or tackling, and unnecessarily rough play, and there is but one penalty - a free kick. When the ball becomes dead in the field the referee restarts it by bounding it on the ground.
The game is far more simple than Rugby, while with experts - men used to playing together - I am confident that it would be even prettier than the Association, and is certainly far less rough than the former. The usual number of players is twenty a-side, and with such it is only natural to expect the field of play is considerably larger than either of ours.
There is a lot of real merit in the game, but that it will ever oust Rugby or Association from it's pride of place is very much open to doubt."
(Courtesy of the British Library.)


"Observer" writing in The Argus June 29 (p5) mentions the odd practice of lining up at the start of the game and after each goal, when there is no compunction on players to do so.
To read click here> http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article6258388


Carlton travelled to Sydney to play a series of exhibition games.
The Sydney Morning Herald published a diagram of the playing field and a brief explanation of the then current laws of Australian Football.
To view the diagram click here> http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article13785061


Intercolonial Conference held at Buton's Orient Hotel Wednesday 05 November.
"It was decided to have the behind posts and kick-off line seven yards from either goal-post instead of five, as suggested by the V.F.A.
With reference to the distance required for little marks, it was decided to revert to the old rule of two yards.
A further limit was placed on the issue of permits to players wishing to change clubs, and in future none will be issued after the 1st of June, a month after the opening of the football season.
In order, if possible, to decrease the boundary play, where a lot of time is now wasted, the umpire will bring the ball five yards inside the boundary and bounce it, the loss of time through players accidentally or wilfully touching the ball when thrown in thus avoided."
There was a lengthy disscussion about indirect player payment, "contending that to lay a player a wager of any sum money to nothing, or give him a suit of clothes for winning a match, was indirect payment. Mr Evans (Victoria) contended, however, that so strict an interpretation of the words would drive half the players out of the field."
"The chairman asked for suggestions from the delegates as to the appointment of boundary umpires, and although the conference was against the innovation, the members were all of opinion that some step should be taken to lessen the heavy work which now falls upon the shoulders of the field umpires, and the appointment of two umpires for a match was suggested."
Argus November 07 p10


"Followers of the Australian game will do well to remember that pushing has now been done away with, and that a free kick is the penalty for a breach of the rule.
The reading of it is as follows:- Pushing a player shall not be allowed under the following conditions:
1. Pushing from behind shall not be allowed under any circumstances.
2. From the front when a player is standing.
3. When the player is in the air when going for a mark.
By the abolition of pushing, the Australian game has been rendered as nearly as possible free from danger, and players will now be compelled to go for the ball instead of the man.

We have received Messrs. Boyle and Scott's "Footballers' Pamphlet" for 1891, containing the revised rules of the game, diagram showing positions of players in the field, and club fixtures for the season. In connection with the rules there is one point that we hope the association will be firm about, and that is with regard to the direction to the umpires enforcing the "little mark" regulation. They are now instructed that they must do so, and in the interests of the game it is to be hoped that in future little marks will be properly kicked the full distance of two yards instead of the player touching the ball against his toe, and then handing it to one of his side not 18in. distance from him."
(Trove: Sydney Mail & NSW Advertiser April 18 1891, p887)


Teams lining up against each other at the start of the match and after a goal has been scored is abolished.
Alteration to the ball being thrown in after going out of bounds.
See 1891 May 02


October 01
The Illustrated Australian News published an article of Australian Football with sketches of play and crowd scenes.
Click on the link below to see sketches on page 13, then click onto page 16 from drop down box to read article.
Click here> http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article60444172


A proposal to abolish behinds in the game and scoring was defeated by one vote at the V.F.A. meeting.
Although behinds were acknowledged and recorded, they were not part of the total score with goals only counting.
It would not be until the formation of the V.F.L. and it's first season in 1897 that behinds were officially counted.


Carlton played Bendigo on the Queen's Birthday Holiday, Wednesday May 24 1893
The Bendigo Independent (May 25) listed the team positions as;
Right Back, Centre Back, Left Back
Right Half Back, Centre Half Back, Left Half Back
Right Wing, Centre, Left Wing
Right Wing Forward, Half Forward, Left Wing Forward
Right Goal, Goal Sneak, Left Goal
Followers (x4)
Rover (x1)


The West Australian June 13 (p3) in it's Football Notes;
"By the latest files I notice that the "Football Parliament" in Victoria has been casting about for methods by which the heavy scrimmaging may be done away with. The little marks which were introduced by the Carlton Club in the seventies and improved upon and perfected by the Geelong and South Melbourne have become a source of evil.
The fact is that many of the so-called little marks are no marks at all, but merely throws, the ball being lifted by the hands off the toe, and this is done quickly will decieve the best of umpires. With this system of marking a heavy team must prevail - provided that the play is kept close - by superior weight. In 1885 the marks limit was fixed at five yards, but this was found to work badly, and the limit was reduced to two yards. The difficulty in gauging the distance was so great that it was ultimately left to the discretion of the umpires.
Mr. T. Banks, the well known Fitzroy player, favoured a ten yards' limit, which he thought would give lighter players a chance.
The persistent crowding upon the ball has also become an objectional feature, and a suggestion was thrown out to remedy it that, instead of bouncing the ball, the umpire should merely throw it in, and it was decided to give this proposal a trial at the charities match last Saturday. The result of the trial is not to hand.
Another suggestion was that the players should be allowed to pass the ball to one another as in the Rugby game, and if the passing was done by means of throws behind instead of forward, the suggestion seems to be a good one.
The Victorian Association has not yet finished it's investigation of the matter, which is full of interest to all followers of the game."

Little marks were abolished a few months later with the formation of the V.F.L. & on field in the League's first season in 1897. The V.F.A. followed the V.F.L.'s lead.


The Referee 1908 May 27 (p9) says;
"The Ballarat Football League has a rule by which a player injured during the progress of a game may be replaced by a subsititute, as in Rugby (up to half time). This rule has been in force in Ballarat for twelve years, but has never been employed in Melbourne, and is not provided for in the rules adopted by the Australasian Football Council.
Although the rules has worked admirably in the Golden City, the League was of the opinion that the Ballarat League should be loyal to the rules as approved by the said Council, and no deviation should be permitted. It was accordingly moved that the Ballarat League be informed that the V.F.L. had no power to allow the rule."
It would be another 22 years before a reserve player would be introduced in the V.F.L. (34 years after Ballarat)
1930 Round 1 and Jim Crowe would be the first Carlton player to have the "honour" to be the first bench warmer.


The Wagga Wagga Express published the proposed rules changes in Tuesday September 29 edition.
The VFA proposed, among other things, reduce the number of players on the ground to 18, and to place a cross-bar between the goal posts!
To read click here> http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article145695397


After the first match of the season the North Melbourne Courier's football writer had this brief report of the new VFA rules introduced this season.
North Melbourne had played Port Melbourne.
"New rules a farce."
"All interest taken out of the game."
"Eighteen men aside to prevent overcrowding on the ball."
"No less than 20 on ball when thrown in on Saturday."
"Delegates, use your influence and get little marks and 20 men aside reinstated."

Seems nothing much has changed over 100 years to complaints about rule changes.


The Argus May (p18) ran an article by "Observer"
The writer talks about the early days of the game, canvas jackets, training methods, rivalries, comparison with past and present (1908) players, and captaincy.
To read the article, click here> http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article10672526


The Argus August 01 (p7) celebrated the 50 years of Australian Football with two articles;
These articles give a good insight to the early days of the game and to some of it's personalities.
To view the articles click here> http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-page353904


"Markwell" from the Australasian August 22 (p23) writes about the history of the game.
To read click here> http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article139205313


The Referee August 12, writer 'Cynic' looks at the originators of the game;
H. C. A. Harrison, T. W. Wills, J. B. Thompson, T. Smith, & Mr. Hammersley.
To read click here> http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article12033432


The Referee (Sydney) August 12 p11
St.Kilda captain Dave MacNamara's recollections of the eighties and the Carlton team of Jack Baker, Tommy Leydin, etc


Daily Herald (Adelaide) April 09.
T. A. Reeves writes about the early days of football pre the 1866 rule changes, crowd encroachment, grounds, shape of the football, George D. Kennedy and his part in establishing the game in Adelaide, and he said he witnessed Carlton playing in 1860!
To read click here> http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article103873890


Daily Herald (Adelaide) April 16.
T. A. Reeves follows up last week's article.
Slinging, tripping, rabbiting, and pushing in the back all part of the early game, uniforms, players remaining in position, and the present day 1910 game.
To read click here> http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article103874932


Daily Herald (Adelaide) April 23
T. A. Reeves recalls the early days of football with the advantage of kicking with the wind, training methods, kicking off to start the game, Adelaide's peculiar Kensingston Rules, and Billy Dedman.
To read click here> http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article103876005


The Kalgoorlie Western Argus, April 19.
To read the article, click here> http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article33335260


The Adelaide Advertiser
This was about comparing the present day (1910) football with the past.
To read the story, click here> http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article5252019


An article by The Argus writer "Old Boy"
To read the article, click here> http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article7255331


In reply to the above article former Carlton coach Jack Worrall wrote a letter to the editor of The Argus.
To read click here> http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article7238279


The Record (Emerald Hill) 25 April, also wrote about the smoke night held at the M.C.G.
Jack Gardiner and the Rev. A. Brown of the Albert Park club attended. Brown talks about being the first captain to place the players in positions on the ground. He said "... and now, after 51 years, you don't keep your places."
To read click here> http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article74230903

1914 OLDEST CODE IN THE COMMONWEALTH - Chat With the "Father Of The Game."

H. C. A. Harrison reminisces with a reporter from the Referee newspaper.
To read click here> http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article120286763

1914 TASMANIAN FOOTBALL - Improvements That Had Their Genesis In Tasmania

Referee April 29 talks about Tassie players and innovations that have been adopted into the Australian game.
To read click here> http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article120286660


Footballs From Victorian League for Soldiers

The Referee February 02 writes about Carlton, it's balance sheet, the effect of the war, etc.
To read click here> http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article121176334


The Argus August 07 (p8) "Personal Column" reports,
"The death of Rev. Alexander Brown a retired cleryman of the Church of England. Mr. Brown who was ordained in 1893, was curate of Talbot from 1893 to 1897, and was subesquently in charge of the parishes of Bunningyong and Crookwell.
He retired in 1902, and had resided in East Melbourne.
In his youth Mr. Brown was a well known cricketer and footballer, playing with the Emerald Hill club, and claimed to be the originator of the Australian game of football.
He was the youngest son of Captain Alexander Brown, a well known shipmaster on the Australian coast half a century ago."


The Chronicle (Adelaide) October 22 (p21) article on A. McIntyre former player and goal umpire about his 40 years in the game, how the game has changed, rules, players etc.
To read click here> http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article87562180


The Mercury published a letter to the editor about football in the island capital since 1864.
To read, click here> http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article23756097


The Geraldton Guardian (W.A.) published an article on called "Football's Development and Greater Destiny."
To read, click here> http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article67288193


The Argus September 26
Excerpts from a 1881 book on the Carlton Football Club
To read click here> http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article2040212
If anyone has this 1881 book or knows of it's whereabouts, could they please contact Blueseum.


The Mail (Adelaide)
A comparison of the game of 1925 and the 1890's.
To read the article, click here> http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article58197840


Former Carlton Captain and long serving V.F.A. secretary Theophilis S. Marshall reminiscing on his playing days.
To read click here> http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article3786016


R.W.E. Wilmot of The Argus writes about the history of the game and some of it's personalities.
To read click here> http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article3807742


The Albany Advertiser (W.A.) August 6, story about the early days of football in Ballarat & Melbourne.
To read click here> http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article70197707


Age September 08; Glimpes into football as played in the 1870's & Carlton's George McGill
To read click here> http://nla.gov.au/nla_news-article204132123 (external link)


When George Coulthard Held Court

Dazzling Men of the Old Regime Who Thrilled Thousands

To read click here> http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article131167741


Former Geelong player, 70 yo Charlie Palmer, is interviewed by the Sporting Globe.
To read click here>http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article182998518


The Barrier Miner in Broken Hill, July 15 (p5).
An article on the begginings of football, rules, and guernseys, etc.
To read click here> http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article48437496


The Barrier Miner July 14.
The writer talks about the changes in football since he first saw a game in 1867.
To read click here> http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article49512802


The West Australian July 16, a Perth perspective.
To read article click here> http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article32857875


The Referee's H. O. Balfe (November 14) writes about the development of the game.
To read click here> http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article135511709


The Mercury, October 01
How the Australian game was adopted by one vote in Tassie, early days, compromised rules etc.
To read the article click here> http://nla.gov.au./nla.news-article30114219


The Albany Advertiser (W.A.) April 19.
To read click here> http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article70262447


The Sunday Times (Perth) July 25
George Coulthard named as the best footballer.
To read article click here> http://nla.gov.au./nla.news-article58785233


The Sunday Times (Perth) August 08
A mostly Carlton related article about George Coulthard and other players.
To read click here> http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article58786671


The Sunday Times (Perth), September 05
An oldtimer's recollections of the early days of the Carlton Football Club and George Coulthard.
To read click here> http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article58788639


The Camperdown Chronicle, September 02, published an article on the local Camperdown team,
There is a description of how the game was played in the 1880's.
To read the article, click here> http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article28318939


Mark Pennings' 2003 story of the Carlton legend.
"The article draws attention to Conway's success as a player and his important role in the development of the Carlton Football Club. It discusses the football career of Jack Conway. Conway was a Melbourne Grammar School boy who went on to play for Melbourne, South Yarra, Albert Park and Carlton. Conway played football during the period of 1858 - 1871. He captained Carlton and was a major figure in the development of it's culture and ambitions. Conway was also an on field adversary of Melbourne captain H.C.A. Harrison and these two enjoyed many hard fought contests."
To read click here> www.eprints.qut.edu.au/7344/
Then click PDF (94kb)

English School Games

Bells Life http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article199054183

English University Games

Bells Life http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article19905668

Future Of The Game In England

Bells Life http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article199053390

See Pre VFL Venues, & Formation of the Club, for more newspaper articles of Football in the Nineteenth Century.

Pre VFL | Pre VFL Players | Pre VFL Captains | Pre VFL Vice Captains | Pre VFL Premierships | Pre VFL Venues | Presidents | Vice Presidents |Formation of the Club | Pre VFL Administrators | VFL/AFL | Blueseum Index

Contributors to this page: blueycarlton , Jarusa and molsey .
Page last modified on Friday 26 of August, 2022 23:48:50 AEST by blueycarlton.

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