Expansion of the Victorian Football League has been a relatively constant phenomenon in the past few decades, beginning when South Melbourne moved to Sydney in 1982, and then followed by teams from South Australia, Queensland and Western Australia. As we all know, it was only in 1990 (shortly before the arrival of the Adelaide Crows) that the VFL became the AFL. However, the Blueseum has received details of attempts to spur the game’s migration into enemy territory far earlier than that – this one before the invention of the VFL and actually in the days of its predecessor, the Victorian Football Association (VFA). And to make it even more fascinating, the attempt was mid-season! For in 1890, a Carlton team – together with the forgotten state (in an AFL sense) of Tasmania – sent teams to New South Wales to play a series of matches to spread the word of both Australian rules and our wonderful football club.

Carlton had begun Season 1890 well, with 5 wins (over Melbourne, St Kilda, Footscray, Essendon and Geelong) from 7 matches (1 loss to Port Melbourne and a draw with North Melbourne) in the Victorian Football Association competition. Carlton was only a few seasons out from our 1887 Premiership, our second in this VFA competition (and 7th overall in the various competitions). Yet after these initial 7 games, the Carlton and Tasmanian teams ventured to NSW mid-season to promote the name of the game, with 2 matches in late June, 1890.
John Melville 1.jpg
The visit appeared to have created some interest from both the press and the local politicians, as the Sunday Mail reports:

The Tasmanian and Carlton footballers were formally received by the Mayor, Mr Burdekin, M.L.A, at the Town Hall on Friday, the 20th instant. The players, with a number of supporters and the officials of the New South Wales Football Association, altogether about 70 strong, were very cordially welcomed by Mr.Burdekin, and after the usual introductions he proposed the healths of the teams, coupled with the names of the managers, Mr.Melville (Carlton) and Mr.Marsden (Tasmania). The toast was drunk with acclamation, and Messrs. Melville (Picture Inset) and Marsden responded, the latter proposing the health of the New South Wales Football Association, to which Mr. Marshall, the vice-president, replied.

The first of Carlton’s football matches to be played ‘under Australian Rules’ first of a series of football matches under Australian rules was played on Saturday 21st June on the Association Cricket Ground (Sydney) against Tasmania.
PLEASE NOTE: The second McKenzie named on the bottom row should be McKechnie
Also see: https://www.blueseum.org/tiki-read_article.php?articleId=84
Carlton’s team was: Walton, ’Ivo’ Crapp, Sutton, Billy Strickland (Captain), Lorraine, Coulson, Blake, Wattling, Keane, Strong, Salt and Hutchinson; White, Ross, Williams, McKechnie, McKenzie, Moorhouse, Currie, Batters (20 players on the field). (4)

This team sure had some history within in, with 4 future Carlton Captains (at VFA) level accompanying present Captain Billy Strickland on the trip (Lorraine, Walton, Hutchinson and Blake). Now Strickland would be a history maker in his own right, leaving the Blues for the yet-to-be-despised Pies only 2 years later, becoming a Champion of the Colony and Collingwood’s first ever Premiership Captain (VFA)! In addition, Sutton would leave the Blues and become the first VFL Captain for the Melbourne Football Club.

Also in the team was ‘Ivo’ Crapp, destined to make his own mark on the game as ‘the Prince of Umpires’, umpiring 7 VFL Grand Finals and no less than 10 WAFL Grand Finals (1906-1914, 1918). Finally, of note were some outstanding nicknames (in fact the Blueseum only has the nicknames of certain players registered, and we’re still looking for their first names!), with ‘Ivo’ Crapp, ‘Jigger’ Moorhouse (to play VFL with St Kilda) and ‘Dolly’ Batters testing the imagination.

For the first game, the Sunday Mail reports:

The ground was rather slippery owing to the rain, and the threatening state of the weather kept many people away. Tasmania won the toss, and Carlton kicked off from the southern goal, having a sluggish wind against them.

The reporting at the time would refer to our defensive zones in much the same way as we refer to Soccer goals – the goal we are defending is ‘our goal’, not the one we are seeking to score into. The Tasmanian team surged into the lead with Webb kicking the first goal only a few minutes after commencement.

Nicholson marked to Sibley, and Webb receiving in front of the Carlton goal placed the first score to the credit of Tasmania a few minutes after the commencement.

Tasmania maintained control for much of this quarter, but could not nail a further goal:

From this time the fortunes of the Tasmanians began to wane. Williams marked in front, and with a good place equalised the scores... Quarter-time was then called, the score being – Carlton; 1 goal 4 behinds; Tasmania 1 goal 3 behinds.

The second quarter was a ripper for the ‘Carltons’:

When play was resumed McKenzie took a shot at the Tasmanian goal, striking a post. Following up the attack, Salt marked on the wing, and centred to White, who, from a distance of a few yards, kicked the second goal for Carlton. A fine kick by Tankard, who was marking well, went very close to the Carlton goal, Blake and Wattling bringing the ball back. Williams picked up in the Tasmanian territory, and with a quick shot put another goal to the credit of the Carltons… A little mark was sent at rather a fast pace to Ross, but after several attempts he managed to hold the ball and put in between the Tasmanian posts. The Tasmanians then worked the ball down the field, and Willing had a shot for goal without success. Twice the Tasmanians scored behind, and the bell sounded for half-time, the scores being – Carlton, 4 goals 6 behinds; Tasmania 1 goals 5 behinds.

The conditions in the third quarter allowed only a single additional goal, before an avalanche in the last:

Play was kept up around the Tasmanian goal, and although a Carlton mark was neatly rushed and the ball kicked away, the Carltons quickly brought it back, and McKechnie (picture inset) picking up dropped another goal for Carlton…Three quarter time was then called, the scores being Carlton 5 goals 9 behinds; Tasmania 1 goal 7 behinds.

W McKechnie.jpg
In the last quarter the Carltons went ahead rapidly, Currie marked in front from a low kick by Hutchinson and scored a goal. The Carltons coming again worked the ball along the eastern wing with little marks, and Salt receiving in front added another goal to the total. Williams also had a shot, which was not successful, the ball going behind. The Carltons seemed to be scoring whenever they pleased, but Lovett came out with a fine run down the western wind, and kicked to the centre, where Ryan got possessions, and after dodging about, made a successful shot for the Carlton goal. This, however, was almost the last effort of the Tasmanians. McKenzie marked in front, and although he shot badly, Currie marked for him on the wind and put the ball between the Tasmanian posts. White then had one of the easiest shots in the match off a mark from McKechnie, but a behind was the only result, a second attempt by McKenzie having a similar result. Strickland marked in front at a distance of about 50 yards, and with a beautiful drop kick scored goal. Play ceased shortly afterwards, the final scores being: Carlton 9 goals, 13 behinds; Tasmania, 2 goals 8 behinds.

Typical of reporting at the time, the author take great care to thank the Umpire:

Although the Carltons drew away with ease from their opponents in the last quarter, the game was nevertheless an excellent one, and was highly appreciated by the spectators. Mr. Roy acted as central umpire, and kept the game going at a fast pace throughout. His decisions were strictly impartial, and were received without cavil (1) or disrepute.

The second of Carlton’s ‘expansion games’ was played against a team of New South Wales footballers, whilst the Tasmanians visited West Maitland (Hunter Valley) and played a district team. The Carlton team was largely unchanged, consisting of: Crapp, Currie, Batters, Blake, Hutchinson, Keane, Lawrie, Murray, Morehouse, McKechnie, McKenzie, Ross, Sutton, Salt, Strickland (captain), Strong, Wattling, White, Williams and Waldron.

The conditions were again tough, but for different reasons:

The day was most unsuitable for football, as a strong wind blew from goal to goal and several heavy showers fell. Carlton won the toss and defended the southern goal, having the wind at their backs. Jepson kicked off for Sydney, and the Carltons rushed the ball down the centre. Ross dodged his “shepherd” and little marked to Morehouse, who dropped an easy goal not more than a minute after the game had been commenced.

As an aside, perhaps the footballs of the day were not of the same quality as today:

Shortly afterwards the ball burst, but another was quickly procured.

With the new ball, Carlton launched an avalanche of scoring on the unsuspecting opponents:

From the throw-in New South Wales secured, and kicked away, but the Carltons brought the ball back on the northern wing, and then across. Ross picked up close to goal and put the ball through the New South Wales posts... Keane had a nice chance to give a mark in front but missed his kick. The slip did not matter much as Batters received in front, and taking a long place kick sent the ball home...Currie marked in front and had a nice chance for goal, but the kick was misdirected, and only a behind resulted. A fine drop by Crapp from the centre fell short, and Currie marking to McKechnie enabled the latter to score fourth goal for Carlton. Quarter-time was then called, the scores being: Carlton, 4 goals 2 behinds; New South Wales, 0.

Ivo Crapp.jpg
After two early goals to Carlton, NSW finally managed a major:

The Carltons did not appear to be doing their best at this juncture, as two very easy shots right in goal went wide of the mark. The New South Wales men were then the attacking party, and Shipton marked to Royal, who kicked first goal for New South Wales. The locals kept up the attack and Crisp receiving between the eastern wing and the centre placed for goal. The ball was marked between the posts by Carlton, and the bell rang for half-time, the scores being Carlton 6 goals 6 behinds, New South Wales 1 goal 1 behind.

Similar to the first of these matches, Carlton attacked fiercely in the second half:

When play was resumed, New South Wales scored a behind, but immediately afterwards the locals were driven back and Crapp with a long punt scored another goal. Wilson ran on the eastern wing and foolishly refrained from kicking, and being tackled lost the ball as he deserved to for holding on so long his own goal.

Keane made a beautiful run on the eastern wing, but knocking on to Currie enabled the latter to score. Ross and Keane followed with goals, the latter making a fine long drop. Three quarter time was then called; the scored being Carlton, 10 goals 9 behinds, New South Wales 1 goal 2 behinds.

To add to the mirth of the bursting ball, one Carlton player almost ‘did a Rodan’:

White, of the Carltons, not noticing the change of ends, took a shot at his own goal amid much laughter, but the ball did not go through.

Play was kept in the Carlton goals for a time until Strickland ran the ball away on the western wing. Loughnan had a rather difficult shot, which did not result in anything, and Wilson picking up, took a rapid shot and scored second goal for New South Wales. The latter were then called on to defend, and Wattling taking a shot, which went along the ground, sent the ball between the posts. McKechnie picked up soon afterwards, and making a short run, dropped another goal. Keane then marked in front and kicked for goal, but the ball was stopped near the posts. A scrimmage followed, and Strong kicked the ball through without picking up, the final scores being: Carlton 13 goals 11 behinds; New South Wales, 2 goals, 5 behinds. Mr.Roy filled the position of central umpire and acted leniently to both sides.

In this mid-season trip, Carlton had managed two comfortable victories against both Tasmania and the NSW outfit, but were now entitled to some enjoyment. As a token of appreciation to the trip, the Carlton visitors were treated to a formal reception:
Billy Strickland.jpg
The South Melbourne and Carlton footballers were taken around the harbour by the New South Wales Football Association on the 27th ultimo. A company of about 60 left the Lime Street wharf in the steamer Princess, and visited the various points of interest in the harbour. Mr.P. Sheridan proposed the health of the teams, and, in doing so, expressed his belief that their game would yet become the national game of the colonies, so far as football was concerned. The toast was drunk with the greatest enthusiasm, and Messrs Heather (South Melbourne) and Strickland (picture inset) (Carlton) replied.

The party reached home again shortly before 6 o’clock, after a very pleasant outing. The mayor, Mr. Burdekin, was providore for the excursion, and hearty cheers were given during the trip to mark his generosity. In the evening the teams were invited to a smoke concert (2) given by the East Sydney Football Club in the Oddfellows’ Hall, Elizabeth Street. An excellent programme of singing, recitations and step-dancing was gone through; the performers being Messrs. Forbes, Fernberg, Gannon, Commings, Maxwell, Evans, Newlyn, Dess, Doran and Teece. Mr C.Hall was the pianist, and the Brittanie band played several selections.

The press further reported that the Carlton football team left Sydney on Saturday evening in the Bulimba <b>(3) </b>for Melbourne.

At the end of the year, the visit was celebrated in the 1890 Annual Report, which stated:

During the season your First Twenty visited Sydney to play a series of Matches. Through adverse weather they were only able to meet teams representing Southern Tasmania and New South Wales, being victorious in both instances. Apart from the disappointment in not playing all the matches arranged, the trip was very enjoyable, due in a great measure to the exertions of the Manager, Mr. J. Melville, who was, before leaving Sydney, the recipient of a presentation to the Team and Supporters. Your Committee take this opportunity of acknowledging the kindness and attention the team received from several prominent members of the New South Wales Association and others during their stay in the sister colony.

However, it was a trip that proved costly – at least in a financial sense – for Carlton, with the Report also advising under ‘General Expenditure’ the item of:

Sydney Trip (NSW) First Twenty - Cost of £500 19 0

which represented almost a third of the Club’s total expenditure for the year (£1544 4 10). The payback or return to Carlton from either the VFA or from any form of endorsements is not clear in the Report.

Back on to the playing field, unfortunately we were not able to push our pre-season form (nor our exhibition game form) to the level of South Melbourne, who were crowned Premiers. The VFA premiers were the side that finished on top of the ladder at the end of the season, with the first ‘final’ being held in 1896 when South Melbourne and Collingwood were level at the end of the season and a match was played between these sides to decided the premier. However, the ‘Carltons’ appear to have been able to impress their Northern Neighbours with their football ability with this mid-season trip to NSW, and been entertained in the process!

Blueseum: Pre VFL Players | Pre VFL Captains


1 ‘Cavil’ is a disused word of the English language relating to making petty objections
2. A ‘Smoke Concert’ was a show of singing and dancing for men only, where all were encouraged to smoke.
3. The Bulimba was built in 1881 by A&J.Inglis, Glasgow. It was a 2,510 gross ton ship, length 96.26m x beam 11.64m. There was accommodation for 37-1st and 16-2nd class passengers. She could also carry 1,360 deck passengers. Launched for A.Gray & E.S.Dawes, she was operated by Associated Steamers for the London - Brisbane service. She started her maiden voyage from London, via Suez and Batavia to Brisbane on 1/1/1883, and in 1886 was registered as belonging to British India Associated Steamers. In 1890 she was transferred to Australasian United S.N.Co and started her last voyage between London and Brisbane on 17/2/1891.
4. McKenzie: You may have noticed that 2 players by the surname of McKenzie are listed in the picture, however, the player details from the articles indicate only one - A. McKenzie. The Blueseum considers that the second McKenzie, in the bottom row, is indeed Wally McKechnie.


Sunday Mail – 21 June, 28 June and 5 July, 1890.