10. A Kick up the Behind: The early years of Australian rules football
And so they came to their decision, and their ten original rules of football were handwritten on paper and stored carefully forever. Well, not quite. They would eventually be tucked away in an old tin trunk, and would remain there for over a century until 1980, when the curator of the MCC Museum, Bill Gray, discovered them.
The first rules for Australian football were written in 1859, but the original game,
played for many years on a rectangular field with a round ball, would look decidedly strange to fans of the AFL today.
Where did the founders of the game get their ideas from, and what did they really mean when they said they wanted to create ‘a game of our own’? And how and why were such characteristic elements as behind posts, marking, the oval field and bouncing the ball on the ground introduced as the game evolved?
But despite its immense popularity in Victoria, it would be some time before this game truly became Australia’s national football code. For well over a century, although it was adopted in many parts of the country, there were other places where rugby reigned supreme over the ‘Victorian’ rules. This chapter ends with an exploration of Australia’s complex footballing geography.