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29 July 2008
18/2008
Commemorative Issue

150 Year of Australian Football

Australia
Emigrants to the Colony of Victoria brought with them a variety of approaches to playing football from their schools and towns in England, Ireland and Scotland. Thus Australian football had its evolutionary beginnings in the 1850s in scratch matches (games without standard rules) played in Melbourne parks on holidays.

By 1858 some of these games were advertised or recorded in local newspapers or diaries. From these records we know that on 5 June 1858 Melbourne Grammar School won a game of football against St Kilda Grammar, on 31 July 1858 a scratch match between young men was arranged by the local publican Jerry Bryant near the Melbourne Cricket Ground, and the boys from Melbourne Grammar played against a group of men from St Kilda.

In August and September of that year the well known three-game match between Scotch College and Melbourne Grammar was played, as were at least five other scratch matches that we know of. There were probably others.

A new sporting code

Also in 1858, the idea of establishing a football club and formalising the rules was first suggested in a public forum. On 10 July, the Victorian cricket captain Tom Wills wrote a letter to Bell's Life in Victoria & Sporting Chronicle calling for the foundation of a "foot-ball club" with a "code of laws" to keep cricketers fit during winter and benefit the turf of the cricket ground.

It was not acted upon until May 1859 when the Melbourne Football Club was made official and a committee of four men organised some rules. They were the university-educated Irish teacher Tom Smith, English university-educated journalists from York and Surrey, James Thompson and William Hammersley and Australian Tom Wills, educated at the Rugby School in England. These rules of the Melbourne Football Club subsequently became the Australian Football Rules.

From its beginnings, Melbourne football attracted big crowds, as it was played in large open parklands and was free to watch. Trees could be used for goalposts and the game played with a round ball, as pictured on the stamp left in the 1866 engraving of a game of football in the Richmond Paddock, adjacent to today's Melbourne Cricket Ground.

Earliest engraving of an Australian game of football  

Earliest engraving of an Australian game of football

Technical Information

Issue Date: 2008-07-29
FDI Withdrawal Date: 2008-08-26
Denominations: One x 50c
Designer: Andrew Hogg, Andrew Hogg Design
Printer: Energi Print
Paper: Tullis Russell
Printing Process: Lithography
Size: 26mm x 37.5mm
Performations: 14.6 x 13.86
Sheet Layout: Sheetlet of 10
National Postmark: Melbourne Vic 3000
copyright notice: This material has been reproduced with permission of the Australian Postal Corporation. The original work is held in the National Philatelic Collection.
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