The Big Kick

Explore the history and early development of Football from the State Library Victoria Collection.

State Library Victoria

Warning: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander audiences are warned that the following exhibit may contain images and voices of people who have died.

Victorian Footballers 1884 (1884) by A.E. Ferris (lithographer)State Library Victoria


When Thomas Wentworth Wills suggested that an official code

drawn up to formalise the game of football in 1858, he could

have foreseen the impact his proposal would make on

sporting landscape – and indeed on the psyche of many

for generations to come.

An early coloured lithograph depicting Carlton Footballers from 1884 featuring a central portrait of the late Mr George Coulthard.

‘The Costume Football Wins’, Australasian Sketcher, 1881-09-10, From the collection of: State Library Victoria
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Many of the earliest images of Australian rules football are woodblock prints published in illustrated newspapers such as the Australasian Sketcher with Pen and Paper.

Tim Hogan on Australian Rules football (2015-11-22) by State Library VictoriaState Library Victoria

The Fitzroy Football Club; its history, progress and performances from its history, progress and performances from its formation in 1883 to 1890 (1891) by C.S. CookState Library Victoria

Fitzroy Football Club 

The Fitzroy Football Club was formed at a meeting in the Brunswick Hotel on 26 of September 1883. The Victorian Football Association (VFA) made changes to its rules that allowed Fitzroy to join the association as its seventh club in 1884. Fitzroy quickly became one of the most successful clubs and drew large crowds to its home ground in Fitzroy’s Edinburgh Gardens. 

Alexander Goodall Diary (1896) by Alexander GoodallState Library Victoria

The diary of Alexander Goodall 

Alexander Goodall was a passionate supporter of the Geelong Football Club. In August 1895. he wrote in his diary: "Heavy rain and hail, very cold. Lively football match at Kardinia Park. Mud and slush no object!" 

Of a match in August 1897 he writes:
"Geelong v. Essendon on the ground. Enormous crowd. Blue and White defeated! Intense grief!!!’

Goodall’s richly illustrated diaries, kept from the age of 17, provide an entertaining window into a young man’s daily life in the 1890s.

Aboriginal Australian men playing football in a paddock (1904) by N.J. CaireState Library Victoria

Men playing football at Coranderrk Aboriginal Station in 1904

This extract from William Thomas's journal was written in 1839, the year he arrived in Melbourne to take up the role of assistant protector of Aboriginal people: 'The Marn-grook or Ball is a favourite game with boys and men. A party assemble, one makes a ball of opossum skin or furs of other animals of a large size working it over and over with the sinews of kangaroo tail the ball is kicked up in the air, not thrown up by the hand as white boys do, nor kicked along the ground, there is a general excitement who shall catch it, the tall fellows stand the best chance, when the ball is caught it is kicked up in the air again by the one who caught it.' 

University High School football team (1907) by J.W. SymonsState Library Victoria

J.W. Symons, University High School football team, 1907

A profusely illustrated souvenir and programme of the Australasian Football Jubilee Carnival, 1908 : special articles / by H. D. Newby (1908) by H.D (Herbert Douglas) NEWBYState Library Victoria

The Jubilee Australasian Football Carnival 

The 1908 Jubilee Australasian Football Carnival commemorated 50 years of Australian rules football and inaugurated the Australian National Football Carnival, an interstate Australian rules carnival. It was the first and only time New Zealand participated in interstate carnivals - they made their mark first by coming back from a half-time 26-point deficit to win by a single point, and second with the 'great zest' with which the team performed the haka.

The Victorian team won the overall championship and was awarded a silk pennant and individual gold championship medals.

Victoria Brewery Football Club (1909) by Allan studiosState Library Victoria

This photograph from 1909 shows the Victoria Brewery Football Club players and officials posing in four rows.

Players A. Sim, P. Martin, V. Connolly, G. Nott, J. Brownhill, T. Reade.
Bottom: W. Bowring & A. Kamm (Umpire)

Mr R. K. Cole.

Cigarette cards of Victorian footballers (1914) by Eric Thake CollectionState Library Victoria

Cigarette cards, Victorian footballer's c.1914

The colourful jerseys of Footscray, South Melbourne and St Kilda

'Should Women Play Football?' (1921) by Maurice BrodzkyState Library Victoria

"Should women play football?": from the book Table talk 1921

Promoted as the highlight of the St Kilda Football Clubs 1921 carnival, the match between "Fleetwoods" and "Chorleys" two "feminine" teams, is possibly only the second documented Australian rules football match between women's teams in Victoria. The first, a wartime fundraiser, took place in Ballarat on 28 September 1918 and was a contest between Ballarats "Lucas Factory" and Melbournes "Federal Khaki Clothing Factory." The match attracted 7000 spectators and was resolutely won by the women known as the "Lucas Girls." 

Spectators watch on as the "Fleetwoods" and "Chorleys" prepare to settle the much debated question; 'Should women play football?'

The AFL Womens League was inaugurated in February 2017.

Credits: Story

This exhibit is taken from State Library Victoria’s Changing face of Victoria exhibition, which tells the stories of the people, places and events that have shaped Victoria.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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