Queensland's proud Aussie Rules history

Over the years readers of worldfootynews.com will have been left in doubt that this author is particularly keen to see the game of Australian football seen in its full perspective, not as the dominant sport in one state of one country, but a game that within a handful of years of being codified had spread around a nation. And now, given the chance to go beyond those shores, it is being steadily embraced in many countries by sporting men and women who love the freedom to run, jump, tackle and kick, all in the one game.

That eagerness to see the game's broad history truly recognised and respected has at times led to criticism of the AFL as being overly Melbourne-centric and what can appear (sometimes quite unintentionally) as an attitude that the history of Australian football is the history of Melbourne football. That's ironic because it's the same line that has been used in the past to denigrate the game by the "non-believers" in Aussie Rules - people who aren't fans of the sport (pick yourself up, yes, they do exist). There has been myth that the game is just something Victorians do or have recently transplanted, dismissing the role it played in many states, ranging from a solid following through to being the dominant game way back in colonial times.

So it was pleasing to see the AFL's 150 celebrations website picking up a story from the Brisbane Lions' site regarding the history of the game in Queensland. Contrary to what some may have believed, the sport has long been played in the Sunshine state.

The full article is 150 Years of Australian Footy - Queensland's contribution.

Keen to demonstrate its early roots, we've listed the timeline section below.


1866 - On 22 May 1866 Queensland’s first club was formed at the Metropolitan Hotel in Brisbane by a group of cricketers who, as winter approached, sought a sporting alternative to keep fit. They chose what the locals referred to as ‘Victorian Rules’ and gave birth to the Brisbane Australian Football Club. In 1868-69 there were four clubs – Brisbane, the Volunteer Artillery, Brisbane Grammar School and the Civil Service - and in 1870 an Ipswich team joined, necessitating an overnight journey on a steamer for matches.

1879 - The Queensland Football Association (QFA) was formed to administer a game flourishing in the Brisbane/Ipswich area.

1883 - Queensland sent delegates to the Inter-Colonial Football Conference where the Australian Football Council was formed. At the time Queensland boasted more than 300 teams.

1884 - Queensland played its first interstate match, losing to New South Wales 3-16 to 7-10 (behinds were recorded in the scores at the time but did not actually count until 1897).

1885 - Australian football was the first-choice code of the grammar schools in Queensland, with Ipswich Grammar beating Toowoomba Grammar at North Ipswich in 1885 before catching an overnight train to play Brisbane Grammar the following day.

1888 - Queensland attracted more than 5000 people to the Brisbane Exhibition Ground for a match against VFL club Melbourne, prompting ‘Wikipedia’ to record that ‘by the 1880’s Australian football was the most prominent football code in the state”.

1890 - South Melbourne visited Queensland to play Brisbane, Ipswich and Queensland

1903 - On 29 July 1903 the Queensland Football League (QFL) was formed.

1904 - On 18 June 1904 at Queen’s Park in the Brisbane Botanical Gardens the first premiership game was played. This gave a revival to a sport which had stagnated somewhat through the 1890’s after independent school headmasters in 1887 adopted ‘rugby football’ as their preferred code by a one-vote majority. The decision was reportedly influenced by the then recent creation of a Queensland-based governing body for rugby, and strong resistance to the use of the word "Victorian" in the name of the sport. The first premiership was shared by Norths, Souths and Wests.

1905 - Games were first played at the Brisbane Cricket Ground (Gabba). City became the first team to win the QFL premiership outright.

1914 - A promotional carnival was played in Brisbane involving VFL club Collingwood and teams from Perth, Adelaide and Hobart.

1927 - The DeLittle Medal for the “Best & Fairest & Manliest Player” in the competition was first awarded to Neil Brown of Windsor. The medal continued until 1942 when the competition ceased due to World War II. A meeting of the Australian National Football Council decided that each of the state leagues were to include the words 'Australian National' in their names so the QFL was renamed the Queensland Australian National Football League (QANFL).

1946 - Doug Pittard of Western Districts won the first J.A.Grogan Medal, which replaced the DeLittle Medal after the war.

1948 - Erwin Dornau became the first Queenslander to play in the VFL. A Kedron junior, he was a centre half back who caught the eye of South Melbourne scouts when runner-up in the 1947 Tassie Medal at the national carnival in Hobart. He played 54 VFL games at South from 1948-52.

1950 - Brisbane Exhibition Ground hosted the national carnival.

1952 - Brisbane Exhibition Ground hosted a Monday night VFL match between Essendon and Geelong. Part of the round 8 fixture in which all games were played in regional and interstate venues for promotional reasons, it was the first official VFL match to be played under floodlights after being rescheduled from the previous Saturday due to torrential rain. Essendon won 23.17.155 to 12.14.86.

1954 - The Townsville Football League was formed. This was a forerunner to regional Leagues in Cairns (1955), Mt.Isa (1957), Ipswich & West Moreton (1961), Gold Coast (1962), the Sunshine Coast (1969), Mackay (1970), Darling Downs (1971) and Rockhampton (1974).

1959 - Australian football returned to the Gabba after a long absence.

1961 - The Gabba hosted the national carnival.

1964 - The QANFL changed its name to the Queensland Australian Football League (QAFL).

1974 - Queensland won the Division 2 title at the National Football League Championships in Canberra in 1974.

1975 - Queensland beat Tasmania for the first time at the Gabba.

1977 - Queensland beat the VFA for the first time at the Gabba.

1981 - Essendon defeated Hawthorn in a VFL premiership match at the Gabba.

1985 - Queensland completed a hat-trick of wins in the quadrangular interstate series against Tasmania, ACT and NSW – a huge fillip for the code in Queensland and a forerunner to the birth of the Brisbane AFL club.

1986 - On 6 October 1986 a privately-owned syndicate, headed by Christopher Skase and Paul Cronin and including the QAFL, was awarded a licence to field a Brisbane team in the expanding VFL competition.

1987 - The Brisbane Bears, based at Carrara on the Gold Coast, played in the VFL competition for the first time.

1991 - Queensland, under coach Norm Dare, defeated Victoria ‘B’ at the Gabba and the Brisbane Bears, coached by Mark Williams, won the AFL Reserves Premiership.

1993 - The Brisbane Bears relocated from the Gold Coast to the Gabba in Brisbane.

1996 - On 4 July 1996 the Brisbane Bears merged with Fitzroy to form the Brisbane Lions, effective from 1 November 1996.

2003 - The Brisbane Lions completed an historic AFL premiership hat-trick after the Queensland Team of the Century, headed by captain Michael Voss and vice-captain Jason Dunstall, was named on 16 June 2003. A list of 100 final nominations included 14 players from pre-World War Two, four from the 1940s (post-World War Two), 10 from the 1950s, 17 from the 1960s, 19 from the 1970s, 19 from the 1980s, 16 from the 1990s and one from the 2000s.

Personally, this author would also add mention of the massive increase in number of AFL Draftees coming out of Queensland in the last few years, plus their adoption/support of AFLPNG.


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