I was doing some research for another project when I happened across the Argus report of a game between England and Carlton dated June 18th, 1888. The report is fascinating for a number of reasons so I thought Id go through it.
The Match report tells us this was the debut of the Englishmen under Australian rules – the Rules is not capitissed – and that the largest crowd of trhe season was at the venue, estimated at 26,000. It makes no mention of how many got in for free. The writer for the Argus wrote:
“the Englishmen who stood out of the match declared that they had never seen so great a gathering at a match in England”
England won the toss, and the Argus reports that the game started with a kick-off. Not something typically seen in Australian Football for many a year. Behinds were scored, and the writer says that the English were having a very good go, and trying not to fall back into rugby rules. Evidently the marking and passing of the Carlton team was somewhat confusing to the English players.
“The visitors were most puzzled by the marking of the Carlton men, and the style in which they played to each other, for the colonials not being very closely watched were able to give a very pretty exposition of those two most attractive points in the Australian game”
The Article makes note of place kicks – again not seen for some time in Australian football, as well as drop kicks and long kicks. The author noted that the English “at present they lack perfection in drop kicking, and made no attempt at marking from long kicks”.
The game evidently included tries, again not something seen in Australian football as we know it. (“Nolan, who got a try for the Englishmen was not equally fortunate..”). But whether this was a concession to the English or part of the general rules is not mentioned. The article makes no note of Carlton scoring a try (nor do any of the other summaries of the days footy), but does note that the umpire let several minor rule infractions go. The Argus also mentions rugby players might be more inclined to go for the ”touch down”. (In Rugby the impulse would have been to carry the ball over the goal line for the “touch down,”..)
The scores at the end of the match were Carlton 14.17 d England 3.8. Which isnt too bad considering Carlton led at half time 7.7 to 0.1.
The English evidently took to the game after just two scratch matches, but to the reporter many of its team (“at least half the team..”) seemed emminently suited to the Australian game. The article notes that he wouldnt be surprised if by the end of the tour the English could match it with the best.
The team was scheduled to play Castlemaine and Sandhurst before meeting “a formidable twenty” from South Melbourne. Apparently the England team had been to New Zealand before arriving and had not had the best of times. (“..and in this respect also the Englishmen, after their experiences in some of the New Zealand towns, will be in a position to make comparisons not unfavourable to our game and those who play it”..)
For those playing at home: The article is notable for constantly referring to the game as Australian, never in the article does it mention Victoria or Melbourne as a source of the game. The article clearly differentiates between the Australian code and Rugby.