Australian Football, rugby - foundations and codification

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BringBackTorps

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Jan 5, 2017
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[Tom Wills actual words, in his 1859 letter to Horace!]
He [Wills] wrote to his brother Horace: "Rugby was not a game for us, we wanted a winter pastime but men could be harmed if thrown on the ground so we thought differently."

This very EARLY, & direct, relevant quote from Wills himself dispenses with the notion that Wills wanted to introduce the full Rugby school Rules into Victoria; & it is corroborated by the highly respected C. Harrison- Wills' cousin- stating that Tom Wills told him he [Wills] always wanted "a game of our own".
I suggest you discount those who are very strong opponents of Wills.

I suggest you read (or re-read) de Moore's highly praised biography of T. Wills; & D. Thompson's book, & later publication: undeniably the most detailed analyses, by far, of the very early games' styles & Rules; & 1850's Rugby school game styles & Rules.

Dr G. de Moore (who, in pg 103 of my 2011 edition) said that Wills was the best kicker of the rugby ball whilst he was at Rugby School, & in early Melbourne Rules. de Moore is very widely recognised, & acclaimed, as the best authority on Wills.

Rugby games then used a pig's bladder, the school asking the butcher to provide a bladder that was as close to an oval shape as possible.
The actual shape of these bladders, & thus rugby balls created, more closely resembled a plum, or ovoid (egg) shape.

I suggest you place very little credence on the views of R. Hay- a Scottish soccer historian & soccer promoter.

R. Hay has supported the views of historian R. Gooch, who wrote it is possible Marngrook did not exist in Victoria, prior to European settlement- & aboriginals started it later, mimicking the european game they witnessed.
I assume you accept this is a repugnant view they expressed?

I note you have not responded to the information from D. Thompson (& historian R. Grow) that, at Rugby School in the 1850's, the rugby Rules required a player have both feet on the ground when taking a mark ie no jumping to catch.

I disagree with your comments on:-

. the AFL's views on Marngrook in 2008. Refer to my above comments on the 1996 AF monument (paid for by the AFL, at Wills' childhood farm) at Moyston & recognition of Marngrook- words written by the AFL's Official Historian then, C. Hutchinson.

. the 1858 Melbourne Rules games certainly had Rules!
(whether all players understood &/or subscribed to these 1858 Rules is a different issue).



These issues have been covered in great depth, & with many appropriate citations, in the Footy History Section- Origins Thread.
Thompson's research is obviously the most detailed & relevant on these Origins' issues, & he has been very widely quoted there- that Thread, IMO, is the best place for these discussions.
 
Last edited:

threenewpadlocks

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Wills' ties to being an Autralian (was a 3rd generation Australian, rare at that time, his father was a strong proponent for the interests of Australian-born individuals and was a big believer in Australian self-government) was surely a lot stronger than his ties to Rugby School?
 

TWLS

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The rules had changed a fair bit by the time the Victorian Football Association was established on 17 May 1877.

New rules for the 1877 VFA season
BY AUSTRALASIAN
With the decision in 1877 to form an association also came a revised set of rules.
These rules, and associated definitions, were reproduced in the Australasian.

The following alterations in the rules regulating the game of football were suggested at a preliminary meeting of the honorary secretaries of the senior clubs, held at Oliver's Cafe, on Monday evening last.

LAWS OF THE GAME

1. The distance between the goals should not be more than 200 yards, and the width of playing space to be measured equally on each side of the line drawn through the centre of the goals not more than 150 yards. The goal posts shall be seven yards apart, of unlimited height. The ball to be used shall be No. 2 size (26 inches in circumference).

2. The captains of each side shall toss for choice of goal. The side losing the toss or goal has the kick off from the centre point between the goals. When half the time arranged for play has expired, the sides shall change ends, and the ball be thrown in the air by the field umpire in the centre of the ground.

3. A goal must be kicked by one of the side playing for goal between the posts, without touching either of them (flags excepted), or any player after being kicked. Should any of the spectators standing between the goal post interfere with or stop the progress of the ball going through, a goal shall be scored.

4. Two posts, to be called the "kick off posts", shall be erected at a distance of 20 yards on each side of the goal posts in a straight line with them.

5. In case the ball is kicked behind goal by one of the opposite side within the kick-off posts, any one of the side behind whose goal it is kicked may bring it 10 yards in front of any portion of the space between the kick-off posts, and shall kick it towards the opposite goal. Should the ball pitch out of bounds, it shall be taken back and kicked off again.

6. In case the ball is kicked behind by one of the side whose goal it is, the ball shall simply be thrown in at the place it crossed the goal line, as if it had gone out of bounds, save as provided for in rule 10.

7. Any player catching the ball directly from the foot or leg on or below the knee, off another player, may call "mark". He then has a free kick from any spot in a line with his mark and the centre of his opponents' goal posts, no player being allowed to come inside the spot marked, or within five yards in any other direction. No mark shall be allowed unless the ball is kicked at least six yards.

8. The ball may be taken in hand at any time, but not carried farther than is necessary for a kick, unless the player strikes it against the ground every five or six yards. In the event of a player with the ball in hand trying to pass an adversary, and being held by him, he must at once drop the ball.

9. Tripping, hacking, rabbitting, and slinging are prohibited; pushing with the hands or body is allowed only when a player is in rapid motion within five or six yards of the ball. Holding is only allowed while a player has the ball in hand, except in cases provided for in rules 5 and 7.

10. When the ball goes out of bounds (the same being indicated by a row of posts) it shall be brought back to the spot where it crossed the boundary line, and thrown in by the umpire at right angles with that line, but shall not be playable until after it touch the ground within bounds.

11. The ball while in play may, under no circumstances, be thrown or handed to a player.

12. In case of infringement of any of the above rules, any player of the opposite side may claim a free kick from the place where the breach of the rule was made, the player nearest the place of infringement being the only one entitled to the kick.

13. Before the commencement of a match, each side shall appoint an umpire, and they shall be the sole judges of goals and of cases of the ball going behind goal. A field umpire shall also be appointed, who shall decide in all other matters, and may appeal to the goal umpire.

14. The field umpire on being appealed to may either award a "free kick”, call "play on", or stop the play and throw the ball in the air (from scrimmages and other sources), and stop all attempts at scrimmages.

Any club belonging to the association may have the privilege of appealing against a field umpire's decision, providing a written protest is sent in to the association within three days after the match, accompanied with £1. 1s. The association's decision to be final.

15. No one wearing projecting nails, iron plates, or gutta percha on any part of his boots or shoes shall be allowed to play in a match.

16. No player shall play with more than one club during one season. For the purposes of this rule, schools shall not be considered clubs. In the event of a club dis- banding its members may be at liberty to play with any other club, with the consent of the association.

DEFINITIONS

1. A drop kick, or drop, is made by letting the ball drop from your hands on to the ground, and kicking it the very instant it rises.

2. A place kick, or place, is kicking the ball after it has been placed on the ground.

3. A punt consists in letting the ball fall from your hands, and kicking it before it touches the ground.

4. A scrimmage commences when the ball is on the ground and all who have closed around on their respective sides begin kicking at it.

5. Rabbiting is one player stooping down so as to cause another to fall, by placing his body below the other's hips.

6. Slinging is the act of catching a player round the neck or body, and throwing him to the ground.

It was also suggested that an association, to be called the Victorian Football Association, should be formed, to have the entire control and management of all inter-colonial football matches. It was proposed that the association should consist of delegates from all senior clubs which would acknowledge certain necessary conditions. The whole of the suggestions as well as the proposed alterations in the rules, will be submitted to a meeting of delegates from all the senior clubs, to be held on the 17th inst.

Footnotes
Title: VICTORIAN FOOTBALL ASSOCIATION.
It always fascinated me that as detailed as they are the rules above never described what actually happened at the kick-off. Apparently the two teams lined up opposite each other across the centre of the ground at the said kick-off as in Rugby I think. After the place kick-off they raced back into their positions particularly if they were defending against the kick.
I noted that by 1877 position diagrams were appearing in local Melbourne papers very similar to what happens today.
The bounce in the middle start with players in field positions came later.
 

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NoobPie

Norm Smith Medallist
Sep 21, 2016
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It always fascinated me that as detailed as they are the rules above never described what actually happened at the kick-off. Apparently the two teams lined up opposite each other across the centre of the ground at the said kick-off as in Rugby I think. After the place kick-off they raced back into their positions particularly if they were defending against the kick.
I noted that by 1877 position diagrams were appearing in local Melbourne papers very similar to what happens today.
The bounce in the middle start with players in field positions came later.

Pretty sure from memory, in Time and Space (James Coventry) the positioning was a Tom Wills innovation in the early 1860s.

May have been late 1860s when people worked out having an offside at the restart wasn't really coherent
 

The_Wookie

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Jul 2, 2010
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This very EARLY, & direct, relevant quote from Wills himself dispenses with the notion that Wills wanted to introduce the full Rugby school Rules into Victoria; & it is corroborated by the highly respected C. Harrison- Wills' cousin- stating that Tom Wills told him he [Wills] always wanted "a game of our own".
I suggest you discount those who are very strong opponents of Wills.
This doesnt say he personally wanted anything and everyone else at the meeting recalls him putting forth rugby rules. Harrison himself had a vested interest in the "game of our own" story - he proclaimed himself the father of it for decades.

I suggest you read (or re-read) de Moore's highly praised biography of T. Wills; & D. Thompson's book, & later publication: undeniably the most detailed analyses, by far, of the very early games' styles & Rules; & 1850's Rugby school game styles & Rules.
Mark Pennings work on the games foundations is far more extensive and less personality focussed.

Dr G. de Moore (who, in pg 103 of my 2011 edition) said that Wills was the best kicker of the rugby ball whilst he was at Rugby School, & in early Melbourne Rules. de Moore is very widely recognised, & acclaimed, as the best authority on Wills.
BY WHO. Others have written biographies on the man.

Rugby games then used a pig's bladder, the school asking the butcher to provide a bladder that was as close to an oval shape as possible.
The actual shape of these bladders, & thus rugby balls created, more closely resembled a plum, or ovoid (egg) shape.
These werent in Australia and werent standard.

I suggest you place very little credence on the views of R. Hay- a Scottish soccer historian & soccer promoter.[/'quote]

I didnt cite anything from Roy Hay, and whatever Roy Hay may be, he's a hell of a lot more of a historian than you or I. I cant just dismiss other historians because i dont like what they have to say. Are there any other historians i need to get approved from you?

I note you have not responded to the information from D. Thompson (& historian R. Grow) that, at Rugby School in the 1850's, the rugby Rules required a player have both feet on the ground when taking a mark ie no jumping to catch.
I didnt cite any specific set of rules. And the jump and catch was barely part of the australian game until later in peace.

I disagree with your comments on:-

. the AFL's views on Marngrook in 2008. Refer to my above comments on the 1996 AF monument (paid for by the AFL, at Wills' childhood farm) at Moyston & recognition of Marngrook- words written by the AFL's Official Historian then, C. Hutchinson.
I dont care if you disagree - its in the official Australian Football History book commissioned by the AFL.

. the 1858 Melbourne Rules games certainly had Rules!
(whether all players understood &/or subscribed to these 1858 Rules is a different issue).
No actual written evidence of this appears to ecist.

These issues have been covered in great depth, & with many appropriate citations, in the Footy History Section- Origins Thread.
Then you feel free to go there and discuss it.

Thompson's research is obviously the most detailed & relevant on these Origins' issues, & he has been very widely quoted there- that Thread, IMO, is the best place for these discussions.
its not. Pennings work is far more in depth and no one reads one history and assumes its the be all and end all.

There is literally no evidence Wills put forward Marngrook rules or innovations when discussing the rules at creation. Its all assumption by everyone involved.
 

RedV3x

Premiership Player
Dec 14, 2015
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The early Melbourne Rules of 1858 & 1859 were, generally, an amalgam of the school football code rules of Rugby, Harrow, Eton, & Winchester.
Maybe you could enlighten us to which rules were specific to what schools because this the connection is extremely loose IMO.

I. The distance between the Goals and the Goal Posts shall be decided upon by the Captains of the sides playing.
II. The Captains on each side shall toss for choice of Goal; the side losing the toss has the kick off from the centre point between the Goals

III. A Goal must be kicked fairly between the posts, without touching either of them, or a portion of the person of any player on either side.

IV. The game shall be played within a space of not more than 200 yards wide, the same to be measured equally on each side of a line drawn through the centres of the two Goals; and two posts to be called the "kick off posts" shall be erected at a distance of 20 yards on each side of the Goal posts at both ends, and in a straight line with them.

V. In case the ball is kicked "behind" Goal, any one of the side behind whose Goal it is kicked may bring it 20 yards in front of any portion of the space between the "kick off" posts, and shall kick it as nearly as possible in line with the opposite Goal.

VI. Any player catching the ball "directly" from the foot may call "mark". He then has a free kick; no player from the opposite side being allowed to come "inside" the spot marked.

VII. Tripping and pushing are both allowed (but no hacking) when any player is in rapid motion or in possession of the ball, except in the case provided for in Rule 6.

VIII. The ball may be taken in hand "only" when caught from the foot, or on the hop. In "no case" shall it be "lifted" from the ground.

IX. When a ball goes out of bounds (the same being indicated by a row of posts) it shall be brought back to the point where it crossed the boundary-line, and thrown in at right angles with that line.

X. The ball, while in play, may under no circumstances be thrown.

I, II, IV & IX are irrelevant.
III seems unique to AFL.
VI & VII were common to just about all football.
XI rules out rugby
The lack of offside rules out most subject football.
 

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