Australian Football Articles

By Mark Pennings


I am delighted to make available an interim selection of my articles on Australian football. I hope you enjoy them.

'Hard as Nails'


There is no doubt that J.J.A. "Jack" Conway (1842-1909) is one of the forgotten heroes of the early days of football in Melbourne. Accounts of this period have been dominated by the mighty deeds of T.W. Wills and H.C.A. Harrison, but when reading newspaper reports of the time one realises that Conway was in fact a household name.

(Manuscript version of a book portion published as) "'Hard as Nails', Jack Conway and the Early Days of Football," in Footy's Greatest Players, ed. Stephanie Holt and Garrie Hutchinson (Port Melbourne: Coulomb Communications, 2003), 3-9.

The Culture of Australian Football at the East Melbourne Cricket Ground, 18781921


A study of the crowds drawn to Australian football matches in colonial Victoria illuminates key aspects of the code's genesis, development and popularity. Australian football was codified by a middle-class elite that, as in Britain, created forms of mass entertainment that were consistent with the kind of industrial capitalist society they were attempting to organise. But the 'lower orders' were inculcated with traditional British folkways in matters of popular amusement, and introduced a style of 'barracking' for this new code that resisted the hegemony of the elite football administrators. By the end of the colonial period Australian football was firmly entrenched as a site of contestation between plebeian and bourgeois codes of spectating that reflected the social and ethnic diversity of the clubs making up the Victorian competition. Australian football thereby offers a classic vignette in the larger history of 'resistance through ritual'.

(with Robert Pascoe), "The Culture of Australian Football at the East Melbourne Cricket Ground, 18781921," Sporting Traditions, vol. 26, no. 1 (May 2009): 7186

Watching Football in Marvellous Melbourne


A fragment of film exists from an Australian football match at the East Melbourne Cricket Ground (EMCG) between Essendon and Geelong in 1911. The players are seen running from the main pavilion onto the field. There are curious details, such as the dog that runs out with one of the men, and a boy onlooker who strokes the arm of his hero as if to lend him moral support as the player comes onto the ground. The Geelong players, then nicknamed the Pivotonians, are attired in their nineteenth-century style lace-up guernseys. The men of both clubs are wearing knickerbockers. It is a scene from a culture of football that no longer exists, filmed at a ground that also no longer exists.

(with Robert Pascoe), "Watching Football in Marvellous Melbourne: Spectators, Barrackers and Working Class Rituals," Sporting Traditions, vol. 28, no. 1 (May 2011): 120.