Publication Date: Early 2015

Publisher: Grumpy Monks

This volume addresses the massive growth of football as a mass spectator sport in the second half of the 1880s. By the late 1880s the Victorian Football Association's number of senior clubs had grown to eighteen, including three Ballarat clubs.

The new clubs invited to join the VFA included Port Melbourne, Footscray, and South Williamstown. In the 1880s the game was characterised by long kicking, and fast and open football. It was due to this that football became enormously popular with the general public, and by the end of the decade big games were attracting up to 30,000 spectators.

Inter-Colonial contests continued to be played between Victoria, South Australia, Tasmania and New South Wales. There was also a flourishing exchange of club visits between Melbourne, Adelaide, Hobart, Sydney, and Brisbane that were conducted by clubs such as Geelong, Carlton, South Melbourne, Essendon, and Norwood.

The second half of the 1880s saw the rise to dominance of the South Melbourne club, which became increasingly professionalised and recruited the best players to develop a style of game that combined pace, power and skill. This enabled the red and white to grab the bulk of the permierships on offer at this time. Geelong and Carlton continued to be amongst the strongest clubs in this period. Many football enthusiasts and historians view the 1880s as the golden era in the early days of football, for this code helped make ‘Marvellous Melbourne’ the sporting capital of Australia.

Special thanks to Bob Gartland and Col Hutchinson for their support in making this volume come to fruition.