‘In 1886 one train trip from Geelong nearly ended in tragedy when team rivalries got completely out of hand.’ ‘Outside Newport someone dislodged sections of the (train) track in an attempt to crash the trains. Luckily it was discovered in time.’
In 1858, a cricketer called Tom Wills, suggested that Melbourne develop its own football code, as a way of keeping cricketers fit over the winter. The first football game, between Scotch College and Melbourne Grammar, comprised 40 players per side and a ground which included gum trees and rocks.
From these humble beginnings grew what is now called Aussie Rules Football. The game grew with Melbourne, feeling with its people the effects of depression and world wars, to become a national competition. Along the way, it spawned tall tales and true, grew into an industry and inspired many children to become players or passionate followers. Many players achieved legend status, their names and deeds living on in conversations and more. Like many sports, Aussie Rules has enriched the English language with terms like ‘collywobbles’, ‘screamer/speckie’, ‘banana kick’ and ‘the G’.
Shirtfront is jam-packed full of statistics and stories about the history of Aussie Rules football and the characters who made it the game it is today. The history of the game is interwoven with the history of Melbourne. It explores state rivalries as well as the particular characteristics which have shaped individual teams. Paula Hunt has gathered a rich collection for the footy fan. Recommended for anyone interested in understanding and learning more about Aussie Rules football. Recommended for upper primary readers and beyond.
Shirtfront, by Paula Hunt
black dog books, 2005