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Melbourne Grammar takes 150th anniversary spoils in AFL's Tom Wills Round

  • Sunday, August 24 2008 @ 04:55 pm ACST
  • Contributed by: Sean Finlayson
  • Views: 4,254
General News

Earlier this month on August 7th, the AFL celebrated the 150th anniversary of what many believe to be the first match of Australian Football between Melbourne Grammar and Scotch College which was held on August 7th 1858.

Though there are minor historical discrepancies, the match is about as close as the sport's governing body could get to reliving the early history of the game while at the same time promoting the spectacle of modern day professional AFL football.

While history shows that official rules for the game weren't actually written until a year later on the 7th May, two key people involved in forming the game of Australian Football (Thomas Wentworth Wills and Thomas H. Smith) and the formation of its oldest surviving club, the Melbourne Football Club, officiated the well publicized match between the two schools, a match which despite drawing in their first encounter has been fiercely contested every year since and more recently for the title of the Cordner-Eggleston Cup. The match harks back to the days when British private schools each with their own football code once played off matches under compromise rules. The first Australian Football match remains perhaps one of the longest running of these annual fixtures in the world.

The AFL scheduled the anniversary match between the two schools as a curtain-raiser to an AFL match featuring the league's two oldest surviving clubs, Melbourne and Geelong as part of a round themed "Tom Wills Round". The match was played at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, a venue traditionally associated with the roots of football and cricket in Melbourne, although early football matches were played in nearby paddocks and not allowed onto the "hallowed turf" for nearly two decades later in 1876.

Historical anomalies aside, unfortunately poor weather and a poor performance by the struggling Melbourne Demons ultimately dampened the spectacle of the night.

However Melbourne Grammar ran out winners 10.12 (72) to Scotch College 9.8 (62) in a closely contested match.

Who knows, perhaps we'll celebrate the first matches played in countries like the USA or Canada in a similar way some 150 years from now.