The Birth of Australian FootballAustralian Rules football is our national game and uniquely Australian, with its origins dating back to 1858. Tom Wills is credited with creating the game of Australian football, as a way of keeping cricketers fit during the winter months. Wills wrote a letter in 1858 to Bell's Life in Victoria & Sporting Chronicle, stating the need to form a "foot-ball club" and a set of rules to keep cricketers active during Winter.
The Melbourne Football Club was the earliest AFL Club, formed on July 10, 1858. The first "unofficial" game of Australian Rules was played on Richmond Paddock (July 31st, 1858) and the first recorded match of Australian Rules Football was played on August 7, 1858 between Scotch College and Melbourne Grammar.
Other early Australian Football clubs were the Geelong Football Club (formed on July 18, 1859) and then five years later the Carlton Football Club. The game then continued to spread across Australia with football first being played in South Australia in 1860, Queensland in 1866, Tasmania in 1867, Western Australia in 1868 and New South Wales in 1874.
In 1866 some early rule changes were implemented, with the introduction of time limits for matches and behind posts next to the goal posts. More clubs were formed in the following years (North Melbourne in 1869 and Essendon and St Kilda in 1873) and field umpires were introduced in 1873, along with the adoption of team uniforms.
Up until 1868 Australian Rules football had been played in two halves but that year four quarters were introduced into the game. Around the same time umpires began playing a bigger role, now bouncing the ball (instead of throwing it up) at the start of each quarter and after each goal.
Collingwood Football Club was formed in 1892 and just four years later a group of clubs, dissatisfied with the current administration of the early game, formed the Victorian Football League (VFL) as a break-away competition.
Next Up >> Australian Football - The Early Days