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Sunday, January 17 2021 @ 05:26 pm ACDT

Sydney footy history shows opportunity returns after 100 years

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In the wake of the marvellously hard fought and stirring victory by the Sydney Swans at the AFL Grand Final, the following story from The Australian on Grand Final day is illuminating. Sean Fagan, a primarily Rugby historian whose main book is about the split between Rugby Union and Rugby League - "The Rugby Rebellion - the divide of league and union", writes how Australian football almost became the dominant code in the Harbour City by 1905.

A rather ossified Rugby football union was losing the hearts and minds of Sydneysiders. However a successful NZ All Blacks tour (that partly pushed out Australasian rules - as footy was known at the time - in New Zealand) followed by the rise of professionalism with Rugby League that attracted the NSW footballers away from amateur Rugby Union and lower paid Sydney Australasian rules football, saw history tip the way of Rugby League in Sydney and then most of Australia to its north.

The Weekend Australian article can be found here. In email communication with WFN, Sean also notes: "In my book The Rugby Rebellion I tell the story of a NSW/Aust RU player who went to Sth Africa in late 1905, where he played in an AR competition (mostly ex-pats from the mines and Boer War). It also has a photo of the 'Commonwealth' team that he played with. The codes were still close enough that players/clubs could switch with little difficulty."

Sean Fagan's history of Rugby League website can be found at http://www.rl1908.com.

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