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20th Century Timeline - the Growth of Australian Rules Football around the World

Initially compiled by Brett Northey from various sources, maintained by WFN editors

After establishing itself in several Australian states, the 20th century was mostly about Australian football consolidating its strengths. Late in the century saw the emergence of the AFL, the national league, as well as tenuous roots in around a dozen countries, as international growth finally began to accelerate, helped by an increasing Australian Diaspora and globalisation forces such as the internet. The following is a selective Timeline of the key dates in the development of Australian football in the 20th century.

1901 Legend is that Australian football narrowly loses vote to make it the main private schools sport in Queensland, although the game continued to be played widely there, whilst struggling in parts of NSW (most notably Sydney).
  Hundreds of Australian gold miners travel to the Goldfields of South Africa at Johannesburg. This followed Australian Boer War soldiers. It is thought both contributed to Australian football being played there.
Early 1900s Competitions in NZ - many expatriate Australians but also appeared to be growing with locals.
  Recent research indicates that the game was still played in Edinburgh Scotland by Australian students.
1906 Australian National Football Council formed to standardise rules and coordinate development (a difficult task that was never fully successful).
1908 First and only Australasian Football Carnival that included NZ held - to celebrate 50 years of the game. New Zealand wear an All Black jumper with a Silver Fern on front.
  Rugby League introduced into Sydney and later Brisbane and becomes dominant football code in next 10 years pushing aside Rugby Union. This development relegates Australian football to a minor sport for decades in NSW and QLD. The game however remains strong along the VIC/NSW border and the Riverina District in NSW.
1916 First game in the Northern Territory (NTFL formed the following year).
1924 Canberra's first regular Australian football season.
1930s The Depression blamed for killing off the game in New Zealand.
  Game introduced into Nauru (an Australian dependency at the time).
1940s Football introduced to Papua New Guinea (PNG, an Australian dependency at the time) by Australian school teachers and defence force personnel .
1960s Handball begins to become a much bigger part of football, e.g. Polly Farmer (Aboriginal player from WA) uses it effectively for Geelong in VFL and Sturt dominate SANFL structuring their game around handball, winning 5 premierships from 1966 to 1970. Carlton coach Ron Barassi famously adopts the method at half time of the VFL grand final, leading to a come from behind win.
  Attempts at a regular competition in England come and go, continuing on into the early 70s.
1968 Nauru achieves independence, the republic becomes the only independent nation outside of Australia with regular competition.
1970s VFL increases its lead as the strongest competition as the game starts to become professional and players are recruited from other states (but many clubs get into financial difficulties which continue on for decades).
  Game re-introduced to New Zealand, becoming the third independent nation with regular competition (after Australia, Nauru).
1975 Papua New Guinea achieves independence, becoming probably the third nation outside of Australia with regular competition.
1977 State of Origin football introduced (matches/tournaments in which players represent their home state) - dominated by Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia.
1982 South Melbourne moves games to NSW (become Sydney Swans in 1983).
1980s Although exhibitions had been played before, the VFL began a more regular series of overseas matches.
  SANFL play WAFL in Canada.
  International (or Compromise) Rules football series begins - Australia vs Ireland.
  Jim Stynes recruited from Ireland to Melbourne Football Club.
  Due to neglect the Rugby codes push aside Australian football in the ACT and PNG to become the dominant sports.
1986 VFL national draft to ensure no team can dominate the competition due to buying players.
1987 Brisbane formed to play in the VFL but with weak player base.
  Two all-Japanese university teams play a curtain-raiser to a VFL/AFL exhibition match at Yokohama Stadium, Tokyo, with the Keio Hawks defeating the Waseda Bombers. Possibly the first all locals match in the Northern Hemisphere.
  Strong incentives given to Western Australia to join VFL - West Coast Eagles entered, based on WAFL players and Western Australians playing in the VFL (first premierships in 1992 and 1994). Licence fees applied to new clubs to help pay off large VFL debts.
  Japanese Australian Football Association formed.
1989 Expanded VFL, which had been steadily evolving into a national league, renamed the AFL, which then assumes responsibility for the game in Australia and its territories.
  Canadian Australian Football Association (later AFL Canada) formed and plays first official local games in North America.
1990 British Australian Rules Football League (BARFL) begins, although expat matches had been held on and off for decades.
  SANFL turmoil as local team Port Adelaide offered entry to AFL, in conflict with their solidarity agreement with the SANFL - court injunction blocks move.
1991 Adelaide Crows formed, based on SANFL players and some South Australians playing in the AFL (first premierships in 1997 and 1998).
  Danish Australian Football League (DAFL) commences.
  Jim Stynes from Ireland wins Brownlow as best player in the AFL that year. Becomes the first international recruit to achieve that status.
1992 First Swedish club formed (in Helsingborg).
1993 Brisbane move from Gold Coast to Brisbane proper.
1995 The Arafura Games in Darwin features International Australian football matches.
  International Australian Football Council (IAFC) formed to encourage international growth, inaugural President is Will McKenzie (New Zealand).
  Fremantle (from Western Australia) enter the AFL.
  First teams formed in Germany.
1996 Financially stricken Victorian AFL team Fitzroy merge with Brisbane Bears to form the Brisbane Lions.
  First "local" match in the US, with the beginnings of the game's dramatic growth there.
1997 Port Adelaide enter AFL.
  AFL fund junior football in NZ.
  First US Club National Championships (in Cincinnati).
  Preparations begin to develop football in South Africa.
1998 Samoan Australian Rules Football Association formed.
  Auskick program devised.
Late 1990s State of Origin ends as the AFL becomes the focus of top level football in Australia.
  International Rules matches against Ireland resume.
1999 Australian football begins in Argentina.

See also History of World Footy - 19th Century and History of World Footy - 21st Century

Last Updated: Sunday, December 11 2011 @ 04:37 pm ACDT|Hits: 3,618 View Printable Version

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