Explore the History of australian football

“In the fighting-lines there was bewidered relief whn the guns ceased to fire. There was no fraternisation and little rejoicing. In England people were less restrained. Work ceased in shops and offices as news of the armistice spread, Crowds surged through the streets, often led by airmen and Dominion troops on leave. Omnibuses were seized, and people in strange garments caroused on the upper deck. A bonfire heaped against the plinth of Nelson’s column in Trafalgar Square has left its mark to this day. Total strangers copulated in doorways and on the pavements. They were asserting the triumph of life over death. The celebration ran on with increasing wildness for three days, when the police finally intervened and restored order.” (From English History 1914-45 by A.J.P. Taylor, pages 113-114.)

“Peace on 11 November brought out thousands of people in every Australian capital city, although because of the time difference , the real celebrations did not take place until the following day. At least eight million soldiers had been killed and perhaps as many as 12 million civilians. All casualty figures are approximate because the bodies of over half a million men who fought in France and Belgium were never found, or if found, never identified. Australia had sent about 330,000 volunteers to the war and of those nearly 60,000 were killed, 150,000 wounded and 4,000 taken prisoner. And, a most amazing thing - the two major combatants, Britain and Germany, had managed to fight the war on other people’s territory and it ended without a single enemy soldier standing on their soil.” (From Australia: A Biography of a Nation by Phillip Knightley, page 89.)

Australia emerged from the Great War scarred, somewhat economically depleted, and with a less roseate view of Britain and Empire than she had harboured four years earlier. In the view of some, notably the nation’s Prime Minister William Hughes - the “Little Digger” - the war had been fought to safeguard Australia’s identity. Central to that identity was the concept of a White Australia. The opinions of those inhabitants of Australia who did not have the good fortune to be white were deemed irrelevant. 

When he addressed the House of Representatives on 10th September Hughes summarised the matter thus:

We went into this conflict for our own national safety, in order to ensure our national integrity, which was in dire peril, to safeguard our liberties, and those free institutions of government which, whatever may be our political opinions, are essential to our national life, and to maintain those ideals which we have nailed to the very topmost of our flagpoles - White Australia, and those other aspirations of this young democracy.[1]

More succinctly, Hughes ventured the opinion that, as a result of its efforts in the war, "Australia is safe".[2]

During 1918, as optimism increased over the eventual outcome of the war, interest in sport and attendances at major sporting events increased. The VFL competition was bolstered by the re-admission of Essendon and St Kilda; only Melbourne remained in recess. Attendances were well up on 1917 as well, as they were in all states where the gamne was being played. Even in South Australian, where the official league competition was still in abeyance, attendances to matches in the rather shoddily administered patriotic league were comparable with those of the SAFL in the immediate pre-war period.

On the field in the VFL there was much to get excited at and enthuse over. The finals series was particularly noteworthy, with the three finals matches being decided by margins of 9, 5 and 5 points. The premiership deciding match between South Melbourne and Collingwood is reported on here.

Another indication that things were returning to normal was the resumption of the VFA, albeit with only six out of ten clubs competing. North Melbourne capped a 10 match unbeaten home and away season with hefty finals wins over Brunswick and Prahran to lift what was effectively, given the break in competition owing to the war, a third consecutive flag.

The WAFL challenge final between East Fremantle and East Perth was attended by a record Western Australian crowd of 7,000. Read about it here.
Premiers of the NSWAFL were East Sydney. The Darwin-based NTFL changed from a winter to a summer season, running from October 1917 to March 1918. The premiership was won by Wanderers.


[1] Quoted in A Short History of Australia by Manning Clark, page 237.

[2] Ibid, page 237.

​1918: "Australia is Safe"