The jubilee carnival of the Australasian game of football was inaugurated yesterday on the Melbourne Cricket Ground, in the presence of between 7,000 and 8,000 people, who contributed £250 at the gate. The workers, who for months past have been planning and organising for this carnival; the enthusiasts, who tackled the rugby lion in his lair, and started the Australian game in New South Wales, Queensland and New Zealand – must have felt that their reward had come when they heard the ringing cheers and noted the enthusiasm of the crowd. Mr. C.M. Hickey (the president of the Australasian Football Council), with Mr. E.R. Wilson (the secretary), have made perfect arrangements, and everything worked like clockwork yesterday.
His Excellency the Governor (Sir Thomas Gibson-Carmichael) visited the ground at 3 o’clock, and the seven teams marched out in their uniforms. His Excellency was accompanied by Mr. Victor Nelson Hood and the Premier (Sir Thomas Bent), and Messrs. Swinburne and McBride, M.L.A.’s, were also of the party. They were received by Messrs. Hickey and Wilson, and Mr. H.C.A. Harrison, “the father of the game”, and the captain of each team was introduced to the Governor. His Excellency went right along the line, and inspected the teams, who then entertained everyone with their war cries. If the Queenslanders did not later on show much proficiency in football, they at any rate carried off the palm in the “war cries”, their effort being dramatic, descriptive and interesting.
His Excellency was then escorted to the pavilion, where his health was proposed by Mr. Hickey. His Excellency replied wishing the carnival every success, and expressed the wish that he might become better acquainted with the game. Mr. H.C.A. Harrison proposed the health of “The Visitors,” who included all the delegates to the Australasian Football Council, and Sir Thomas Bent responded. His Excellency proposed the health of Mr. H.C.A. Harrison, and the formal proceedings terminated.
From a football point of view the sport provided was most interesting. Much of it was crude; but all of it was plucky and sportsmanlike. The first match, that between New South Wales and New Zealand, roused the crowd to enthusiasm, and it was remarkable how the players caught the contagion and warmed to their work. The teams were as published in ‘The Argus’ yesterday, except that Renfrey, who had been injured, was replaced by Haines in the New South Wales team, and Elvidge took Bond’s place in the New Zealand 18. Both sides showed slackness at the outset. The players seemed strange to one another, and many of their methods were old-fashioned. There is abundant evidence of individual ability, and promise of fine football. So far it is latent, but it speaks well for the game when two Rugby strongholds as these can turn out such promising teams. It would be idle to criticise on up-to-date standards, for one saw the game in all its earlier stages, and with little of the finish displayed by Victorian League players. One saw men, to whom offside had been a fetish, and bouncing the ball a thing to be abhorred, altering all their ideas and playing a game to which until very recently they had been strangers. Therefore, it was highly creditable that as the match proceeded, it should have improved, and that towards the end there should have been such enthusiasm that one might have thought that each team had brought its own barrackers with it. The display given by these two teams was an object-lesson to many in its fairness. The spectators on the far side of the ground seemed to appoint themselves honorary coaches. Advice was freely given over the fence, which the players knew was kindly meant, and so they did not hesitate to avail themselves of it, and the play was certainly improved in consequence of these hints.
In the earlier part of the game New South Wales were decidedly the better side. They were quicker to the ball, while New Zealand often seemed lost. They were also slow to take advantage of opportunities, and when they recognised their chances the ball had passed on. It was a long while before a free kick was awarded, and the play was strictly fair, and showed that the rules had been studied closely. In fact, the play suggested that the game had been learned from the book. It lacked spontaneity, and one could not help thinking that the men were more concerned about the next move than ready to act promptly and concertedly. But they played for all they were worth, and it became more and more interesting as one saw traces of the Rugby stock on which the Australian game had been grafted by teachers who themselves have not been in touch with the rapid strides the game has made in Victoria during the last few years.
In the first quarter New Zealand had the wind, and they got the first point of the carnival, but a snapshot by Hunter from an angle gave New South Wales the first goal. In answer to that West and Wilkins were prominent; the last named scored with a running shot, and , just before the first bell rang, he repeated the performance. The second quarter saw New South Wales much stronger in the ruck, and they had things nearly all their own way. Delaney’s good work gave Maxfield a goal, and after Colley, who is a high-class defender, had stopped New Zealand, Robertson got another, and Gluyas, with a long punt, scored again. Conlon and Delaney also scored, and at half time the Sydney men led by 6 goals 6 behinds to 2 goals 1 behinds, and they looked sure winners. The second half saw a great improvement in the game, and the injunction of the crowd, “Get into it”, being obeyed by New Zealand, they gradually made up their leeway. West – the only bare-armed man afield – who was playing a fine game, scored at once for them, and they quite turned the tables on their opponents. After Conlon had hit the post for New South Wales Gluyas did better with an easy goal, and then New Zealand prevailed, and Darby and George, with good dashes, and Fletcher, with a snap, scored goals, so that they were only a goal behind at the final change. The final quarter was stirring, first one side leading, then the other; two goals by Wright from free kicks got New Zealand ahead by five points, but Conlin, scoring, gave his side a lead, which subsequent behinds raised to five points. It looked as though New South Wales must win, but gradually New Zealand took it down, and Paul and Darby got the ball within range, when Darby snapped a goal, and New Zealand won by a point.
Scores:-New Zealand 9 goals 9 behinds (63 points), New South Wales 8 goals 14 behinds (62 points)
To pick out players is difficult, for you did not know their styles, but West played a very clever game, and Darby, on the wing, was a splendid player, who has pace, and kicks with either foot. Elvidge, Wilkins, Wright, George, Fisher, Lordin, Breese, Dempster, and Abfalter, also came under notice on the winning side. The most promising player in the game was Colley, the New South Wales defender. He is very sure and plucky. Scott, too, did well, and so did Shipton, and they nearly saved the game. Delaney, McConechy, Maxfield, Hunter, Rahilly, and Gluyas were busy ruck-men, and Haines (centre), Carrick and Robertson were often seen.
As reported by "Old Boy" in "The Argus", Thursday 20 August 1908
A False Dawn - Carnival Match, Wednesday 19th August 1908, New Zealand versus New South Wales at The Melbourne Cricket Ground