Genesis – The First Game in Armidale

Celebrating 50 years of AFL at UNE logoRob Cason, UNEANFC founder, recalls the first-ever official game at the University of New England in 1962 when Tooheys Flag Ale was a popular beer amongst the players.

I started at UNE in 1961 when there was a rumor that the Aussie Rules guys had played a game amongst themselves the previous year.

In the beginning the only means of getting a kick was to do some drop kicks after the evenings rugby training or do a few short passes at the rear of the spectators standing on the side lines watching Saturday’s rugby.

Then in 62 word got around that there was an Aussie Rules team in Moree. Bob Hudson, a PMG technician from Wagga or somewhere in the Riverina and had been transferred to Moree. Like some of us at UNE Bob was suffering withdrawal symptoms from lack of a game of Aussie rules and had formed a team.

So it was arranged that the first game would be played in Armidale and we would play a return game in Moree. A ground was set up at the southern end of Consett Davis.

There was minor problem some days before the game when we turned up at the ground for our first practise run. The foreman in charge of grounds had previously worked on the Snowy Hydro scheme. He was known as “the man from Snowy River”. While he knew about things Aussie Rules, most of his staff, some of who were migrants, did not. We arrived at the ground to find that the boundary line had been marked almost as a direct line between the point posts with a slight deviation, which would have just cleared what is now the 50 metre square.

The game took place, after the boundary line had been correctly marked, on a pleasant warm sunny Armidale winters day. For jumpers we used the Robb green rugby jumpers. Those players who did not have a Robb jumper had to borrow one. The fixture had been given some publicity and there were a surprising number of spectators and vehicles lined around the ground. One spectator suggested taking a hat around the spectators the result of which gave us enough funds to have a budget surplus for some years to follow.

It was an eye opener for many students since; despite attending an Australian university, this was the first time they had seen a game of Australian football. The rugby culture came to light when the ball went out of bounds and a rugby clown tried to assist holding one arm vertical above his head the other horizontal, giving the rugby signal to indicate which side should throw the ball in.

The custom for post game social activities; considering the distance visiting teams had to travel, was to put on a keg and arrange for some food. On the return game at Moree this custom was reciprocated but before hand we were taken for a swim at the artesian baths, which I have since returned to when ever I am near Moree. These artesian baths are one of Australia’s best-kept tourist secrets.

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