Watersports

subioval

The 1935 entrance gates pictured on completion

We read in the news that the Minister for Heritage has declined to register all of Subiaco Oval, much to the disappointment of the local authority. Although allegedly against the advice of the Heritage Council, the government seems happy with just having the 1935 gates heritage listed.

But in all this discussion we’ve not seen anyone comment on the fact that the current Subiaco Oval is not the first Subiaco Oval, but the second. Most people know the stadium first opened in 1908, but Subiaco Football Club was founded way back in 1896. Do you imagine they had nowhere to play and train for their first twelve years?

Towards the western end of Nicholson Road is a reserve called Shenton Park and it was here, in 1897, that Subiaco FC made their home. It was simply known as Subiaco Oval at the time. Trouble was, to the south of the ground was a large lake, and during the winter months the water on the playing field proved impossible to drain.

The local government spent a small fortune trying to make Subiaco Oval playable, but there were still times when games were played wading ankle-deep through the water. But play they did, because footballers were harder back then.

In the end, the council gave up trying and instead decided to develop a new oval on Mueller Park, starting work in 1906. And how did the Subiaco locals react? As you would expect: with outrage. Angry letters were written to the newspapers, protest meetings were held, and people were generally grumpy. How dare they fence off part of our park and charge admission for football games? This is the people’s park, and those dirty footballers should stick with their current ground in Shenton Park.

Of course, like all good councils, Subiaco ignored the protests and built a new Subiaco Oval anyway. And with a new stadium due to be opened soon, the future does not look bright for the historic ground. Well, at least we’ll get to keep the gates as they develop the oval into yet another housing complex.

(Racially) pure football

AFL Rd 14 - Sydney v Port Adelaide

Why is there a controversy over West Coast fans booing an Aboriginal player at Subiaco Oval? We know it wasn’t racist, because that kind of thing doesn’t go on anymore in Western Australia.

So let’s look back to a time when football was an even kinder, gentler, more tolerant sport. In this case, in the South West in 1910.

Jack Johnson had just defeated Jim Jefferies in one of the most important boxing matches in history, making Johnson the first black heavyweight champion of the world. The victor, by the way, was vilified in his native America from coast to coast for the impudence of beating a white man.

When news of this momentous triumph reached Western Australia, every pub was alive with debates about which was really the best sporting race: black or white.

Footballers living around Busselton did not wish to experiment with this debate on the field, so as a consequence announced that no local teams could include Aborigines, nor would they play a team which did.

A handful of brave footballers, probably mindful that some of the Aborigines were among their best players, refused to play until the race bar was lifted. As it happens, one of the best players in the area was Coolbung, who also worked alongside the white players in the bush.

And so it was that the Busselton team took to the field in August 1910 minus two or three of their best men, determined that racial purity should triumph over merely winning a game.

It’s easy to see we have moved on from then. Except, it seems, at Subiaco Oval.

A level playing field

foy&gibson

Foy & Gibson ladies football team, 1917

This morning, Dodgy Perth watched the USA v Australia game from the women’s world cup. Unfortunately the septics won. But sometimes bad things happen to good people.

It got us wondering when the first women’s football happened in Western Australia.

According to soccer historian Richard Kreider, after WWII there were a few ladies social matches, particularly among the Italian community.

However, the first organised women’s soccer game was not until 1971 when the Vel-Belles played the Beauts as a curtain raiser to WA v Moscow Dynamo.

To find women’s football older than this, we need to turn to the Australian version.

In the late 19th century, when women in other countries were beginning to play games seriously, most men found the idea either ridiculous, or at the very least unladylike.

The West Australian even found space to mock the idea of women’s sport in a lengthy song, of which this verse is typically misogynistic:

The goal-keeper looked at the ball—quite amazed at it!
Now, the next time it neared her she’d turned to a friend
To examine the cut of her blouse, and to chat on it,
Said the captain, “Miss Bodgers, I wish you’d attend!”
So she turned to see where the ball was, and she sat on it.

With attitudes like this, it’s easy to see why women’s sport was slow to develop in WA.

But with so many young men away fighting in Europe during WWI, the women got a chance to play Australian Rules.

Taking place at Subiaco Oval on 29 September 1917, the event was organised as a charity fund raiser by Miss Gell Howlett.

A team in maroon played a team in gold. The former won three goals to two.

Even so, this ground-breaking moment in WA sporting history was scorned by the media, who mocked it as women in ‘fancy dress’ who showed little talent. Although there some amusement value, it was said to be a total failure as a game of football.

Seems the women didn’t quite see it that way, since leagues were quickly established both in the metropolitan area and in the Goldfields, and grand finals were keenly fought.

There’s a really good exhibition of the history of the women’s game on at the State Library right now. Get to see it if you can.

Just girls in fancy dress: 100 years of women’s football

perth-glory

In honour of Perth Glory women’s team reaching the W-League grand final this Sunday (I’ll be there), Dodgy Perth decided to seek out the first women’s football game played in WA.

The authoritative history of soccer in this State is Richard Kreider’s Paddocks to Pitches. He says that after WWII there were a few ladies social matches, particularly among the Italian community.

However, the first organised women’s soccer game was not until 1971 when the Vel-Belles played the Beauts as a curtain raiser to WA v Moscow Dynamo.

To find women’s football older than this, we need to turn to the domestic version of the sport.

In the late 19th century, when women in other countries were beginning to play games seriously, most men found the idea either ridiculous, or at the very least unladylike.

The West Australian even found space to mock the idea of women’s sport in a lengthy song, of which this verse is typical:

The goal-keeper looked at the ball—quite amazed at it!
Now, the next time it neared her she’d turned to a friend
To examine the cut of her blouse, and to chat on it,
Said the captain, “Miss Bodgers, I wish you’d attend!”
So she turned to see where the ball was, and she sat on it.

With attitudes like this, it is easy to see why women’s sport was slow to develop in WA.

It was not until 29 September 1917 that the first Australian Rules game was played by ladies. It seems that the number of young men away fighting in Europe probably had an influence on the development of the women’s game.

Taking place at Subiaco Oval, the event was organised as a charity fund raiser by Miss Gell Howlett.

004998d

One of the 1917 women’s football teams, these players worked for Foy & Gibson

Taking to the field were a team in maroon and a team in gold. The former won three goals to two.

Even so, this ground-breaking moment in WA sporting history was simply scorned by the media, who referred to it as women in ‘fancy dress’ who showed little talent. Although there was much ‘laughter’, it was said to be a total failure as a game of football.

Seems the women didn’t quite see it that way, since leagues were established both in the metropolitan area and in the Goldfields, and grand finals were keenly fought.

With the centenary of women’s organised sport in WA coming up in a couple of years, Dodgy Perth proposes that the Gell Howlett trophy should be established as an annual competition. Anybody want to organise that?