Queensland's first football clubs

Brisbane’s first football club, the Brisbane FC, was formed in 1866 by a group of professionals and civil servants. Many of the members were from Melbourne, so they elected to adopt the recently codified ‘Victorian rules’ (now ‘Australian [rules] football’). They played mostly intra-club games, with occasional games against ad hoc teams from Ipswich, the police and military groups.

A second football club, based in Petrie Terrace, formed ten years later (1876). Whilst they initially proposed to adopt the [English] Football Association ‘Laws of the Game’, they ultimately decided to play according to the rules of the [English] Rugby Football Union. They adopted the name ‘Bonnet Rouge FC’, wearing a distinctive red cap as part of their strip.
A third club, Rangers FC, also formed in early 1876. The Rangers and Bonnet Rouge clubs then convinced a reluctant Brisbane FC to play rugby, rather than Victorian rules for that season. The three clubs played what was later described as a hybrid of Victorian and rugby football, until reverting to the ‘Victorian rules’ in 1879.

In the video (right) Brisbane football historian Peter Eedy talks to Football Brisbane‘s Darren Lutton about the local Association football game’s early development.

Brisbane FC ca 1870 (pictured in Queen’s Park – now part of the [City] Botanic Gardens) [Image SLQ]

Brisbane FC played at least one game of Association Football – the earliest known game in Brisbane and Queensland. The Queenslander (14 August 1875) reports that on the previous Saturday (7 August 1875) Brisbane FC played against the inmates and warders of the Woogaroo Lunatic Asylum (now The Park Centre for Mental Health Treatment at Wolston Park, Goodna): “… play commenced at half-past 2 … One rule provided that the ball should not be handled nor carried.” 

The Footballer, a Victorian publication, in a section called Football in Queensland reported on a match played “without handling the ball under any circumstances whatever (Association rules).”

Brisbane FC ca 1879 (colours scarlet and black) [Image SLQ]

Is this the first match in Australia?

The earliest known match of Association Football took place at Woogaroo Asylum, Goodna, in modern day Ipswich, on Saturday August 7 1875. The combatants were staff and patients of the Asylum, and the Brisbane Club. 

Brisbane Club were the original football club in Queensland, which alternated between Rugby and Australian Rules during their existence. However for the sake of the “bedlam” players, rules adopted where the ball was not to be carried or handled. 

The Footballer, a Victorian publication which reviewed the year’s football across the colonies, subsequently stated the match “was played without handling the ball under any circumstances whatever (Association rules)”. Though there had been earlier non-handling football matches in Australia, such as Hobart and Melbourne in 1870, contemporary newspaper reports do not provide enough details to definitively class these matches as soccer.  

The Woogaroo match is currently considered the earliest match in Australia described as being played under British Association rules. 




Written by Garry McKenzie