Breaking new grounds

The first match under the auspices of the Anglo-Queensland Football Association took place on the Pineapple Ground, Kangaroo Point on Saturday, the contending clubs being the Queen’s Park and St Andrew’s. The clubs played eleven aside, being the usual number in matches under this association. The colours were-for St Andrews dark blue and for Queen’s Park blue and white. Mr Shiers was umpire for the Queen’s Park, and Mr Curry filled the same position for the other side, Mr Hudson being referee. The attendance numbered about sixty, and most of them took a lively interest in the game.                                                                                                                                           Brisbane Courier (June 16 1884)

Newspaper reports from the early 1880s describe practice matches for what was then called British Association football, at the Queen’s Park in Alice Street (now part of the City Botanic Gardens). It appears that these players were mostly Scottish immigrants, as players of other football codes referred to them as ‘Scotch rulers’ (between 1880 and 1890 the population of metropolitan Brisbane more than doubled, from around 35,000 to 90,000 – mainly through immigrants coming from the United Kingdom).

Disagreements over ground-sharing with cricketers and the rugby and Victorian rules players saw the ‘British football’ group play on vacant but poorly drained land in Melbourne Street South Brisbane. They then received permission from the publican of the Pineapple Hotel at Kangaroo Point to play at his ‘Pineapple Sportsground’ (immediately behind the hotel – now the western end of Raymond Park).

The Brisbane Courier reported in early May 1884:

A MEETING of those favourable to the “Association” game of football as played in the home countries was held at the Australian Hotel last night [Thursday 1 May] … The chair was occupied by Mr. W. McLauchlan. Among those present were a number of Scottish Association footballers who had recently arrived in the colony … [I]t was resolved that it was desirable to form an Anglo-Queensland Football Association, and as a beginning the meeting formed the first club, the name selected being “St. Andrew’s Football Club.” Mr. D. McCreadie – a Queen’s Park (Glasgow) player was elected president and captain of the club … It was announced that already from twenty-seven to thirty promises to join the club had been received, and it was resolved to play a practice match tomorrow afternoon, if possible, in the Queen’s Park. Mr. D. McCreadie and Mr. W.Hardgrave undertook to captain the teams.

The newly formed Anglo-Queensland Football Association (‘AQFA’) and its St Andrew’s club were then joined by the also newly formed ‘Queen’s Park’ club. The Rangers club, which appears to have been the former ‘Scottish Football Association’ club formed in South Brisbane at least a year earlier (1883), also joined the AQFA.

It is highly likely that the AQFA players were inspired by the success of contemporary Scottish teams (particularly the well-known Glasgow football clubs) and the Scottish national side that dominated English national teams in the games formative decades. During the 1870s and 1880s Scottish players were regarded as ‘Professors‘ of the game – a reference to their ‘scientific’ approach, the passing game, which transformed football tactics and game play.

The three clubs of the AQFA then played a fixture season, commencing on Saturday 7 June 1884 with the Queen’s Park team playing St Andrew’s. Despite the “good play” of some of the Queen’s Park players, the Saints overwhelmed them 7-0.

The final tie to decide the premiers of the inaugural 1884 season was played between St Andrew’s and Rangers at the Queen’s Park ground, on Saturday 9 August. The players were presumably playing as amateurs, as a newspaper advertisement promoting that game noted that “Collection Boxes in aid of the Hospital will be at Garden Gates.” The match was won by Rangers 1-0, and they were awarded the winners’ badges (see images of an 1887 AQFA badge at the right).

For a further description of those pioneering days of the 1880s, see this 1937 letter to the editor of the Brisbane Courier-Mail from former Rangers FC player Don S Gemmell.

Rangers FC (pictured in the early 1880s) wearing white with red trim, with Captain Andrew Rankine holding the football. The club was likely established in 1883 as the Scottish Football Association [Image from the Soccer Record magazine, 1924 – sourced by Roger McIntosh]