1892 - 1959
Colonial Control and Social Pursuits (1826 – 1892)
We first look at when Western Australia received its first non-indigenous settlers, describing the long struggles establishing themselves in a harsh and unforgiving land. Horse-racing was among the first recreational interests, since the horse was instrumental in helping settlers shape their future. One of the first recorded games of ‘football’ (probably a raw form of rugby) took place in 1868 and stretched over two weekends. The sport of rugby was introduced during this time, and three of these early clubs banded together to commence an Australian Rules (Victorian Rules) league in 1885. Perth’s first known games of Association Football were played on the Esplanade, Weld Square and Russell Square. In conjunction with rugby, an attempt to start an association took place in 1892, but the soccer element barely lasted a year.
The First Winters (1896 – 1918)
Two sons of Western Australia’s first Attorney General (Septimus Burt QC) were instrumental in rejuvenating football in 1896, and this time, the sport managed to remain until today. The sport grew from four clubs in 1896 to ten by 1915, before another serious and more tragic disruption took so many young lives with it – the First World War. Meantime, Australian Rules had become the dominant football, despite several problems during its infancy - one being a threat to its existence by soccer. Nonetheless, both codes have since managed to move forward without any acute intervention from the other.
A Round Ball Revival (1919-1944)
This chapter details how football overcame the fields of war and managed to get back on the fields of football in next to no time. We also see the establishing of a number of highly successful clubs, such as Caledonian, Victoria Park, Claremont, Perth City and Thistle. The emergence of local talent was now being recognised on a much larger scale, owing to improved transport options. Players like Harold Boys, Jack Conduit, Andy and Jimmy Gordon, Alex Marr and Syd Hinton all became household names. However, the sport was again unsettled by War, and this time a cultural shift in both immigration and the way football was run and played was about to transpire.
Migrants and Management Mayhem (1945 – 1959)
This particular period in Western Australian football was the most significant in its entire history. Many UK servicemen, who protected our shores during the War, returned after demobilisation to begin a new life downunder. And those that played football, enhanced the local game considerably. A few years later, non-British migrants began to arrive and once again, the game of football changed. What it also changed, was the Anglo-Australian control of football, which was not well received by the new migrants.
With more players receiving various forms of compensation for playing in an amateur body, something had to give. The result being a mutinous act that saw the upheaval of the local governing body and a semi-professional Federation take over the game.