A Cultural History of Australian Rules Football in Rural South West Victoria during the Interwar Years

[thumbnail of MARSHALL Nicholas-thesis_nosignature.pdf]

Marshall, Nicholas (2019) A Cultural History of Australian Rules Football in Rural South West Victoria during the Interwar Years. PhD thesis, Victoria University.


Australian Rules football has been played for over 160 years. Originating in Melbourne, the state capital of Victoria, the code is the most popular winter sport in the state and much of the nation. The game’s popularity has led to burgeoning historical literature of its origins, development, and expansion. Yet, the majority of these investigations have focused on metro- centric narratives of the code, overlooking the game’s prominence in many of those areas outside of major Australian cities. This thesis moves away from narratives of the game’s elite metropolitan history to explore the role Australian Rules football played in communicating, reproducing, and promulgating cultural values in a particular rural Australian context. More specifically, I analyse local newspapers from the south west of Victoria during the interwar period to begin the process of ascertaining what the game meant to rural Australian communities and to the nation more generally. While this thesis examines the general status and popularity of this code of football in a rural context, it focusses on the role that the local press and community played in promoting the game as a space that fostered the development of exemplary men and citizens. Australia’s late colonial and early twentieth century history is replete with narratives that connect Australia’s national identity with rural male figures that were revered for the idyllic manliness they embodied. Less, however, is known about the ideals of manliness in the country during the interwar period. Henceforth, this thesis analyses the multivalent perceptions of how men moulded their masculinity according to celebrated, admired, and revered characteristics of the predominantly male-oriented interwar setting of rural football competitions. Football in this rural setting was presented as a wholesome entity that nurtured attributes of congeniality, fairness, and sportsmanship. However, the memories extracted from historical sources of the period such as newspapers and monuments also illuminate some troubling aspects of football’s culture that were socially condoned and accepted as ‘a part of the game’. In particular, elements of violence, the accepted decline of Indigenous Australians, concerns about the impact of professionalisation, and the relevance of sport during periods of global crisis complicate the simplistic celebration of country football as a wholesome manly sport.

Item type Thesis (PhD thesis)
URI https://vuir.vu.edu.au/id/eprint/40596
Subjects Historical > FOR Classification > 2103 Historical Studies
Current > Division/Research > Institute for Health and Sport
Keywords Australian Rules football; football; cultural values; rural communities; newspapers; South West Victoria; interwar period; masculinity; Australia; history; Camperdown; Cobden; Mortlake; Terang; Warrnambool; Mortlake; spectator; barracking; violence
Download/View statistics View download statistics for this item

Search Google Scholar

Repository staff login