Echuca Football Club – 1878-1889

Echuca Football Club

Echuca Park (Blue and White)

‘Echuca Park’ was formed in May 1878 at a meeting at Ford’s Union Club Hotel with a club entrance fee of 2s 4d. A number of the players in the football club were also involved in the cricket team of the same name. For example the Ford family were involved in the Echuca Park Cricket team and the new Football club secretary A.Ford was probably related. (in 1880, Edward Ford is listed as the club Vice President., A.Ford may be an error)

Echuca Park immediately became the key team in the town. In their first year of existence, it was the Park team, not the previously established Echuca team was featured in the important Victoria wide ‘The Footballer’ Annual.

The Footballer - an annual record of football in Victoria - compiled by Thomas P. Power 1878 p28
The Footballer - an annual record of football in Victoria - compiled by Thomas P. Power 1878 p28

The Football Clubs first captain appears to have been George Howard (ex Melbourne University) who had been a tutor at Scott's Grammer School. Unfortunately, in July, only a few months after the club formed in May, Howard left for a job at Ballarat College.

While in Echuca, Howard had been a leading sportsman, and in his farewell was listed as captain of 'The leading football and Cricket clubs in town'.1 Howard was also listed as the captain of an Echuca Park 15 against the United club. Others in this early Park team included Dugan, Huggins, Gummow, Jones, Willis, Major, Carr, Walker, O'Donahoo, Whittaker, Kickam, Martin, McKenzie, Davey, McIlwraith, Hansen, Noble and Mayne.2

Echuca's next captain, 'Gillie' Major, had played with 'Albert Park', one of the senior teams in Melbourne. 3

The older Echuca club was in it’s final season in 1878. The new Park club played five games against theold ‘Echuca club and had a winning season, two games and three draws.4

The biggest match for the 1878 season was a combined match featuring players from both Echuca and the Park teams against Sandhurst. The combined team was captained by Major from the Park team.

Bendigo Advertiser 1-Aug-1878 p2
Bendigo Advertiser 1-Aug-1878 p2

The combined Echuca team included about a 50/50 of players from both clubs. Players included Kerr, Major, Berry, Sibley, Huggins, Gummow, Shaw, McArthur, Seward (x2), Hardy, Davy, Howes, Molyneaux, Bodycomb, Martin, Corlett, Chamber, Tattam, Noble, Hyland, O’Conner, Willis and Carr.5

The train from Bendigo only allowed one hour of play, and a rough game ensured. Including an injury to Jenkinson (Sandhurst Captain) who twisted his knee while ‘jumping at Gummow’, and the game ended in a goal-less draw.

1880’s Echuca Park

The 1880’s established Echuca Park as the team that represented the town. The club played many inter city games over the decade with a quite respectable record.

To start the decade, the club could continue to point to their inclusion in the 1879 season annual of, ‘the footballer’ which included the names of Echuca Park players among those important players around the state.

The Footballer - an annual record of football in Victoria - compiled by Thomas P. Powe 1879 p54
The Footballer - an annual record of football in Victoria - compiled by Thomas P. Powe 1879 p54

Players such as Peter Noble and later Fred Lamb (Son of E. Lamb of the Federal Grocery store6) were central to the team's efforts through the decade. Another player, especially 884-5 was John Scudder (later principal auctioneer in Wagga).7

At the club’s annual meeting in January 1880, the club reported a credit balance of 9s 6d which it decided to give to the Irish Relief Fund.8 An unremarkable event, but is an early example of the substantial charity and community work that the football community has been part of.

Echuca North

1880 saw a slight complication, with another short lived club, Echuca North being formed including G.Hayes as captain, J.Seward as vice captain and the Noble brothers. Echuca North also took on the colours blue and white.9 Oddly some players also played for Echuca Park that season, Echuca North did not appear again in 1881, but in 1880, Echuca North played at least one match, a draw against Rochester.10

A number of other junior football teams formed through this period, including the Imperials, and Echuca Juniors. Probably due to distances involved for intercity games, Echuca Park played a number of games against combined junior teams, usually allowing the junior sides extra players on the field.

The term ‘Junior’ can be confusing and probably related to the quality of the players rather than their ages. For example, a contemporary use of the term in Melbourne was the “Metropolitan Junior Football Association” was formed in 1892, over time this association would become the “Victorian Amateur Football Association”.

Quartzopolis, and the Inter-city Rivals

The railway line to the quartz gold mining town of Bendigo provided Echuca’s main rivals for the decade. Echuca Park maintained reasonable results against Bendigo teams, though arrangements remained chaotic, with a number of matches abandoned when teams could not be organised.

Table: - Echuca Park v Bendigo League Teams 1879 - 1888
Date Location Result Team 1 Team 1 Score Team 2 Team 2 Score Notes
3-Jul-1879 Epsom Racecourse L Echuca Park 1.12 Bendigo Football Club 2.10 On same day that Sandhurst played Melbourne
24-May-1880 Echuca Park L Echuca Park 0 Bendigo Football Club 2.13
1-Jul-1880 Echuca Park D Echuca Park 0.? Sandhurst Football Club 0.?
1-Jul-1881 Echuca D Echuca Park 2.? Sandhurst Football Club 2.? (more behinds) The visitors expressed much dissatisfaction at the umpiring
13-Aug-1881 Back Creek ground (Bendigo) D Echuca Park 2.? Sandhurst Football Club 2.? (more behinds) Sandhurst swapped a player through the game
28-May-1882 Echuca Abndn Echuca Park N/A Sandhurst Football Club N/A Sandhurst unable to put together team
5-Aug-1822 Bendigo Abndn Echuca Park N/A Sandhurst Football Club N/A Rain affected Ground
13-Jun-1883 Park Oval W Echuca Park 2.9 Sandhurst Football Club 1.4 A large number of Spectators
14-Jul-1883 Back Creek ground (Bendigo) L Echuca Park 0.3 Sandhurst Football Club 2.7
29-Jul-1884 Upper Reserve W Echuca Park 7.12 Charing Cross (Bendigo) 1.6 Blue and White are Park Colours
17-Jun-1885 Echuca Unk Echuca Park Unk Bendigo Football Club Unk Unknown match result
10-Jun-1886 Bendigo Unk Echuca Park Sandhurst Football Club Scheduled - but no other record
28-Jul-1886 Echuca Abndn Echuca Park Sandhurst Football Club Team selected but Sanhurst unable to visit at last minute
24-May-1887 Park Oval W Echuca Park 2.7 Sandhurst Football Club 0.2 Principle match for the season'
13-Jul-1887 Back Creek ground (Bendigo) L Echuca Park 0.4 Sandhurst Football Club 5.7
1888 No Matches

Closer to home on the same line, Rochester provided weaker opposition (but it would not always be so in the future) with Echuca Park winning most games comfortably. In one notorious game on a windy August day in 1883, the Rochester players, playing at home walked off mid-game after an on field dispute leaving the Echuca Park players with nothing else to do but to kick a goal to put themselves in front, then declare themselves the winners and take the train home.11 Accusations and letters to the papers followed that Rochester game over the following weeks.

In the 1880's the Victoria Park Oval (named after the Queen) was established. The Red Gum Arch, built in 1884 for a visit by Governor, Sir Henry Brougham Loch was soon-after moved to the entrance of Echuca Park and would be an Echuca landmark over the following decades.

Redgum Arch Echuca SLV H2000.222_58
Redgum Arch Echuca SLV H2000.222_58

In 1888, another log was thrown on the Rochester fire when an advance party of Echuca Park
players turned up for a game in Rochester, and were “disgusted” that some misunderstanding prevented the game being played.12

On a brighter note, a Echuca Park v Rochester game in June 1886 saw local umpires following the lead of games in Melbourne and using a whistle for the first time.13

Echuca Park also had success against the Goulburn Valley team of Mooroopna (near Shepparton). In one memorable game in May 1885, Echuca Park was found to have 21 players on the field, and had their three goals for the first half removed from their score. Echuca still comfortably won the game and unlike the local Rochester games, relations between the teams was not hurt, though newspaper reports after the game caused a meeting of the team where the players rejected the resignation of their upset vice-captain.14

These games, like the games in Bendigo, were also important social occasions, and the local newspapers often reported on the dinners, banquets and hospitality after the games in as much detail as the games themselves.

After a game against Mooroopna in 1886, the Herald noted a celebration at the Australian Native’s Association club rooms noting “that a most enjoyable evening was spent, and the utmost good feeling prevailed on all sides. Songs and recitations were given by various persons present, a recitation by Mr Miller, of the Mooroopna team being particularly well remembered, and had the effect of “bringing down the house”. Some of our local vocalists gave songs, comic and sentimental, and the visitors also contributed ably in this respect.” Toasts to the Queen, to the Health of the visitors, to the Umpires, the ladies and to the press were drunk. “Auld Lang Syne” and the National Anthem (twice) were sung.15

The social side of football was a key part of the game. Members had the opportunity to travel and be involved in a wider social network. This was even more important in smaller regional towns, and when players were more likely to be important local citizens.

Unfortunately, by the end of the decade Echuca Park found it increasing difficulty to find opposition. Flagging interest in football was exacerbated in 1886 as team captain Peter Noble left mid season to go to the Kimberly diggings.16 (he would return later and continue to be a club stalwart)

Maloga/ Cummeragunja

A highlight at the end of the decade were historic games against the Maloga Club, an indigenous team who put up a good showing. In 1888, Echuca Park defeated Maloga with one goal and several points, against no goals four points, a relatively close game against a strong Echuca team. The Herald noted the Briggs (one of the visitors) was the best player of the 40 on the field.17

The following year the Park organised a team to meet at the railway station to go and play the Maloga team, but the match result has been lost.18

Maloga was a team based at a local NSW mission that had a reputation for strict religious lifestyle. Many of the mainly Yorta Yorta people moved to the nearby Cummeragunja Station, during this time, with a final group being forced to move when the Maloga mission finally closed. Cummeragunja would go on to play many games against Echuca. One famous player, Doug Nicholls, would play for Northcote and Fitzroy and later became a pastor, an activist for indigenous rights, and the Governor of South Australia.

In the wider picture though, by the time of First World War, Cummeragunja came under stricter supervision by the NSW government causing an awful deterioration of conditions followed by protest and action. Culminating in a mass exodus called the ‘Cummeragunja walk-off’ in 1939. In spite of circumstances, 'Cummera' teams were a key part of Echuca's football landscape prior to the First World War.

The rivalry between Rochester and Echuca is well documented, but I would think that each victory that Maloga or Cummeragunja had over the Echuca teams was felt just as sweetly.

To improve the game in Echuca, what would be needed would be the formation of a League with a schedule of regular matches.




1. The Riberine Herald ECHUCA, MOAMA AND TERANG ADVERTISER. (1878, July 2). Riverine Herald (Echuca, Vic. : Moama, NSW : 1869 - 1954), p. 2. Retrieved June 27, 2014, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article113581608
2. The Riberine Herald ECHUCA, MOAMA AND KERANG ADVERTISER. (1878, June 18). Riverine Herald (Echuca, Vic. : Moama, NSW : 1869 - 1954), p. 2. Retrieved June 27, 2014, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article113581461
3. The Footballer 1879 p98
4. The Riverine Herald . (1878, September 2), p. 2. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article113576141
5. Riverine Herald (1878, July 31), p. 2 http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-page12151435
6. Family Notices. (1895, October 25). Riverine Herald (Echuca, Vic. : Moama, NSW : 1869 - 1954), p. 2. Retrieved March 6, 2014, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article114985245
7. The Riverine Herald. (1902, May 8). Riverine Herald (Echuca, Vic. : Moama, NSW : 1869 - 1954), p. 2. Retrieved March 13, 2014, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article115036258
8. The Riverina Herald. (1880, January 28), p. 2 http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article113569684
9. The Riverine Herald. (1880, June 10)., p.2. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article113569015
10. Riverine Herald - Sporting. (1880, July 31), p.3. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article113596623
11. Riverine Herald - Football. (1883, August 7), p.3. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article115067388
12. Riverine Herald - The Small Arms And Powder Factory. (1888, June 7)., p.2. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article114661474
13. Riverine Herald - Football Notes. (1886, June 29), p. 2. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article114643140
14. Bendigo Advertiser - The Queen's Birthday. (1885, May 26), p.3. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article88649969 and Riverine Herald - Football Notes. (1885, May 28), p.2. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article114634736
15. Riverine Herald - Football Match. (1886, May 25), p. 2. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article114648475
16. Riverine Herald - Football Notes. (1886, June 9, p. 2. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article114642642
17. The Riverine Herald. (1888, July 12). p. 2. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article114662150
18. The Riverine Herald. (1889, June 5), p. 2. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article114669284

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