When children are born in Victoria
they are wrapped in the club colours,
laid in beribboned cots,
having already begun a lifetime’s barracking
Carn, they cry, Carn....
Bruce Dawe – Lifecycle (extract).

Reading Australian Rules Football by Tim Hogan. Front cover photo – Rennie Ellis Photographic Archive/SLV.
Reading Australian Rules Football by Tim Hogan. Front cover photo – Rennie Ellis Photographic Archive/SLV.

A Personal Memory

My father presented me in September 1952 with the first of six football books published by Melbourne’s Argus newspaper in the fifties. Let’s Look at Football was a compilation of articles, written by Hugh Buggy and serialised in the Argus throughout the 1952 football season. After cutting my seven-year-old teeth on this one, I collected, and treasured, all six of the Argus books that appeared from 1952 to 1956, and couldn’t possibly imagine ever parting with them.

Let’s Look at Football was arguably the first comprehensive, general history of the Victorian Football League. It preceded by six years the next serious attempt at a general history - Cecil Mullen’s History of Australian Rules Football (1858-1958). Mullen’s book passed me by but I can claim to have played a small part in the completion of the next major football history project – Ian Turner’s Up Where, Cazaly?

The Argus books were some of the items miraculously saved from the backyard bonfire the day in 1968 I took leave of my senses and threw parts of my considerable sport collection to hell. I was studying at Monash University in Clayton and heard on the grapevine that labour historian Ian Turner had undertaken to write a book about the history of Australian Rules football. Since 1965 Turner had been making headlines on campus and in the sports pages with his annual ‘Barassi Memorial Lecture’ - and may have already invented ‘The Barassi Line’, his colourful term for an imaginary geographical line separating the nation’s Australian Rules and Rugby League regions. I knocked on Turner’s door in the History Department and offered to lend him my six Argus books to help in his research. I visited him at his home in Lennox Street Richmond and handed over my six books. I never saw them again.

Footy and the Clubs that Made it 1954
Footy and the Clubs that Made it 1954
VFL Premiers: Full History of the Finals 1953
VFL Premiers: Full History of the Finals 1953
Football Headlines 1955
Football Headlines 1955
Talking Football With the Stars 1955
Talking Football With the Stars 1955
The Footy Story 1956
The Footy Story 1956

Turner was keen to see the Argus books. The last of them, The Footy Story, appeared in 1956, the year of the Hungarian Uprising. Prior to that Turner had been a loyal Communist intellectual and immersed in leading the Australian Peace Movement. He would have had little time to pick up his Argus books from the newsagent. By 1968 however he had the time to focus on the really important things in life – football and his beloved Tigers.

In 1979 Ian Turner suffered a fatal heart attack playing beach cricket on a Bass Strait Island. His partner Leonie Sandercock took over Turner’s football history project, rounded it off, and in 1981 published Up Where, Cazaly? It was the first-ever academic history of Australian Rules football.

Up Where, Cazaly? (Cover)
Up Where, Cazaly? (Cover)

The years passed and I assumed my Argus books had disappeared into an academic black hole. Feeling nostalgic and regretful, I persistently scoured collectables shops in the nineties and eventually found copies of all six books. But I always thought it would be nice to lay my hands on the copies I owned and treasured as a kid. I now think there is a fair chance that I can – thanks to an extraordinary book published last year (2017) by Tim Hogan.

Tim Hogan and the Collective Memory

Tim Hogan is currently Manager of Collection Development and Discovery at the State Library of Victoria, having previously managed the Australian history, literature and newspaper collections at SLV. Hogan knows the SLV’s collection of football material backwards and has presented papers on this topic at academic conferences. Thirteen years ago (2005) Hogan published Reading the Game, a ground-breaking work listing almost every known (and unknown) Australian Rules item in the football universe. Reading Australian Rules football – The Definitive Guide to the Game builds upon Hogan’s 2005 publication and doubles the content volume of the previous work. Hogan’s second book presents the results of a comprehensive survey of published and unpublished material about Australian Rules football – at all levels of football in all states - up until the end of 2015. There are annotated citations for books, journal articles, football newspapers and magazines, films, songs, music, art, literary works, websites, archival collections, and academic theses and dissertations. 1

If this second edition is anything to go by, Hogan quite possibly knows more about the history of the game of Australian Rules than anyone else on Planet Earth. On the front cover Hogan rather modestly refers to himself as the book’s ‘editor’, perhaps suggesting he merely edited the work of others. Hogan certainly had considerable help from the six authors who contributed some of the chapter introductions (namely Fred Cahir, Rob Hess, David Flegg, Lionel Frost, Trevor Ruddell and Ian Warren) and from eight others who contributed some of the annotations, but this is very definitely and obviously Hogan’s book. Hogan was responsible for fourteen of the nineteen chapter introductions, and the vast majority of the 2000 citations and 1600 annotations. Judging by the quality of the annotations provided, it is a fair bet that Hogan went to the trouble of reading (or at least dipping into) many of the items he describes. 2 One also has the impression he has physically inspected many of the SLV items. 3 Making my task of re-uniting with my long-lost Argus books a lot easier, Hogan provides a sizable annotation in reference to Ian Turner’s 111 boxes at the National Library and even lists the numbers of the boxes associated with Up Where, Cazaly?

In preparation for this review I decided to read every page and every line of Hogan’s book. I found the content of the annotations interesting and stimulating and therefore maintained my commitment through to the last page. It slowly dawned on me that Hogan’s book – a vast store of information emanating from a great variety of disparate sources, places and periods – was in fact a guide to Australian football’s collective memory. Some important and priceless elements of that collective memory have been lost or deliberately destroyed in days gone by. The worst offenders are those football clubs who, in their contempt for history, have been known to mindlessly resort to the dumpster without even blinking. I have in mind one current Melbourne-based AFL club that disposed of most of its inherited heritage several decades ago. It has therefore largely been left up to our public libraries to preserve the treasured elements of football’s collective memory – and they have been doing so consistently from the mid-nineteenth century.

Reading the Game (2005)
Reading the Game (2005)

The Task at Hand

When Tim Hogan started work on his 2005 bibliography, a comprehensive descriptive survey of the vast array of published football literature simply did not exist in any form. Hogan’s aim was to provide such a tool, enabling researchers and general readers to identify relevant source material. The exponential growth of sources since 2005 has called for a second larger book. 4 Hogan has searched online library catalogues (including the NLA’s Trove) and other online databases, and listed all significant published works or manuscript collections held by major libraries – and then annotated them. A massive task. 5

The documentary and cultural heritage of Australian Rules football is now abundant but it took almost a whole century for it to start to become so. Hogan points out that during the nineteenth century, and for much of the twentieth century, newspapers were the main source of written commentary about Australian Rules football. 6 Other sources were few and far between. Before 1945, the State Library of Victoria had fewer than 20 books about football. Reference books for Australian Rules were also rare. 7

The first few decades after 1945 saw a slow expansion in the number of football books, with three pioneering general histories leading the way - Hugh Buggy’s Let’s Look at Football (1952), Cecil Mullen’s History of Australian Rules Football 1858-1958, and Up Where, Cazaly? (1981). The increase since 1981 has been astronomical. 8 The great expansion in published football books since the 1980’s has mainly been propelled by player biographies and club histories, although books about specific aspects of the game’s history or condition, including league and regional histories, have also emerged as a genre in more recent years. 9 Furthermore, since the mid-seventies, we have been blessed with an ever-increasing abundance of reference material - encyclopaedias, dictionaries, almanacs, directories, sources of statistics, season guides and year books. 10

Also driving the growth are a number of comparatively new ‘genres’ of football material that barely existed fifty years ago, or even thirty years ago. Academic interest in the game has spawned important research activity, an increasing number of journal articles, and even tertiary courses in ‘football studies’. 11 Aboriginal influences were almost totally neglected in early football literature but the several hundred citations in Chapter Thirteen of Hogan’s book attest to the depth and scope of scholarly and artistic interest in Indigenous football (and footballers) since the nineties, fuelled partly by the topicality of ‘Marngrook’ and the recurring issue of racism. Chapter Thirteen is the ‘heaviest’ chapter in the book. The intensity of current debates around the relevance of ‘Marngrook’ is palpable. Literary works on the subject of football were for over a century restricted to the poetry and verse that appeared in the early years of the game but Hogan is able to list a veritable plenitude of more recent works – poetry, novels, plays and short stories. He also lists the films and documentaries that have been made about football. 12

Football was never over-endowed with material produced in a magazine format. For the greater part of the 160 years since the inception of the game, newspapers, and in particular sporting newspapers such as Victoria’s twice-weekly Sporting Globe (1922-96), dominated football coverage in print. In the earlier years the VFL’s weekly Football Record, the VFA’s weekly Recorder, and The Sporting Globe Football Book (editions of 1946, 1948, 1953, 1954) were three magazine-style publications from an otherwise barren field. In the immediate post-war period football fans had to rest content with articles (for example by Jack Dyer) in ‘Sporting Life’ or ‘Sports Novels’, magazines devoted to sport in general. We have however seen a slow, less than spectacular, growth in ‘magazines’ since the sixties, with clearly the most notable being Inside Football (1971-).

In very recent times two completely new football subject areas have been added to the growing panoply and they are the two most rapidly growing football subject areas of all: material on the internet, and material dealing with women’s football. Hogan points to the probable existence of thousands of individual football websites which meant he was only able to present a selection, not a comprehensive list. 13 The eight-page chapter on the long-neglected subject of women’s football and women’s participation in football, appears last in Hogan’s book. Last is not least however and one can confidently predict a huge number of citations on ‘Women and Football’ if ever Hogan publishes a third edition.

Every conceivable aspect of the game, no matter how esoteric or eccentric, is explored in Hogan’s book. The chapter ‘Business and Management of the Game’ cites material dealing with economic and administrative matters such as the impact of the national league, player pay and conditions, commercialisation, racial vilification, attendances/participation, legal issues, player contracts, revenue sharing, and mergers. The chapter ‘Fan Culture’ covers cultural and social aspects of the game – racism, women in football, commercialisation, community identity, the rituals and psychology of barrackers. ‘Humour and Anecdotes’ is a chapter detailing sources of football jokes, cartoons and caricatures. ‘Playing, Training, Coaching’ is the self-explanatory title of a chapter about the practical skills and techniques of playing and coaching. ‘Songs, Music and Films’ adds considerably to the already known list of individual songs and ditties (and albums) about football. The chapter ‘Football Art and Images’ is an essay of ten pages, and of some considerable intellectual depth, written by Trevor Ruddell, deputy librarian at the Melbourne Cricket Club Library, and delves philosophically into the role and purpose of an entire spectrum of football imagery - drawings, etchings, cartoons, posters, cigarette cards, photography, club ephemera, paintings, and sculptures.

Almost Unlimited

Tim Hogan is careful to remind readers that his bibliography, though extensive, is not exhaustive or completely comprehensive. Material published or created after the end of 2015 was excluded for obvious reasons. Other types of material excluded or not considered for listing were:
  • Private (memorabilia) collections
  • Club or League collections
  • Government archive materials
  • Government documents
  • Newspaper articles
  • Oral history tapes
  • Book reviews
  • Literary works for children
  • Articles on the Internet
  • Suburban and country newspapers
  • Provincial newspapers (with the exception of the Geelong Advertiser)
  • Films (about major league clubs) produced as commercial retail products
  • Film material on You Tube

Some chapters in the book offer a selection of material only. For example, Chapter Seventeen (‘Songs, Music and Films’), like Chapter Eight (‘Football Online’), is a first attempt to compile a record of non-print material. The chapter includes VFL/AFL songs but not the songs of clubs in other leagues. Chapter Eighteen (‘Statistics, Records and Reference’) includes citations for books, book chapters and sections in books, but not online material. Chapter Twelve (‘Manuscripts and Archives’) excludes academic theses.

The Book is Perfect (almost)

For me the most refreshing quality of this wonderful book is the fact that it is so obviously and proudly about the history and heritage of the game of Australian Rules. It is not narrowly about the history and heritage of the AFL. 14 The book conscientiously pays due attention to the VFA, interstate (WA, SA, Tasmania) football, minor leagues, and regional (local) clubs. 15 The attention given to clubs in the minor leagues is important – for several reasons. Many of these clubs are struggling for funds and attention. Their publications do not circulate widely, yet their histories contribute to, and share, the ‘collective memory’. I found Chapter Five (‘Clubs: Minor Leagues’) to be one of the most interesting chapters in the book. 16

Love for, and fascination with, the history and heritage of the game shines through in everything Hogan has written here. This in spite of the fact that Reading Australian Rules Football – The Definitive Guide to the Game is organised thematically rather than chronologically (See Appendix below). There are many references to early football and the treasures of early football, their importance and location. Particularly valuable are the references to early football material online – for example early annual football publication The Footballer (1875-79) and the VFL’s ’The Football Record’ (1912>) on the SLV website.

So far, my review reads like a hagiography, so perhaps I am now free to level some criticisms. Hogan, erudite and professional, has written an astonishing number of annotations. 17 He is nearly always ‘objective’, preferring to describe rather than proselytise or criticise. One assumes, as the book’s editor, he has run his eye over all the annotations, so we can hold him responsible for any mistakes.

The book’s annotations are interesting and often thought-provoking but – possibly for space reasons – some are inclined to be shallow or too uncritical. For example, Hogan’s annotation (p. 39) for the book We Are Geelong (2009) pays it the compliment of being ‘comprehensive’ when it is anything but. His annotation (p. 91) for Up Where, Cazaly? neglects to mention it was Turner, not Sandercock, who initiated the book. Lionel Frost, who elsewhere criticises freely, completely ignores (p. 36) the world-record number of typos in the sloppy and poorly edited Lothian publication (by Garrie Hutchinson, Rick Lang and John Ross) Roar of the Lions (1997). Frost is also way off the mark (p.37) when he states A History of the Footscray Football Club: Unleashed (1996) was ‘written by a team made up of academic and amateur historians and with the full cooperation of the Footscray Football Club’. Was it? Really?

Each thematic chapter of the book includes an introductory essay, with the annotated citations that follow in alphabetical sequence by author surname, or title. The sorting into themes has been competently managed, presumably with the aim of easy access. I nevertheless found some items hard to locate, despite the author index at the back of the book. I had trouble finding the citations for the six Argus books, for instance, because they were separated according to author or theme. Why not group them together?

The author index at the back of the book is some help but only if one knows which author. From a stylistic point of view, I found the small print of the annotations disconcerting. The scrunching together on the one page of material from two different chapters (the end of one and the beginning of another) was an odd look. Most of the citations for books do not indicate the number of pages, the book’s size, or whether the book is a hardback or paperback. The proof reader at Walla Walla Press must have fallen asleep on a few occasions because I found some spelling mistakes, some typos and some punctuation errors. I even traced the names of some football publications Hogan missed (probably because they were not listed in library catalogues) but I won’t hold that against him. He’s done his bit. I look forward to the third edition with its new and bursting chapter about ‘Tackleball, Congestion and the Critical State of the Game’.


Reading Australian Rules Football – The Definitive Guide to the Game

Chapters (authors of chapter introductions indicated)

Introduction (Tim Hogan)
Biographies (Tim Hogan) – pp. 4-22
Business and Management of the Game (Tim Hogan and Ian Warren) – pp. 23-28
Clubs – Major Leagues (Lionel Frost) – pp. 28-42
Clubs – Minor Leagues (Lionel Frost and Tim Hogan) – pp. 43-54
Fan Culture (Tim Hogan) – pp. 54-62
Football Art and Images (Trevor Ruddell) – pp. 62-72
Football Online (Tim Hogan) – pp. 72-77
Histories and General (Tim Hogan) – pp. 77-95
Humour and Anecdotes (Tim Hogan) – pp. 95-98
Literary Works (Tim Hogan) – pp. 99-108.
Manuscripts and Archives (Tim Hogan) – pp. 108-112.
Marngrook – The Indigenous Game (Fred Cahir) – pp. 113-125.
Newspapers, Magazines and Fanzines (Tim Hogan) – pp. 125-130.
Playing, Training, Coaching (Tim Hogan and David Flegg) – pp. 130-135.
Scholarly Theses and Dissertations (Rob Hess) - pp. 135-143.
Songs, Music and Films (Tim Hogan) – pp. 143-153.
Statistics, Records and Reference (Tim Hogan) – pp. 153-159.
Women and Football (Rob Hess) – pp. 160-167.

Tim Hogan (editor), Reading Australian Rules Football – The Definitive Guide to the Game, Sydney, Walla Walla Press, 2017, 176 pp.
RRP $35. Copies can be purchased from Walla Walla Press - http://www.wallawallapress.com/

See page
Or contact thogan at slv.vic.gov.au for more details.

Tim has a companion website for the book. See www.readingaustralianrulesfootball.org
Reading Australian Rules Football Website
Reading Australian Rules Football Website


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1. Tim Hogan has established a website companion to the book. See www.readingaustralianrulesfootball.org
2. In his introduction to the chapter ‘Literary Works’ (see Chapter Eleven, p. 100) Hogan actually apologises for not being able to read all the (literary) works!
3. See, for example, the annotation on page 111 describing in detail the typescript draft of a shooting script for the film version of Barry Oakley’s ‘A Salute to the Great McCarthy’.
4. Apart from Hogan’s 2005 work, the 2017 publication is still the only work of its type in existence.
5. SLV material was surveyed in more detail, according to Hogan. In his chapter on ‘Manuscripts and Archives’ Hogan points to some of the most valuable manuscript or archival football-related collections – those of Geoffrey Blainey (NLA), Norman Banks (SLV), Ian Turner (NLA), John Worrall (NLA), R.H.Campbell (SLV), Alexander Goodall (SLV), John Wood (SLSA), and records originating with the VFL, SANFL, and WAFL.
6. Football has been covered in the popular press since at least the 1880’s, including in the specialist sporting press that emerged in the 1890’s.
7. The earliest football reference books were ‘annuals’ or ‘yearbooks’: The Footballer, An Annual Record of Football in Victoria (1875-79); The ABC Football Guide and Register published in the 1880’s; Football Facts by R.H.Campbell (1928); and W.S.Sharland’s The Sporting Globe Football Book (1929).
8. The figures given by Hogan for the number of Australian Rules football books found on the NLA’s Trove are fascinating: 1981-1990….287 works; 1991-2000….485; 2001-2012….739; 2013 – 2015….281; Total – 1792.
9. Until the 1980’s player biographies could be counted on one hand. The first substantial biographical book was Henry Harrison’s The Story of an Athlete: A Picture of the Past (1923). Lou Richards, Boots and All (1963) and Jack Dyer, Captain Blood (1965) completed the dismal picture. There were also few club histories: C.S. Cock’s history of Fitzroy (1891), Percy Taylor’s history of Collingwood (1948), E.C.H.Taylor’s history of Melbourne (1958), and Hugh Buggy/Harry Bell’s history of Carlton (1958).
10. The huge annual AFL Record Season Guide now overshadows all other reference publications.
11. Hogan points to 34 relevant doctoral dissertations. The first academic thesis on football was by A.G.Daws, ‘The Origins of Australian Football’ (Hons. thesis), Melbourne University, 1954.
12. In 1996 the National Film and Sound Archive in Canberra released two video productions which included rare (and needless to say fragile) newsreel film of early VFL matches: VFL On Film Vol 1, 1909-1945 - Marking Time (101 minutes); VFL On Film Vol 2, 1946-1982 - Marking Time (134 minutes). Is there one valid reason why the AFL has not insisted this priceless material should be immediately released on DVD?
13. Hogan’s internet search using the phrase ‘Australian Rules Football’ in early 2016 retrieved 587,000 hits.
14. In recent times, as the AFL imperialist juggernaut rolls on, conquering frontiers and washing brains, many people, including professional commentators who should know better, have formed the false habit of using the terms ‘the game’ and ‘AFL’ interchangeably. ‘AFL’ has all but completely replaced ‘Australian Rules’ in the vernacular. Commentators describe historical aspects of the ‘game’ when in fact they really have in mind the ‘VFL/AFL’. A typical example is the frequently-expressed description of Tony Lockett as the leading goal kicker in ‘the history of the game’. This honour historically belongs to brilliant North Adelaide full-forward Ken Farmer. Lockett is only the leading goal kicker in the history of the VFL/AFL. Hogan makes the same point, describing Farmer as ‘the most prolific all-time goal scorer in major league football in Australia’ (p. 39).
15. In their introduction to Chapter Five (‘Clubs: Minor Leagues’) Frost and Hogan point to the lack of material on grassroots football. The chapter nevertheless includes several hundred citations. Material on the histories of football leagues and football regions is covered in Chapter Nine (‘Histories and General’).
16. In their introduction to Chapter Five Frost and Hogan bemoan the fact that many of the authors of books about grassroots football lack formal training in history and tend to produce material of ‘booklet’ size, often without indices and bibliographies. They do however concede there are ‘gems’ to be found. Frost in Chapter Four (‘Clubs: Major Leagues’) levels a similar criticism at many of the books about major league clubs, for not having indexes or bibliographies ‘which further reduces their usefulness to academic historians’ (p. 30). Frost is critical of Marc Fiddian’s VFA histories for the same reasons (p. 33).
17. It should be noted that Hogan’s annotations predominate even in chapters where he did not write the introductions, for example Chapter Thirteen (Marngrook: The Indigenous Game) and Chapter Nineteen (Women and Football).