Introduction

The 1940's and early 1950s continued the progress of 'electric light' football.

After a number of trial and charity games, the 1950 ANFC Carnival successfully included night football, the first major Australian Rules football event including Victoria to do so.

The first VFL game under lights also occurred early in the 1950's but this was by accident rather than by plan.

1940's Charity Matches

Night football was not limited to senior football competitions. Since the 1930s a number of charity football events were played around the country. Charity matches and games not at top level could proceed with inferior lighting, and could afford to experiment at night.

1940 - In Adelaide, East Torrens Association played the Midweek Association in a charity match at the Norwood Oval in aid of the Adelaide Royal Childrens Hospital. (A tied game , each team scoring 5-14) (Advertiser - Adelaide 27-Jul-1940 p20)

1948 - Women from two Adelaide Stores played a night match under floodlights at Goodwood Oval in South Australia. (Advertiser - Adelaide 9Jun1948 p3)

Chronicle - Adelaide 17Jun1948 p24
Chronicle - Adelaide 17Jun1948 p24


1948 - 10,000 people watched WANFL premiers South Fremantle play East Fremantle at the Fremantle Oval, a post season derby game in aid of the Y.M.C.A. The game ended in a draw with both teams scoring 9-10. (West Australian 16Oct1948 p13)

1949 - South Fremantle play East Fremantle played a post season night match for the second year running. This time as an experimental game with 16 players a side. (West Australian 15Oct1949 p20)

1949 - Brisbane Exhibition Ground hosts a night where three football codes are played on the ground on the same night. (Courier-Mail 22Mar1949 p7)

Night games remained a scattered affair, often a novelty event. It would take a big event to prove the viability at the top level and by 1950 that time had come.


1950 ANFC Carnival at Brisbane

Prior to the 1950 Carnival the ANFC President W.Stooke proposed that Australian Rules football should experiment with 16 players per side. He argued that night football was part of the future and the limitations of technology for lighting meant that smaller grounds would be needed for night time games. (Argus 28Jun1949 p15).

Argus 28Jun1949 p15
Argus 28Jun1949 p15


Courier-Mail - Brisbane 21Jul1950 p9 SA v WA Exhibition Oval Night Game
Courier-Mail - Brisbane 21Jul1950 p9 SA v WA Exhibition Oval Night Game
In 1949 Brisbane was chosen to host the 1950 interstate football carnival run by the ANFC. In an attempt to increase crowds and interest, a number of games at the carnival were played at night for the first time. (Daily News - Perth 19Jan1950 p21)

Carnival Trials at home

Football under lights was a novelty for most teams in the competition and the inclusion of night matches caused a number of teams to get some practice under lights before they went to Brisbane.

Although I can find no direct reference to the VFL team training under lights, The Adelaide Chronicle complained that the VFL team had trained under lights which put the South Australian Team at a disadvantage. (Chronicle Adelaide 25May1950 p46)
Argus 18Jul1950 p3
Argus 18Jul1950 p3


South Australia were unable to get permission to play a practice match at a ground with lights installed. ( Advertiser Adelaide 23May1950 p8) South Australia pinned their night practice hopes on access to the Exhibition ground in Brisbane. Unfortunately poor weather caused the cancellation of this practice as SA went into their game against WA at a disadvantage.. (Advertiser Adelaide 18Jul1950 p8)

Examiner - Launceston 28Jan1950 p23 New Thrills for Tasmanian Footballers
Examiner - Launceston 28Jan1950 p23 New Thrills for Tasmanian Footballers

In Tasmania there were no facilities for night football games and the Carnival would be the first time that a Tasmanian Team would play under lights. (Examiner-Launceston 28Jan1950 p23).

West Australian 15Jun1950 p19
West Australian 15Jun1950 p19
In Western Australia a trial game was played by prospective interstate players but the lights at the ground were not strong enough.(West Australian 15Jun1950p19)

Carnival Outcomes

The VFA joined the ANFC in 1949 and the 1950 carnival was their first as part of the ANFC. Heavy rain caused bad crowds and muddy wet weather football throughout. The VFL was unbeaten and was declared the winner.

For ANFC Carnival match results please see the wikipedia page.

The Carnival exposed all Australian States to the possibilities of night football. Although at the end of it, feelings were still mixed.

Chronicle -Adelaide 27Jul1950p54
Chronicle -Adelaide 27Jul1950p54



1952 VFL Propaganda Round - First VFL season game under lights

Courier-Mail 17Jun1952 p7
Courier-Mail 17Jun1952 p7
The Age 17Jun1952 p14
The Age 17Jun1952 p14


The Brisbane Exhibition ground would also host the next major event in the history of night football, the first VFL game under lights.

In 1952 the VFL played a round of matches in regional centres and in interstate capitals. The concept was to promote Australian Rules football around the country and the round has been labelled by many as the ‘Propaganda Round’. This round would result in the first VFL night game, although that was not the original intention.

During this round, matches were played in a number of locations, including Hobart, Sydney and Brisbane. Geelong and Essendon were scheduled in Brisbane, at the Exhibition ground.

Victoria played WA in an interstate game on the same weekend, therefore a number of players were missing from the ‘Propaganda Round’ teams. Geelong crucially lost Fred Flanagan (Centre Half Forward) and Bruce Morrison (Full Back), and Essendon lost Bill Hutchison (Rover). Coleman was not included in the interstate Team, with Jock Spencer from North Melbourne the Interstate Full Forward. (The Argus 3Jun1952 p1)

In Brisbane, the match was originally scheduled for Saturday afternoon but bad weather delayed the match and so it was rescheduled for the Monday night. So on Monday 16th June 1952 the first VFL match played for premiership points was played at night, Essendon v Geelong at the Brisbane Exhibition Ground.

TeamQ1Q2Q3Final
Geelong4.3 (27)6.5 (41)8.7 (55)12.14 (86)
Essendon4.5 (29)10.8 (68)16.15 (111)23.17 (155)
ES by 2ES by 27ES by 56ES by 69


Coleman kicked 13 Goals and helped Essendon to a clear victory, but a few weeks later Essendon would again play Geelong, this time at Windy Hill, and the game would end in a draw with both teams ending the game on 76 points. After that, Essendon would fail to make the finals whereas Geelong would win the 1952 premiership.

The next night game as part of the regular VFL season would not be for another 31 years, until the first Friday night game in Sydney in 1983.

Progress in Victoria


What happened in Victoria

Although Football was progressing interstate it was not until the 1950's that night football would resume in Victoria.

VFA Trials Night Football at Melbourne Showgrounds

In 1950, following the Carnival the VFA the VFA considered using the Melbourne Showgrounds as a venue for night football and went as far as organising a trial game. (Argus 1Dec1950 p11) The story was widely reported, but came to nothing.

First Competitive Football Game in at Night in Victoria - in Bendigo

Bendigo hosted the first game under lights in Victoria that was not an exhibition match or a charity game. (Argus 11Jun1951 p14) The match was disrupted by torrential rain. Bendigo then hosted a second night game in 1953.

Argus 11Jun1951 p14
Argus 11Jun1951 p14


1952 Richmond v Essendon Match

In Melbourne the floodlights at the showgrounds were used for the first time since the 1930s for a VFL match when Richmond and Essendon played a post season match in 1952. 12,000 people came to the game. Richmond 8.7 (55) defeated Essendon 2.10 (22) in a cold night with strong winds.(Argus 8Oct1952 p11)

The match was profitable for both clubs, something the clubs would therefore want to repeat.(Argus 31Oct1952 p12)

Argus 13Oct1952 p10 Richmond v Essendon at the Showgrounds
Argus 13Oct1952 p10 Richmond v Essendon at the Showgrounds


1953 Charity Match at showgrounds

In the next night game, in 1953, Collingwood star Bill Twomey was injured in a pre season matchup, again at the Melbourne Showgrounds. Collingwood 9-13 (67) defeated Fitzroy 4-19 (43). (The Mail - Adelaide 25Apr1953 p32) The game raised £3,000 for the St. Vincent's Hospital.

Argus 25Apr1953 p30 Collingwood v Fitzroy at Showgrounds
Argus 25Apr1953 p30 Collingwood v Fitzroy at Showgrounds



What Next

The next stage in the evolution of night football would be the introdiuction of night football as part of regular competitions. Light towers were erected in South Melbourne. These would transform night football from a novelty into a regular part of the game.


(Note the cartoon used at the top of this article is cropped from Ian McBain's Sportoon in the Advertiser - Adelaide 24Feb1950 p8)



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