Football’s early days

By McIvor Times

FOR the first time in the history of the Heathcote District League, a season has been interrupted by something other than a world war.

To keep the interest up in a challenging time, we will delve into the rich and lengthy history of our game and the HDFL.

It is then important to go back to when it all started and many would be surprised to know how long football has been in our district.

Football’s early days - 1869 to 1905

Football as we know it was officially codified in 1858 when Tom Wills, William Hammersley, J.B. Thompson and Thomas Smith drew up the first set of rules for the conduct of the game.

The sport had been played earlier but this was the first time a set of rules had been devised.

Locally, clubs began to emerge with Castlemaine (1859) and Sandhurst (1861) being early pioneers of the game.

Football quickly took hold and challenge matches became more popular and in 1868 Redesdale would challenge Kyneton.

In 1869, the McIvor Times announced the formation of a football club in 1869 and soon teams from Mia Mia, Wild Duck, Tooborac and Costerfield were participating in challenge matches.

Over the next decade, teams would arrange the odd match but few games were being played over the winter months.

Mia Mia and Redesdale played Heathcote in two matches during 1876 and Heathcote also played a game between the south and north ends.

The next year a combined Heathcote and Mia Mia team journeyed to Kyneton to play a challenge match.

Few expected the visitors to challenge the powerful Kyneton combination, but they did very well.

The football was very rough, with many players going down due to unfair hits, a factor that incensed the crowd so much they rushed on the ground.

Over the next decade teams from Wild Duck, Toolleen, Muskery, Barfold, Knowsley, Mt. Pleasant and Tooborac would come into being, expanding the possibilities for the football hungry public.

With clubs beginning to form all around the district there was an increasing desire for an organised competition to be established around Heathcote.

Games in Heathcote were played on an area that we still know as the Barrack Reserve.

In 1891, informal games were played amongst Heathcote, South Heathcote, Knowsley and Mia Mia and the two Heathcote teams combined to play Pyalong later in the year.

Costerfield began playing in 1893 and Tooborac in 1895 so the nucleus for a league was beginning to take shape.

There was little progress on establishing a competition despite all suggestions, then in 1904 it finally looked like this would become a reality.

A meeting was called at the start of the year, but little came of it and informal matches again continued to be the only option.

Organised football arrived in the district in 1905 with three teams agreeing to form the Heathcote District Football Association, Heathcote, Costerfield and Knowsley.

The season would commence at June 3 and each team would play four matches against the other two teams before a finals series.

On the eve of the season commencing Knowsley withdrew which meant only two teams remained in the competition.

It was resolved that Costerfield and Heathcote would play each other seven times, with the winner of most games being awarded a trophy by Mr. T. Finlayson.

Delegates from Heathcote, South Heathcote and Costerfield met at the Commercial Hotel in early 1906, with the result that the McIvor District Football Association was formed.

They hoped that others may join but at least a competition was now possible.

In fact, Tooborac and Emu Flat would join the competition and matches would commence on June 9.

Heathcote and South Heathcote met on Mr. C. Etheredge’s paddock and Emu Flat hosted Tooborac in the Association’s first matches.

Emu Flat and Tooborac would both run out comfortable winners.

The ten round season would see Heathcote and Costerfield locked together on seven wins apiece, requiring a play off.

Normally the team that finished on top would be awarded the premiership but in the days before percentage it required a match.

Heathcote would go on to win the match by six points, 5.9 (39) to 4.9 (33).