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Australia has sports that are dear to its citizen’s hearts, and one of them is rugby. The history of rugby in Australia started in the early 19th Century, and it developed into a favorite sport. Rugby is also a national pride and one of the most favorite sports events with international recognition.
What was the story behind Australia’s love for rugby?
Brief History of Rugby in Australia
The written history of rugby in Australia started with a match reported on Sydney Monitor edition 25 July 1829, describing British soldiers playing football in their barracks. While the newspaper did not describe the rules of the game, it was a source of amusement, which made locals gather to watch.
Several other games were reported being played in Brisbane, Melbourne, Sydney, and Tasmania, but with no clear rules as they were parts of festivals or general amusements. However, the first recorded Australian-style rugby happened in 1823, when a student named William Webb Ellis grabbed the ball mid-game to score a goal, giving birth to the main feature of Australian rugby.
The game got more formal recognition when the University of Sydney formed the country’s first rugby club in 1864. They adopted the same style “created” by William Webb Ellis, and their first meeting happened in Hyde Park in 1865, marked with a game played by 30 people.
The intense energy and robust physical contact made rugby gain popularity among students, and schoolboy rugby competitions flourished. Groups such as The Wallaroos and Pirates grew as serious contenders in the early days, and international players from Ireland and New Zealand became either challengers or members of Australian teams.
Australian rugby team faced its first major championship in 1903 in a game against New Zealand’s All Black, and it surged in popularity. World War I later disrupted the game because so many players were drafted or died in the war. Despite that, rugby was still popular as ever, and the first Rugby World Cup was finally held in 1987.
How Do You Play Rugby?
In Australian rugby, you play in teams with 13 or fewer players. Players use their hands and legs to play and transfer a ball between themselves. To get points, players must try to kick the ball over the crossbar of the opponent’s side. Points are also made by the ground of the ball in the in-goal area.
The players are permitted to tackle other players to prevent them from possessing the ball and scoring points. A standard game usually lasts around 80 minutes. When the time is up, and the ball is still being played, or if the player is tackled to the ground, the referee will terminate the game by blowing the whistle.
While tackling is permitted in a rugby game, there are tackling styles that are considered offenses. For example, a player shall not use techniques that would cause fatality or serious injury, such as choking, throwing a body, or kicking on kneecaps. Tackling a player who is in mid-air trying to field a kick is also considered an illegal move.
Facts About Australian Rugby
As a popular, beloved sport, Australian rugby is full of interesting facts. Some examples are:
“Rabbits” Was Suggested as a Team Name
Australia’s national rugby team is called Wallabies, referring to a marsupial animal that looks like a kangaroo. However, the team was almost called Rabbits when they were being established. Everyone disliked the name, so they settled with an iconic Australian animal that they thought had more unique appeal than the kangaroo.
Tobacco Companies Used to Sponsor Australian Rugby
Tobacco companies sponsored Australian rugby teams until 1991. During that year, Australian Parliament passed a bill called The Tobacco Advertising Prohibition, citing the harmful effects of smoking. There are no more such companies sponsoring Australian rugby or other sports ever.
The First Indigenous Team Member Started Playing in 1893
Indigenous players marked their rugby history in 1893 when Frank Ivory joined the rugby union team in Queensland. His mother was a member of the Wakka Wakka and Gurong Gurong tribes. His name was honored with Frank Ivory Medal, awarded to indigenous players with exceptional achievements.
The history of rugby in Australia is long and colorful, establishing its position as a beloved sport. You can also learn more interesting facts about other Australian sports to understand what they mean for Australians.