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The Combined Training Group was captained by the fiery red headed cleric Charlie Perry, from Norwood, in South Australia. Sloss, a decorated and versatile player with the Swans, was skipper of the other team, the 3rd Australian Division. The footage shows the two men tossing the coin to start the match.
THE stuttering footage reveals a team of gum chewing footballers, looking around, enjoying the absence of danger, excited by the prospect of playing the game they love.
In the end, the two teams represented an extraordinary cross section of talent, ranging across states and mining some of the bigger names of the VFL.
Not only was there a natural audience for football, there was a hunger among the troops to play it whenever they could.
BUY your Herald Sun on April 23 for a special supplement on Victorians who fought in the Great War. In what was a tragic postscript to the match, five footballers never played the game again.
He was helped by a Melbourne marathon runner, Thomas Sinton Hewitt, from the Malvern Harriers Athletic Club. Sinton Hewitt won the YMCA Marathon from Broadmeadows to the MCG at Christmas 1915 and Nike Hypershift Womens was keen on finding ways to engage the troops in athletic contests.
He was an Olympic swimmer and but for an acute bout of appendicitis he would have been on the front line. Instead, he was given the role of supervising sporting entertainments for the troops, largely through his work with the YMCA.
The match raised funds for the British and French Red Cross Societies. Numerous celebrities of the day were invited. Even the Prince of Wales (to become King Edward VIII) and King Manuel II of Portugal turned up. Estimates vary at the size of the crowd Australian reports put it at 8000.
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Beaurepaire also understood the importance of football to many soldiers and once he arrived in England, he saw opportunities for football.
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team in Antwerp, although he didn finish the marathon because of cramps. He came late to the war, leaving Australia in May 1916, after he married and at the age of 28. Sinton Hewitt soon became involved in organising athletics meetings for troops training at Salisbury in England, which is where he crossed paths with Beaurepaire.
The organisation had a tent of its own amid the massive tent city that was the training ground at Broadmeadows. And it was intimately involved in helping the recruits occupied with physical drills in the belief that a sound body and a Christian outlook were integral to a decent life.
Diggers bring footy to London
into one of the dressing rooms at half time and endeavoured to sell programmes to the players."
The composition of the teams was fairly straightforward; the 3rd Division was largely Victorian, featuring 15 players who had played in the VFL. The Combined team ranged across the Victorian Football Association, Western Australia, NSW, regional Victoria and South Australia. Only nine of the named side had VFL experience. On the face of it, Sloss's team was the favourite.
The English press opted for the more sober figure of 3000. Either way, the atmosphere was apparently lively and perhaps a little mischievous. "Souvenir programs sold like hot cakes," one report noted, "mainly because the sellers were pretty English girls."
Several of the London military hospitals were treating wounded Diggers. Others were in England on training or leave.
Even so, it took Frank Beaurepaire, a resourceful man who would later become Melbourne Lord Mayor, to make it happen. Beaurepaire had an outstanding sporting pedigree.
It soon became clear that the players were keen on resuming the bumping and tackling of the game they were used to. But the harsh conditions of the War the lack of decent food, sleep and privations of the trenches meant the players lacked condition and stamina.
From there, he became part of Beaurepaire organising team that included several officers who were also keen to support the idea of a football match between Australian units. On the day, Sinton Hewitt was one of the two boundary umpires.
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According to former Essendon centreman Bill Sewart, there were 63,000 huts, housing 30 men each, including a fair few footballers.
There are no bombs and no snipers. There no mud and no duckboards. The oval spreads out around them, there some patchy grass and what seems like an afternoon mist.
The massive Larkhill training camp at Salisbury Plain was a natural recruiting ground.
Sloss's side wore a blue jumper with a map of Australia (without Tasmania) on it, while the Training Units wore a jumper featuring a kangaroo.
How the teams were selected remains unclear, although it a fair bet that Beaurepaire and Sinton Hewitt had a fair idea of the talent that was dotted throughout the ranks.
The program is a intriguing souvenir that features cartoons and sketches from some of Australia finest artists of the time Ruby Lind, Cecil Hart, Laurie Taylor and Will Dyson.
It seems difficult to contemplate that amid the horror of World War I there was time and an inclination to stage a football match on the other side of the world. But in many ways, it made good sense.
It is London, October 28, 1916: two teams of Diggers come together to celebrate Australian Rules football in front of a crowd of dignitaries and surrounded by bunting, the Union Jack, trophies, bowler hats and all part of a world long gone.
There were League names, such as Bruce Sloss, from South Melbourne, and Dan Minogue, from Collingwood; Bill Sewart, of Essendon, Trotter, of Fremantle, Cooper from Fitzroy.
It featured some of the best footballers in Australia, young men who had enlisted and left the joy of a Saturday afternoon match a long way behind. But for 100 minutes on a bleak London day, they returned to the beautiful simplicity of a game of footy.
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