Australian Football League (AFL)
In 1857, Tom Wills, one of the founders of Australian Football, returned to Australia after schooling in England where he was football captain of Rugby School and a brilliant cricketer. Initially, he advocated the winter game of football as a way of keeping cricketers fit during off-season.
The new game was devised by Wills, his cousin H.C.A. Harrison, W.J. Hammersley and J.B. Thompson. The Melbourne Football Club was formed on August 7, 1858 – the year of the code’s first recorded match between Scotch College and Melbourne Grammar School.
The game quickly blossomed. The Geelong Football Club was formed in 1859 and in 1866 an updated set of rules was put in place and competition started.
The Victorian Football League was established in 1896 and the following year the League’s first games were played among the foundation clubs – Carlton, Collingwood, Essendon, Fitzroy, Geelong, Melbourne, St Kilda and South Melbourne. Additional clubs Hawthorn, Footscray (Western Bulldogs), Richmond and North Melbourne would grow the competition to 12 and would remain unchanged until 1987 when the competition expanded Nationally to include the West Coast Eagles and the Brisbane Bears, South Melbourne merged to become the Sydney Swans. By 1997, the competition comprised 16 clubs after Adelaide (in 1991), Fremantle (in 1995), and Port Adelaide (in 1997) joined the now Australian Football League and foundation club Fitzroy merged with the Brisbane Bears to form the Brisbane Lions (after the 1996 season). In 2011 the Gold Coast Suns joined the competition, followed by the Greater Western Sydney Giants, creating the 18-team national competition.
The AFL season culminates in a Grand Final where the team wins the Premiership Cup and the Competition Flag. Individual honours such as Best & Fairest are awarded by each Club, the competitions Best & Fairest is a prestigious award known as the Brownlow Medal, Leading Goalkicker wins the Coleman Medal, Best & Fairest on Grand Final Day wins the Norm Smith Medal and a competition team is selected as best in position known as the All Australian selection. AFL players are selected annually in a hybrid game of International Rules -V- Ireland, and is the only opportunity for AFL players to represent their country. A Hall of Fame exists that recognises players/officals of the elite level across the history of the code.
Grant’s to have featured in the VFL/AFL the Australian game are:
Bill Grant (Carlton 1906)
Jack A Grant (Carlton 1906, St Kilda 1908)
Jack W Grant (Geelong 1935-1941, 1945-1946 Fitzroy 1942 – 1943) – 1938 Stawell Gift winner
David Grant (St Kilda 1984-1995, Melbourne 1996) – 1991 All Australian
Shannon Grant (Sydney 1995-1997 North Melbourne 1998-2008) – Norm Smith Medal winner 1999, All Australian 2005, International Rules 2005, 301 games
Alex Grant (University 1909-1910)
Chris Grant (Footscray/Western Bulldogs 1990 – 2007) – All Australian 1997 – 1999, AFL Hall of Hame, 341 games, 1997 Brownlow Medal Highest Votes (Ineligible)
Jamie Grant (Footscray 1991)
Jarrad Grant (Western Bulldogs 2009 -)
Soccer ‘Football’ (Socceroos)
Early records of the sport being played in Australia date as far back as the 1830s. A variant of the sport (written as “football”) was played in 1832 between “a large batch of youngsters (who) were eagerly engaged in playing at football, on Hyde Park”, in Sydney. Another variant of the sport took place at Wacol, on 7 August 1875, when a team played against the visiting Brisbane Australian rules football club; the rules of the match which clearly stated that the “ball should not be handled nor carried” was a direct reference to British Association Rules. A match was also recorded to be played in Hobart on 10 May 1879.
The first recorded match played under the Laws of the Game was contested between Wanderers and members of the Kings School rugby team at Parramatta Common on 14 August 1880. The Wanderers, considered the first soccer club in Australia, was established on 3 August 1880, by English-emigree John Walter Fletcher. Later, in 1882, Fletcher formed the New South Wales English Football Association.
In 1883, Balgownie Rangers, the oldest existing club in Australia was founded; the club currently competes in the Illawarra regional league. Later that year, the first inter-colonial game was played at the East Melbourne Cricket Ground, between a representative Victorian team and one from the neighbouring colony of New South Wales.
On 17 June 1922, the first Australian national representative football team was constituted by the Australian Soccer Association to represent Australia for a tour of New Zealand. During the tour the Australia men’s national team lost two out of the three matches against the newly formed New Zealand side. Soccer struggled to gain popularity within the wider Australian society but with British and Southern Europeans settlers it was immensely popular and this led to establishing soccer as a major sport in the country. However, it took soccer a large number of years to finally expand its scope across the continent, with the sport only enjoying large scales of popularity from 1950s in line with European immigration following the second World War.
Soccer boomed in the immediate post-Second World War period when the sport became more commercial and professional. A distinct rise in popularity in New South Wales and Victoria, among other states, was linked to the post-war immigration. Migrant players and supporters were prominent, providing the sport with a new but distinct profile. Soccer served as a cultural gateway for many emigrants, acting as a social lubricant. Soccer transcended cultural and language barriers in communities which bridged the gap between minority communities and other classes within the country, thus bringing about a unique unity. The most prominent soccer clubs in Australia during 1950s and 1960s were based around migrant-ethnic groups, all of which expanded rapidly at that time: Croatian, Greek, Italian and Serbian communities gave rise to most of the largest clubs, the most notable being South Melbourne (Greek-based), Sydney Olympic (Greek-based), Marconi Stallions (Italian-based), Adelaide City (Italian-based) and Melbourne Knights (Croatian-based).
Although soccer reached notable popularity among Australian people during the second half of the twentieth century, the sport struggled to break from its ethnic-base to the wider Australian community. In the mid 1990s, Soccer Australia (the governing body for the sport) attempted to shift soccer into the Australian mainstream and away from direct club-level association with migrant roots. Many clubs across the country were required to change their names and badges to represent a more inclusive community. Australia qualified for it’s first Soccer World Cup in 1974.
Australia ended a 32-year absent streak when the national team qualified for the 2006 FIFA World Cup. The teams qualification and success in the tournament helped increased the profile and popularity of the sport in the country.
The national team qualified for a consecutive FIFA World Cup in 2010 and placed second in the 2011 AFC Asian Cup. The A-League competition is now the National league and has seen a rise in interest for the league within Australia.
Rhyan Grant (Sydney FC 2008 – present) is the only Grant to have made National representation with selection in the Australian U-20 team 2009-2011 and Australian U-23 team 2011 and is presently a member of the National side The Australian Socceroos competing at the 2019 Soccer World Cup in Russia.
Rugby league began in 1895, as the ‘Northern Union’, when clubs in the North of England broke away from the Rugby Football Union. The clubs wanted to compensate their working-class players for time away from work for rugby tours and injuries. The RFU refused, saying ‘if men couldn’t afford to play, then they shouldn’t play at all’. In the decade that followed, rugby league made changes setting itself apart from rugby union.
Teams were reduced from 15 to 13 players (two forwards were eliminated), and the play-the-ball was introduced to lessen the need for scrums and to replace rugby union’s scrappy rucks and mauls.
Meanwhile in Australia (NSW & Qld) and New Zealand, rugby was controlled by the rugby union bodies affiliated to the English RFU. They all enforced the rules of amateurism upon their footballers. The predominantly working-class rugby footballers and supporters in Sydney and Brisbane were disheartened by the attitude of the rugby union authorities – and seemed likely to turn to Australian rules. However, for a short time rugby union rode a new wave of popularity – brought about by the arrival of Dally Messenger in 1906. With his individual brilliance, vast crowds flocked to his matches, filling the financial coffers of rugby union.
The formation of rugby league, and Messenger’s decision to join, prevented Australian rules from gaining hold of Sydney’s vast working-class population and swamping rugby union. With Messenger in their ranks in 1908, the NSWRL and QRL began to build club competitions that were able to provide injury benefits and financial rewards for working-class footballers. The spectator appeal of rugby league ensured it attracted large crowds and gate-takings, with Easts, Souths, Balmain, Wests, Newtown, Newcastle, Norths, Glebe and Cumberland the original NSWRL premiership clubs.
From 1910 onwards, rugby league has held place as the premier winter sport of NSW and Queensland, and maintained a strong following in New Zealand. The NSWRL club competition evolved into a national competition in the 1990s, and became the National Rugby League in 1998. The NRL competition spans the traditional League areas of NSW, Queensland and New Zealand, as well as Victoria (following the introduction of the Melbourne Storm). 2008 marked the code’s centenary as a professional sport in Australia and New Zealand. Rugby League is played Internationally however the strongest competition being the annual three match State of Origin matches between New South Wales and Queensland and at the National Rugby League level.
GRANT’s to have played Rugby League at the highest league and representative levels include;
Grant B – Monaro Division 1951
Bob Grant, Australia 1970-71; NSW Firsts 1971; NSW City Firsts 1971, Balmain 1965; South Sydney 1966-75
Brian Grant, Eastern Suburbs 1956
Dalton Grant, Crusaders 2011; South Wales 2012
David Grant, South Sydney 1976; Eastern Suburbs 1977; Balmain 1978-81; Canberra 1982-85
George Grant, St George 1976-82
Harold Grant, University 1925-26
James Grant (International Rugby Player) Balmain 1989-92; Hull FC 1992-93; Western Reds 1995
John Grant, Australia 1972; QLD Firsts 1972-73
Tim Grant, New South Wales 2012; NSW City 2010-11, 2013, Penrith 2007-14, 2019- present, South Sydney 2015 ; West Tigers 2016-2018
Harry Grant, Melbourne 2020 – present
WEBB ELLIS Trophy (World Cup), Bledisloe Cup (New Zealand) Mandella Plate (South Africa) Tri/Four Nations (NZ, South Africa, Argentina), British Lions (England, Scotland, Ireland, Wales) are the jewels in Australian Rugby. Other perpetual trophies exist for competition between individual countries the Bledisloe being the most sought after because of the rich and significant rivalry with New Zealand.
1823 – During a game of football at Rugby School in England, legend has it that 16 year old student William Webb Ellis, caught the ball and ran with it towards the opponent’s goal line, rather than following the rules of the times of catching and kicking the ball only. Thus the game of Rugby was born. 1829 – “The Sydney Monitor” of 25th July reports a game of football at the soldiers Barracks (modern day Barrack St in Sydney). 1864 – The first Australian rugby football club was established at Sydney University. 1871 – The first international match, between England and Scotland was played.
1899 – Australia plays their first Test match – against the touring side from Great Britain. In a four Test series played in Sydney and Brisbane, Australia won the first Test 13-3 at the Sydney Cricket Ground on 24th June. 1903 – The first Test Match between Australia and NZ is played at the Sydney Cricket Ground on 15th August, won by NZ, 22-3. This tour greatly increased the popularity of rugby and large crowds started attending grade matches in Sydney and Brisbane. 1908/9 – The first Wallabies tour the United Kingdom and America, winning 32 of the 38 matches played. While in England, they competed in the 1908 London Olympics of 1908, winning the gold medal for Rugby Union.
1914 – 1918 – Due to the numbers of players enlisting in WWI, Australian senior rugby went into recess. Sadly, many prominent players and Wallabies were lost. These losses and the continued impact of Rugby League, greatly affected the strength of the code. Restarting the game in 1919 in New South Wales proved difficult, but even more so in Victoria and Queensland, which were unable to regroup until 1926 and 1929 respectively.
1949 – The inaugural meeting of the Australian Rugby Football Union is held on 25th November with eleven delegates from the six States. The Australian Capital Territory became a member in 1972 and the Northern Territory an associate member in 1978.
1987 – The inaugural Rugby World Cup was played in Australia and New Zealand. It was won by New Zealand who became the first country to retain the William Web Ellis Trophy. 1991 Australia win the Rugby World Cup. 1995 – International Rugby Union becomes professional at all levels. 1999 Australia win the Rugby World Cup. 2000 – Australia win every international rugby trophy contested. 2001 – Australia wins its first series ever against the British and Irish Lions.
2003 – Australia hosts the 2003 Rugby World Cup. England win the Cup, playing Australia in the Final at Telstra Stadium, Sydney.
James Grant in 1998 Wallaby number #667 played 5 Tests for Australia and 15 games for the NSW Waratahs. He also had a successful Rugby League career.