Association football and dribbling matches in the 1880s
There have been a few surprises in the indexing work I have been undertaking during lockdown, and this was one of them.
Although the game that was College Rules had some elements of football (soccer) in the scrimmages and rushes, on 27 May 1882 the Games Committee, “Resolved to play Association once a week as practice in dribbling but to keep to Rugby Union as the Rules of the School. And that Lower Club always play Association”.
On 5 July 1882, Alfred Henry Williams (742), the chairman of the committee, read a request for a return match from the Association, which the committee suggested for 22 July. A week later the Association Football Club had agreed to the date and asked if College could alter the width of the goal posts. Unfortunately, it could not.
Due to the lack of immediately available information about the results of the games in the Minute Book, I turned to Papers Past, and there was another surprise. The meeting held to inaugurate Association Football in Christchurch was chaired by none other than College’s Headmaster, Charles Carteret Corfe, and Edward Vesey Hamilton (315) was appointed secretary and treasurer.i It was suggested that, as it was the holidays, it might be possible to play on the College ground. Indeed, it was possible. College authorities gave permission, and on 29 April 1882 the first game was played.
The Globe reported: “As a matter of course handling was not unknown, and proper passing little understood, but some good back play and dribbling was shown on both sides”.ii
Due to a lack of complete initials it is not possible to be certain who in that first Association game had College connections, but William Pember Reeves (289) can be clearly identified and it would seem members of the Maude and Wynn Williams families were involved, and possibly Herbert Brown.iii
The first game against a Christ’s College team was played on 23 April 1883. It was a 15 a side game, rather than the usual 11, even though the opposition team were two players short. Walter Douglas Dalgleish (931) and Frederick James Hamilton (619) scored the two winning goals. Based on the other surnames in the two newspaper reports, other members of the team probably included George Edward Rhodes (791), Annesley Frederick George Harman (582), Albert John Webb (721), George Harris (903), James Cecil Palmer (664), Charles Henry Hamilton (620), George Edward Rhodes (791), Maurice Tancred Stack (919), Walter Septimus Fisher (929), and Arthur Hamilton Rowley (883).iv They were almost all in the 1883 College 1st XV.
The 1883 1st XV
Back row L–R: George Harris (903), George Edward Rhodes (791), Thomas Forsaith MacDonald (863), Annesley Frederick George Harman (582), Charles Henry Hamilton (62), Cyril Stanley Buchanan (1065)
Middle Row L–R: Morris Carr Robison (936), CE Maude (935), Walter Herbert Hargreaves (629) (captain), Arthur Gladstone Cox (887), Walter Septimus Fisher (929)
Front Row L–R: Arthur Hamilton Rowley (883), Albert John Webb (721), Edward Rogers Webb (722), Maurice Tancred Stack (919)
Insert L–R: Reginald Fortescue Cook (913), John Wright (1004), Frederick James Hamilton (619), Leonard Evelyn Cotterill (753)
The Christ’s College Sports Register does not begin until May 1884, so there is no in-house published record of these two games, and there are only two clues of a later date. On 28 June 1884, a match was already arranged against Association, but once again no account of it can be found in either the Christ’s College Register or in the newspapers of the period. College continued to have a connection with this game, however, and the report on a game against Dunedin High School, played on 7 July 1884, bemoans: “Considering the practice our boys have in Association football, and loose, dribbling play, it is curious that, when engaged in a foreign match, they make so little use of their valuable knowledge in this important department of the game”.v
Christ’s College, true to form, decided to create its own game. Known as dribbling matches, they were first mentioned in the Games Committee Minute Book of 5 April 1886, when Messrs Hare and Walter are thanked for donating prizes. However, they did not go ahead until the following year. “The rules were a mixture of Rugby and Association, the goals being on the Association principle, as also the prohibition of ‘hands’, while off-side was forbidden and the ball was oval”.vi Hare and Walters again offered prizes.
Thirty-six boys entered, divided into six teams. Charles Seaward Cantrell (1027), Hugh Montgomerie Hutton (918), Heathcote Beetham Williams (1000), Frederick Dalgety Moore (1087), Andrew Melville Jameson (1132) and William Crosbie Hamilton (987) were named as captains, and in the final round Williams’s side beat Jameson’s by one goal to nil. The goal was scored by Charles Freeman (1228).
In a report in the Christ’s College Sports Register, the “immense importance of dribbling right on the moment you get the ball was unmistakably impressed on the players. The advantage of combined dribbling and passing with the foot came into unusual prominence. The players themselves were unanimous as to the excellent training the games are”.vii
In 1888 the dribbling matches were played again with some modification of the rules. This time there were five sides, with Arnold Beetham Williams (1102), Arthur Hale Thorpe (1144), William Cranstoun Henry Wigley (991), Walter Dymock Perry (1149), and Kenneth Stuart Williams (1156) as captains. Perry’s and Williams’s teams faced off in the finals, with Perry and Ivon Arnold Borton (1251) scoring goals for the winning side.viii Dribbling matches do not appear in any further reports.
On 18 April 1918, at the request of Headmaster GE Blanch, the Games Committee had a thorough discussion about the introduction of Association Football. They unanimously decided against it.
The December 1976 Register reported soccer had been introduced to College the previous year and was now able to enter two teams in local competitions. In 2007, soccer became football once more.
iStar 18 April 1882
iiGlobe 1 May 1882
iiiStar 1 May 1882
ivPress and Lyttelton Times 23 April 1883
vChrist’s College Sports Register September 1884 p11
viChrist’s College Sports Register June 1887 p34
viiChrist’s College Sports Register June 1887 p35
viiiChrist’s College Sports Register June 1888 p24 and September 1888 p40