Last Friday marked a very special occasion for the Western Sydney Wanderers and football in Australia: the 135th anniversary of the first football match to be played in New South Wales.
A match between The Kings School and the Wanderers was played in 1880 and we will commemorate this occasion with a heritage game on Saturday 29 August at The King’s School.
Featuring a Kings School XI and a Wanderers XI with special guest players, the event allows fans to reflect upon the origins of the game in our country while also celebrating football in the present.
The heritage match was first played in 2013 with the 2014 being cancelled due to a wash-out.
A little history
The history of football in Western Sydney is a tale epitomized by character, struggle, passion and persistence.
The 1870’s saw Victoria and South Australia form their own foundations, but rugby was very much the major football code along the east coast of Australia, where football was largely dismissed as a ‘foreign’ game.
But football continued to gather momentum.
Whilst there were occasional football games played in Hyde Park during the mid-1860’s, the general belief was that the sport was not yet popular enough to be formalized. According to an 1880 Sydney Morning Herald report, football had not “prospered sufficiently in the colony to justify the introduction of the Association game”.
This excerpt comes from a report on a meeting held to establish the game officially in New South Wales.
This meeting of around 40 gentlemen, held on the 3rd of August 1880, took place in Aaron’s Exchange Hotel in Sydney where it was decided the game of association football would be played under the English Association rules.
On the same day, English-emigrate John Walter Fletcher founded an XI that would later establish themselves as the first association football club in Australia to last beyond a couple of games – the Wanderers.
The match would be played on the Saturday afternoon of 14 August 1880 between The King’s School and The Wanderers. The game was watched by approximately 1000 people at Parramatta Common – by most accounts, the official birth of the beautiful game in New South Wales.