‘The Game of their Lives’ Commemoration Match

*Picture: Australian War Memorial

 On the 28th October 1916, the Queens Club in London played host to the first organised game of Australian Football played overseas by predominantly elite-level players.

Over 100 years ago two teams of Australian soldiers staged an ‘exhibition game’ that drew over 3000 spectators, including the then Prince of Wales and etched itself in the history books of Australian Rules Football.

The game was the brainchild of Brigadier-General Sir Newton Moore, who proposed it to the legendary general John Monash, then commander of the Third Division.

Lieutenant Frank Beaurepaire, an Olympic swimmer was tasked with organising the one-off match which raised almost £1000 for the British and French Red Cross Societies.

The two sides competing in the match were littered with football royalty. The Australian Units Training Team, who played in light red jumpers with a white kangaroo on them, was captained by Norwood champion, Charles Perry.

The side also included, Percy Trotter of Fitzroy and East Fremantle, George Bower of South Melbourne, Clyde Donaldson of Essendon and vice-captained by Fiztroy’s John ‘Jack’ Cooper.

They lined up against the Third Australian Division, who wore navy blue jumpers with a map of Australia in white, who were captained by South Melbourne’s Bruce Sloss.

Their vice-captain was Collingwood and Richmond star, Dan Minogue, while they also had Bill Stewart of Essendon, Hughie James of Richmond and Jack Brake of University and Melbourne on the Third Division side.

The game was low-scoring, with the Third Division side claiming a 16-point victory. The final score read 6.16. (52) to 4.12. (36).

Tragically for Third Division captain, Bruce Sloss, Jack Cooper, Stan Martin, James Foy, James Pugh and Les Lee, the exhibition was to be their last as all were tragically killed serving in the Great War.

In just over a weeks’ time, two London sides will commemorate the Exhibition Game in their round 1 encounter.

In what doubles as a 2016 grand final rematch, the Wandsworth Demons and West London Wildcats will wear replica kit in the game. The Demons will wear the light red jumpers with white kangaroo of the Australian Units Training Team while the Wildcats will wear the navy blue with white map of Australia of the Third Australian Division.

The May 6th encounter will be played at the Chiswick Rugby Club, Chiswick, London, W4 2SH. Ball-up will be at 3pm, with the match being captured on film by Game On Productions and BarTV Sports.

The match would not be possible without the incredible work of Game On Productions, Lizzie Kirkham, who is thrilled that the game will be remembered just over 100 years since the original took place.

Stay tuned for more information on the match.

View some original footage from the match courtesy of the British Pathe (www.britishpathe.com)