On September 12, 1885, the Fitzroy Football Club (merged with the Brisbane Bears to become Brisbane Lions in 1997) hosted the South Melbourne Football Club (Sydney Swans since 1982) in a VFA (Victorian Football Association) match at the Brunswick Street Oval. Seven thousand people were in attendance. What follows is the report of court case resulting from disturbances during and after the match as published in the Fiztroy City Press on Saturday 26, 1885.
POLICE INTELLIGENCE – FITZROY COURT – MONDAY 21 SEPTEMBER, 1885
The charge of insulting behaviour with intent to commit a breach of the peace, against the delinquents in connection with the football match at Fitzroy on the 12th inst., was next proceeded with. The defendants, nine in number, are named respectively : William Millison, William Curry, J. Willingham, John Stephens, Charles Walsh, Edward Berry, James Smith, Walter Gibaud and Johnson. The latter, it appeared, was undergoing a short sentence in gaol, which fully satisfied the bench as regards his unavoidable absence. Sub-Inspector Brown prosecuted and Mr. Best was retained to defend the majority of the prisoners. Constable O’Sullivan entered the witness box and briefly stated the facts of the case, now well known. A mob of about 40 lads were patrolling the grounds jostling and pushing the onlookers. He dispersed the crowd, but they resumed their tactics, and one man was knocked down and injured. The sympathisers of the South Melbourne club were invariably attacked. Gibaud and Curry’s conduct was particularly bad. Andrew Shine and Cornelius Shine deposed that when returning from the match stones were thrown at the cab where they were seated. Cornelius was hit on the forehead and bled profusely. None of the defendants were identified with this assault. John Hamilton deposed that he witnessed the occurrence, and T. W. Delves, a resident of Brunswick Street, recognised Gibaud as one of the disorderly crowd. Frank Carpenter recognised some of the defendants and T. Coulson was also called in support of the prosecution. For the defence H. Withers and a young man named Taylor stated that Berry, Curry, Billingham and Johnson were not in Brunswick-street when the stones were thrown at the cab. The parents of several of the defendants also deposed to the good conduct of their sons. Mr. Best, in his defence, disclaimed his clients’ connection with the so called “Fitzroy Forties,” and referred to the rivalry existing among these clubs, in this instance South Melbourne had brought with them a number of so-called barrackers for the purpose of cheering their team and to discourage Fitzroy. These circumstances led to the disturbance. He laid particular emphasis on the fact that the throwing of stones could not be brought home to any of his clients. The magistrates agreed on that point, but considered that the evidence as regards the rowdy conduct of the prisoners was complete, and imposed a fine of 40s. (shillings) in each case with 5s. costs, or 14 days imprisonment.
Football hooliganism has been around ever since young men started to attend matches on Saturday afternoons; irrespective of code of football being played.
In the late 19th century Australians were world leaders at it because, not only were we attending football matches well before most of the world caught the habit, we had in our midst a significant element of anti-social male troublemakers known as “larrikins.”
The description of offences committed above is classic football hooligan behaviour. A group of young men, many from “respectable” families, using the camouflage of club loyalty, getting their vicarious weekend kicks by attacking barrackers who have come in this instance from South Melbourne with the “purpose of cheering their team and to discourage Fitzroy.”
Nowadays, if these miscreants were fans of an A-League club, their photos would be distributed to all venues to make sure they stayed out. They lost their privileges. Good riddance.
And if a journalist or media organisation wanted to name and shame the idiots for whatever reason, for clicks, sensational front pages, anti-football agendas, axes to grind…heck, even as community service, then go for it. Do as you please. Put them on the front page if you deem the story so important.
What you should not do is be irresponsible and publish the names of the 198 people currently banned from A-League venues. In among the list of punchy idiots and football pyromaniacs are football fans who might have found themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time. Victims of mistaken identity. Football fans who, up to now, have been denied due process and are unable to appeal their bans. Football fans whose only solace was being advised by the FFA on the banning notice that their details would remain private and confidential.
I have just done Rebecca Wilson and The Sunday Daily Telegraph a favour by bringing to their attention the names of nine Australian football hooligans who have been found guilty in a court of law in 1885. Their names have been recorded as a matter of public record.
Surely, perfect naming and shaming material to put on their tawdry front page.
A Rebecca Wilson Exclusive.
BRUNSWICK STREET HOOLIGANS!
ARE YOU DESCENDED FROM AUSTRALIA’S
ORIGINAL FOOTBALL THUGS?
* Feature image from The Australasian, September 26, 1885.