AST250 - A History of Australian Football, 1858-2020

Unit details

Note: You are seeing the 2021 view of this unit information. These details may no longer be current. [Go to the current version]

2021 unit information

Important Update:

Unit delivery will continue to be provided in line with the most current COVIDSafe health guidelines. This may include a mix of on-campus and online activities. To find out how you are impacted, please check your unit sites for announcements and updates. Unit sites open one week prior to the start of each Trimester/Semester.

Thank you for your flexibility and commitment to studying with Deakin in 2021.

Last updated: 4 June 2021

Enrolment modes:Trimester 1: Burwood (Melbourne), Waurn Ponds (Geelong), Cloud (online)
Credit point(s):1
EFTSL value:0.125
Unit Chair:Trimester 1: Tony Joel
Cohort rule:






Incompatible with:


Typical study commitment:

Students will on average spend 150-hours over the trimester undertaking the teaching, learning and assessment activities for this unit.

Scheduled learning activities - campus:

1 x 2-hour seminar per week

Scheduled learning activities - cloud:

1 x 2-hour online seminar per week


This unit investigates the making and meanings of Australian football over more than 150 years. Students will examine: the game’s origins and codification in Melbourne during the 1850s; how it quickly spread across much of Australia in the nineteenth century; its growing popularity and increasing professionalisation throughout the twentieth century; and the emergence of the “football industry” in the twenty-first century. The grassroots level features at various stages, but the unit mostly focuses on football at the elite level by tracing the Australian Football League’s evolution from a suburban-based amateur competition exclusively based in Victoria through to becoming a billion-dollar enterprise with clubs based across the nation. The unit uses case studies to probe the role of football clubs in their local communities. It explores the emotional and cultural significance of “footy” to spectators and fans, and their changing relationship to the game through sports media. It considers the emergence of women’s football and women occupying off-field leadership roles. The unit also inspects the complex relationship shared between Indigenous Australians and Australia’s indigenous game, ranging from early participation through to recent racism controversies and attempts to promote reconciliation.

ULO These are the Learning Outcomes (ULO) for this unit. At the completion of this unit, successful students can: Deakin Graduate Learning Outcomes

Build and apply in-depth historical knowledge and understanding of the role Australian football has played in society from the game’s origins in the 1850s through to the twenty-first century.



Conduct independent research and evaluate in a reflective and critical manner Australian football’s social, cultural, political, and/or economic impact throughout history, and clearly and concisely present their findings in a non-text-based media format.

GLO 1  

GLO 3  



Critically analyse policy documents and relevant historical sources, and then utilise problem-solving skills to create solutions to authentic problems.

GLO 1   


These Unit Learning Outcomes are applicable for all teaching periods throughout the year.


Assessment Description Student output Grading and weighting
(% total mark for unit)
Indicative due week

Assessment 1 - Quiz

words or equivalent
20% Weeks 1-4

Assessment 2 -Presentation

1600 words or equivalent 40% Weeks 7
Assessment 3 -Report 1600 words or equivalent 40% Weeks 11

The assessment due weeks provided may change. The Unit Chair will clarify the exact assessment requirements, including the due date, at the start of the teaching period.

Learning Resource

Essential Learning Resources
An updated and expanded edition of A National Game: The History of Australian Rules Football by Rob Hess, Matthew Nicholson, Bob Stewart, and Gregory de Moore is scheduled to be pubished later in 2020. If this book proves to be an exceptionally good match for the proposed unit then it may become the prescribed text. Otherwise, there will not be a set text. Either way, the unit will make extensive use of primary materials such as contemporary newspaper articles (e.g. using Trove), historical reports from clubs and leagues, historical footage and photographs, recorded interviews etc. All such essential learning resources will be accessible online, either from the internet (such as Trove and other relevant websites) or directly from the unit’s CloudDeakin site.

Recommended Learning Resources
* Below is a list of books, book chapters, and journal articles indiciative of the kinds of secondary sources from which the unit’s weekly readings would be taken.
(In addition to these scholarly works, the unit also would make extensive use of primary materials such as contemporary newspaper articles, club annual reports, league committee books and reports, recorded interviews etc.)

All such primary and secondary materials will be made accessible via the unit’s CloudDeakin site.

Blainey, Geoffrey. A Game of Our Own: The Origins of Australian Football (Information Australia, 1990).

Blair, Dale, and Rob Hess, Australian Rules Football during the First World War (Palgrave Macmillan, 2017).

Daley, Paul. Collingwood: A Love Story (Victory, 2011). Davison, Graeme.

The Rise and Fall of Marvellous Melbourne, 2nd edition (Melbourne University Press, 2004).

Donald, Chris. Fitzroy: For the Love of the Jumper (Pennon Publishing, 2002).

Eva, Bruce, et al. Legends of the Australian Football Hall of Fame, updated edition, (Slattery Media Group, 2019).

Grow, Robin. “Grom Gum Trees to Goalposts, 1858-1876,” in Rob Hess and Bob Stewart (eds.), More Than a Game: An Unauthorised History of Australian Rules Football (Melbourne University Press, 1998).

Grow, Robin. “The Victorian Football Association in Control, 1877-1897,” in Rob Hess and Bob Stewart (eds.), More Than a Game: An Unauthorised History of Australian Rules Football (Melbourne University Press, 1998).

Hay, Roy. Aboriginal People and Australian Football in the Nineteenth Century: They Did Not Come from Nowhere (Cambridge Scholars, 2019).

Hay, Roy. “Cec Mullen, Tom Wills, and the Search for Early Geelong Football,” The Yorker, issue 42, Spring 2010, pp. 3-5. Hess, Rob, et al.

A National Game: The History of Australian Rules Football (Viking, 2008).

Hutchinson, Garrie, Rick Lang, and John Ross. Roar of the Lions: Fitzroy Remembered, 1883-1996 (Lothian Books, 1997).

Joel, Tony, Mathew Turner, and Col Hutchinson. “‘Playing Dead’ and Killing Off Amatuerism: Bribery Scandals, Illegal Player Payments, Rule Expunging, and the Victorian Football League’s Authorization of Professionalism in 1911,” The International Journal of the History of Sport, vol. 35, special issue: 2-3 “Match-Fixing and Sport: Historical Perspectives” (2018), pp. 173-95. Joel, Tony, and Mathew Turner.

On the Take: The 1910 Scandal that Changed Australian Football Forever (Slattery Media Group, 2020).

Klugman, Matthew. “Female Spectators, Agency, and the Politics of Pleasure: AN Historical Case Study from Australian Rules Football,” The International Journal of the History of Sport, vol. 33, special issue: 17 “Women, Sport and History—Australian and New Zealand Perspectives” (2016), pp. 2086-2104. Klugman, Matthew, and Gary Osmond.

Black and Proud: The Story of an Iconic AFL Photo (NewSouth, 2013). Linnell, Garry. Football Ltd.

The Inside Story of the AFL (Pan Macmillan, 1995).

Mancini, Anne, and Gillian Hibbins. Running with the Ball (Lynedoch, 1987).

Main, Jim, and David Allen. Fallen: The Ultimate Heroes—Footballers Who Never Returned from War (Crown Content, 2002). Murray, John (ed.).

We Are Geelong: The Story of the Geelong Football Club (Slattery Media Group, 2009).

Nicholson, Matthew (ed.). Fanfare: Spectator Culture and Australian Rules Football, ASSH Studies 15 (Australian Society for Sports History, 2005).

Oakley, Ross. The Pheonix Rises: The Amazing Story of the Salvation of Australian Football (Slattery Media Group, 2014).

Pennings, Mark. Origins of Australian Football: Victoria’s Early History, vol. 1, Amateur Heroes and the Rise of Clubs, 1858-1876 (Connor Court Publishing, 2012).

Pennings, Mark. Origins of Australian Football: Victoria’s Early History, vol. 2, A Golden Era Begins: Football in “Marvellous Melbourne,” 1877 to 1885 (Grumpy Monks Publishing, 2014). Roberts, Michael (ed.).

The Barrackers are Shouting: Stories of Collingwood from the Grandstand (Media Giants, 2006).

Ross, John (ed.). 100 Years of Australian Football (Viking, 1996).

Sandercock, Leonie, and Ian Turner. Up Where, Cazaly? The Great Australian Game (Paladin, 1981).

Sheahan, Mike. Open Mike: Conversations from the Ground-Breaking Fox Footy Program (Slattery Media Group, 2013).

Stremski, Richard. Kill for Collingwood (Allen & Unwin, 1986).

Whimpress, Bernard.The South Australian Football Story (South Australian National Football League, 1983).

Zurbo, Matt. Heart & Soul: Footy Stories by Those Who Played the Game (Slattery Media Group, 2019).

Unit Fee Information

Click on the fee link below which describes you: