Australian football at the 1956 Summer Olympics

Australian football was one of two demonstration sports at the 1956 Summer Olympics held in Melbourne, Australia. The rules stated that the hosts must organize both a native game and a sport foreign to the organizing country as "demonstration sports".[1]

Australian rules football was chosen as the native sport,[2] and baseball, an American sport, as the foreign sport.[3]

Australian rules football

To an outsider, the game features elements of soccer, gaelic football, and rugby. It is played on a grass surface with an oval ball; in four 20-minute quarters.

Also, at the time of the Olympic Games, a team consisted of eighteen players and two reserve players (each of whom could substitute for a player on the field; with the substituted player being unable to resume their place on the field under any circumstances).

The goal consisted of an inner and outer pair of posts.

The scoring was six points for a goal and one point for a behind.

Demonstration match

VFL&VFA ruckman Denis Cordner (1) attempts to punch the ball away from VAFA full-forward, Duncan Anderson, whilst VFL&VFA back-pocket Brian Walsh (19) looks on.

The single demonstration match was played on the Main Stadium of the Olympic Games (the Melbourne Cricket Ground).

It started at 4:10 pm on Friday, 7 December 1956, immediately after the "bronze medal" soccer match between Bulgaria and India had finished (Bulgaria won 3–0).

One of the competing teams represented the Victorian Amateur Football Association; the other team was a combined team composed of amateur players from both the Victorian Football League and the Victorian Football Association; professional players from these leagues were unable to compete due to the policies of amateurism of the Olympic Games at the time.[4][5]

Throughout the entire game, a running commentary attempted to explain the umpires' decisions to the audience; and those who were not used to the game found it extremely useful.[6]

VAFA team

White shorts. white socks. Guernsey: White, with emerald green trim, and large olympic rings across diaphragm.[7]

VFL and VFA combined team

Ray Gabelich in white shorts modelling the combined VFL & VFA team's uniform.

Black shorts. Socks emerald green with white tops. Guernsey: Emerald green with white trim, and large olympic rings across diaphragm.[8]


The following are the teams, as listed in the programme, in their selected positions, and their allocated guernsey numbers.

Backs R. Collins (6) L.J. Wakeling (19) G.W. Hibbins (1) (c)
H/Backs L.E. Williams(20) A.G. Capes (5) P. Rochow (16)
Centre Line C.W. Empey (7) L. Merrick (14) W.B. THomas (17)
H/Forwards W.M. Mitchell (2) (v-c) J.N. Hannan (10) G.J. Gill (8)
Forwards R.F. Pettigrove (15) J.D. Anderson (3) R.C. Fenton-Smith (4)
Rucks/Rover P.K. Harkness (11) J.R. Hayes (13) M. Keogh (12)
Reserves L. Grant (9) R.W. Tindale (18)
Coach J.W. Kelly
Combined VFL & VFA
Backs R.A. Gabelich (8) V.H. Naismith (13) B.J. Walsh (19)
H/Backs J.S. Sassella (18) J.B. Westacott (20) B.T. Collopy (4)
Centre Line L.J. Dwyer B.J. Gaze (9) B.C. Edwards (7)
H/Forwards K.E. Turner (17) N. McNeill (11) B.J. Gray (10)
Forwards D.X. Dunin (5) D.J. Plunkett (14) D.T. Tobin (16)
Rucks/Rover D. Cordner (1) (c) Woolnough (2) (v-c) R.A. Allsop (3)
Reserves K.C. Marshall (12) T.J. Hussey (15)
Coach C.B. Andrew


The match ended with a convincing win for the amateur team, which had led the professional combined team for the entire match, finally winning 12.9 (81) to 8.7 (55), although the professional team outscored the amateur team in the second and the last quarter.[9]


Team 1 Qtr 2 Qtr 3 Qtr Final
 VAFA    6.1 (37)     9.4 (58)     11.8 (74)     12.9 (81)  
 Comb. VFL & VFA    1.0 (6)     6.0 (36)     6.2 (38)     8.7 (55)  

Best players and goal-kickers

The best players for the VAFA were Hibbins, Fenton-Smith, Anderson, Thomas, and Pettigrove; whilst those for the combined VFL & VFA team were Edwards, Allsop, Westacott, Woolnough, Collopy and Sassella.

The goal-kickers for the VAFA were Fenton-Smith (4), Pettigrove (4); Anderson (3), and Rochow (1); whilst those for the combined VFL & VFA team were Dunin (3), Turner (1), Woolnough (1), Plunkett (1), Tobin (1), and Allsop (1).

See also



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