Just glorious at the MCG.
Prior to being sent to the Dardanelles and on to Anzac Cove, many Australian Units completed training in Egypt, and many a match was played during this time in the heat and sand outside Cairo.
An exhibition of the ‘Australian game’ was reported on April 10 in The Australiasian, at the Cairo International Sporting Club facility, and featuring sides from The Light Horse and the Field Ambulance units.
The Light Horsemen won 8.12 to 7.15. This game may have been played as early as January 22, 1915 as reported in the Startford Sentinel. A number of these players were well known from the Gippsland area.
A State of Origin game of sorts was played between members of the West Australian eighth battery and the Tasmanian ninth battery on January 23. The Tasmanians won a close match 4.18 to 4.16.
The Morwell Advertiser in February 1915 reported a match between sides selected from the 2nd Company, Field Engineers, Victoria. The letter states it was the first game played in Egypt and describes it as follows:
“Playing football in Egypt is not all beer and skittles, the ground being extremely hard and grassless. Without any training and under such conditions, you can only imagine the tired limbs that eventually sought repose at the Pyramids, nine miles away.”
On March 26, 1915, The Adelaide Observer reported an Australian football match at the Cairo International Sporting Club between the 10th Australian Infantry and the 3rd Battery, 1st Field Artillery. The match was won by the Infantry 16.10 to 6.8. The article mentions that this was the third match played between the two sides, and contained a number of players familiar to people in Adelaide.
A number of games were reported in March 1915, featuring Artillery batteries, at least one game requiring the “commandeering of a soccer ball to complete the second half” after a nail punctured the game ball. Matches were apparently being played every Wednesday and Sunday. Players from the 9th battery were apparently well known in senior Tasmanian footy circles.
While I’ve written primarily about Australian football here, it would be remiss of me not to mention the guys who played rugby union at the base of the Great Pyramid, including a game between New Zealand and NSW – New Zealand winning 24-17 with eight national side players (NSW featuring seven Blues).
On April 25, 1915, many of these same young men who had spent months playing footy, rugby and soccer during training were put on boats and sent to Gallipoli. Many would not return.
Even at Gallipoli there were reports of Australian football being played in and around the trenches. TJ Richards, a rugby union played in the NSW first Battalian reported:
“One afternoon when I came over from Browns Dip towards White’s Gully I was surprised at seeing a football floating through the air. I set off down into the blind valley, and joined in with a number of Victorians who had brought the ball from Egypt with them.”