Fears of Expansion, 92 Years Apart


“They are representative of the AFL’s drive to gain access to the NSW and Queensland share of the national advertising spend, with the two states contributing nearly 60 per cent.” [i] Roy Masters – Sydney Morning Herald – 2016.

“The powers behind the Rugby League movement have, I am told, plenty of money to carry on the propaganda, and they view the alterations of the rules of the Australian game as playing directly into their hands.”[ii]  Old Boy, The Argus – 1924.

The more things change the more they stay the same. Separated by nearly a century, both men are bemoaning the incursion of a foreign code on their turf. The message from both are clear. With big money and bigger intentions, these interlopers want to tear down the institutions you hold dear.


Masters, as is his style, paints a picture of the AFL as a supreme, imperious overlord completely oblivious to the wants and needs of those it wishes to rule. The Giants the League’s bastard, red-headed, step-child unwanted and unloved by anyone. His proof? The fact that the Melbourne Storm, 14-years longer established, having a bigger supporter base and presence in Melbourne than the GWS do in Sydney.


Old Boy, a nom de plume that could well serve a Supreme Imperious and Oblivious Overlord, was writing of plans by a consortium to develop the Motordrome into a 100,000 stadium in the Olympic Park precinct. Old Boy, or Reginald Wilmot to his mother, foresaw this as the perfect location for Rugby League or Association Football to stamp a strong presence in Melbourne. He implored the VFL to act by admitting Footscray and expand its competition ‘if it desires to thwart the advance of a foreign sport.’ ii

Masters implies a nobleness in the Melbourne Storm’s stated aim of holding the same place in the Melbourne sporting place as the Swans enjoy in Sydney. Yet he likens the AFL’s hopes for the Giants to be a big football club to ‘sabre rattling’.


Like the two competitions they champion, Wilmot concerned himself with a challenge that would take 74 years to eventuate and urged the VFL to expand. Masters in responding to a challenge 35 years old, and 5 years doubled in its efforts, complains of an unfair fight.

This weekend the two teams at the heart of both articles face off in an AFL Preliminary Final in Sydney. Greater Western Sydney, the team that Roy Masters views as the living example of AFL colonialism, meeting the Western Bulldogs, the team Wilmot urged to be admitted to the VFL to thwart a Rugby League invasion.


Ironically, at the same time, Melbourne Storm, the team Roy Masters champions and Wilmot feared, will host a Rugby League Preliminary Final. The clash will take place, almost in the exact spot Old Boy envisaged 92 years ago, at AAMI Park.

Expansion has been good for both codes and the people of the cities they have infiltrated. While Old Boy will never get the chance to change his opinion on the NRL entering Victoria, it is time Roy Masters does towards the push of the AFL in Sydney’s west.


[i] Greater Western Sydney Giants are the AFL’s Team, not Sydney’s. – Roy Masters, September 21st 2016. http://www.smh.com.au/afl/greater-western-sydney-giants/the-greater-western-sydney-giants-are-the-afls-team-not-sydneys-20160919-grk007.html

[ii] Football. The Tenth Club. Rugby League’s Proposal – Old Boy, September 23rd 1924. http://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/2038018#sthash.4V56Cyc3.dpuf

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