Australia in the 1850s


Sport played an increasingly important part in the colonial life of Australia during the 19th century. The 1850s was a decade when sport became more organised. The first intercolonial cricket match was played between Tasmania and Victoria in 1851. The first cricket match between New South Wales (NSW) and Victoria took place in the Sydney Domain in 1857 and intercolonial matches were played regularly after this with great rivalry. In 1859, the NSW Cricket Association was established to administer cricket.

A new football game was introduced to the colonists and the first match ever played was between the schools Scotch College and Melbourne Grammar in 1858. Thomas 'Tom' Wentworth Wills (18351880), a noted all-round sportsman, wrote a letter to a sporting magazine suggesting a football club be formed because of the growing popularity of the game. Melbourne Football Club eventuated, but it was not until 1859 that rules were devised for this new game, Australian Rules Football.

Rowing was a sport from the early 1800s but professional sculling races started in NSW during the 1850s. The Melbourne University Boat Club was established in 1859 as the first sporting club in the university.

One of the first sporting activities organised in the colonies was horseracing. The first country racing club was established at Wallabadah in 1852.


A snapshot of 1858

  • January
    • A telephone line opened between the Sydney GPO and South Head.

  • May
    • New South Wales followed the lead of Victoria and South Australia to become the third colony to introduce the principle of manhood suffrage for parliamentary elections.

  • June
    • A huge gold nugget named the Welcome Nugget weighing 68.98 kilograms was found at Ballarat.

  • August
    • The Aborigines' Friends' Association (AFA) was formed at a public meeting in Adelaide in South Australia.

  • September
    • The first recorded game of Australian Rules Football was played between Scotch College and Melbourne Grammar.

  • October
    • The first intercolonial electric telegraph line was officially opened between Adelaide and Melbourne.


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