Austus

AUSTUS

One of the great features of Footy 9s is the ability to move the ball via a forward pass, like a quarterback in American Football.

This is not a new idea and is based on the game of Austus, which was played between Australians and Americans during World War I.

The hybrid sport of Austus football was described as “one of the most scientific games ever devised, and is a combination of kicking, which features the Australian Rules game, and the forward passing attack, which is stressed in American football.”

It originated in 1943, in Australia, where it gained great popularity among the Australians, and the visiting American soldiers. Before the end of the war, this form of sport, almost unknown on the American mainland, was in great favour in Australia, where it was a featured form of international football play.

H. Archie Richardson, of Australia, now of Los Angeles, who keeps in intimate touch with sports affairs, in both countries, explained:

“The American soldiers put on exhibitions of the American style of football in Melbourne. The Australians didn’t like it. There wasn’t enough sustained action, too little playing, too much time out for making new plays.

“The Americans saw the Australian game of football, and liked it immensely. Its bristling action won them. But when the Americans attempted to compete with the Australians, it hardly was a contest, because the Australian game stresses kicking at which Americans, generally, are not very adept.”

In this crisis, Ern Cowley, baseball editor of the Melbourne Sporting Globe, was asked to draw up a set of rules for a new game – and he made an excellent job of it.

“Ern, realizing that the Australians had all the best of it in kicking, ruled that there was to be not only kicking in the new game, but unlimited passing. The Australians could kick splendidly, but passing was new to them; the Americans were fine passers, but not much at kicking. So there was an offset.

“The basic rules of the Australian Rules Football game are used for this new sport, the big difference being that passing, which is barred in Australian Rules, is permitted in the new game and the American football is used. The Americans can outpass the Australians, but the Australians can outkick the Americans and so all is 50-50, and this new game, played during 1943, brought about some thoroughly exciting matches between Australians and Americans.

“The game has provided great fun for the participants, and the novelty of it, especially the long passes by the Americans, brought out some very large crowds for the matches that were played for the benefit of various War Charities.

“At Geelong, on August 25, 1943, Private William Jost, of the U.S. Marines, established an international record for passing with a throw of 76 yards,1 foot, 6 inches, during a passing-versus-kicking contest. Jost met three of the star kickers of the Victorian Football League, and bewildered spectators with the distance and the accuracy of his throws, especially, of course, the record toss.

“The new game was given the name ‘Austus’, being the combined abbreviation for Australia (Aust.) and the United States (U.S.), and it may be that this game, created in a world torn by war, may become the international method of future football play.” (Frank G. Menke, The New Encyclopedia of Sports)

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