Gridiron Australia is the Australian Government recognised governing body of American Football in this country.
Australia consists of six States (New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania) and two Territories (Northern Territory and Australian Capital Territory) and American Football is played in each of them.
Football has been played in Australia since 1983 and is commonly referred to as “gridiron” to distinguish it from the other football codes played here. There is no uniform American football season in Australia. The various State and Territory bodies all play at different times of the year. For example, the competition in South Australia runs from September to March, whilst the competition in New South Wales runs from September to December.
There are currently 73 teams playing football in Australia across the six leagues:
- ACT Gridiron
- Gridiron NSW
- Gridiron Queensland
- Gridiron Association of South Australia
- Gridiron West
- Gridiron Tasmania
History of Gridiron in Australia
In 1983 the first fully organised gridiron teams in Australia were formed in Melbourne, Victoria.
Further north, an ad was placed over a Sydney radio station advertising for American football enthusiasts to assemble in early 1984. The response was remarkable and several teams comprising enthusiastic amateurs who had been throwing the ball around on Sunday afternoons
The first season saw all games being played at a disused rubbish tip. There were no goal posts,no medical supervision and no insurance. The early pioneers did not wear helmets but found kick boxing protective headgear useful.
1984 saw the first interstate clash when a team from Melbourne travelled to Sydney to play. NSW won the match 30-7. American Football had arrived in Australia.
Fred and Melba Burson were the first people that imported football equipment into Australia to use. They also did things like bring coaches out from the University of Hawaii for clinics ect at their own expense. Luckily for Gridiron in Australia Fred had the money to actually have the equipment on stock in Australia. Their efforts helped lay the foundation for the sport to develop in Australia so that other leagues could start up around the country.
Also in 1984 the Australian American Football Conference was founded (later renamed the Australian American Football League). A high profile team which the media and sponsors would
see as a positive entity to promote was created by Randall Trudgen. The first Kookaburras embarked on an extensive tour to the USA, training at US Colleges. The LA Rams assisted in hosting the Kookaburras. The Kookaburras would tour the USA and Europe annually until 1992.
In November 1989 the Grand Prix Challenge was held in Adelaide, a four way competition involving Victoria, South Australia, Western Australia and New South Wales. New South Wales went on to win the Challenge.
In 1990 the Down Under Bowl concept arrived in Australia and is still going strong. Each year individual American States are invited to field High School all-star teams, travel to Australia and spread the growth of the game down under. Games are played against local Australian teams and between US teams. These games are run by International Sports Specialists Inc. (ISSI), a company based in Utah, USA. 1998 saw the most succesful year yet with 36 teams travelling to the Gold Coast in Queensland to compete in the Down Under Bowl.
Trans Tasman competition came to Melbourne in January 1991 when Victoria played the visiting South Auckland Raiders from New Zealand, finishing in a thrilling 19-19 draw.
A series of interstate Bowl games were to be played between all major States in October/November 1991. The Victorians were rewarded with a good win. The following week saw the NSW state team go down to the Victorian Eagles at Olympic Park. This left Victoria as the National State Champions for 1991.
The National Gridiron League of Australia (NGLA) was formed in January 1991 “to govern and promote American football on the national level and to represent Australian gridiron on the international scene.”
Gridiron Australia (GA) was formed in 1994, with the aim of replacing the old National Gridiron League of Australia.
* Reproduced from Gridiron Australia website