Australian rules football has conceived many famous names, since its inception in the 1880s. From Adelaide Football Club members to Western Bulldogs players, many have left a lasting mark on the Aussies. The players who made the most significant impact, and made the game what it is today, are those from the early days of the sport. Among them is the father of Australian rules football.
Henry Colden Antill Harrison
Henry Colden Antill Harrison played an important part in establishing Australian rules football. In 1859, his cousin, Thomas Wills, founded Australian rules football. Harrison played several matches in the league. He was also involved in consolidating the new Victorian rules at the time, earning him the title “the father of Australian football”. Harrison and his cousin were inducted in the Australian Football Hall of Fame in 1996, to honour their achievements.
Aside from playing Australian football, Harrison also worked for several years in the Australian goldfields, and as a customs officer. He died September 2nd, 1929, at age 92. His autobiography, entitled “The Story of an Athlete”, was published in 1923, and his legacy will live forever.
Patrick John “Kangaroo Kicker” O’Dea
From 1893 to 1895, Patrick O’Dea was the star player in the Victorian Football Association. He is rightly thought to be one of the best players the world has ever seen. Around the mid-1860s, he left Australia to visit his brother in the United States, to study at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He was invited by the university to play gridiron football, as they found his athletic skills very impressive.
Patrick O’Dea was quick to establish himself as one of the star players in his new sport. His amazing kicking abilities earned him the nickname “Kangaroo Kicker.” He was captain of the 1898 and 1899 teams at the university. After graduating, he became the coach at the University of Notre Dame, Indiana, where he served from 1900 to 1901.
In 1917 O’Dea mysteriously disappeared. All attempts to find him were futile. Around the early 1930s, it was discovered that he had taken the false identity of Charles J. Mitchell. He claimed that due to his fame, he had been unable to establish his own law firm. Starting a new life with a false identity allowed him to go on with a normal life.
O’Dea died on the 4th of April 1962, one day after he was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame at the University of New Jersey. He is the only known Australian to have received this honor.