Here's a terrific little piece from the Daily Herald in Adelaide from 1913. It tells the story of two sporting priests, one a boxer and the other a soccer player. The soccer player learned the game in the seminary in Manly and became beloved of his constituents in Collingwood and the Scottish miners in Wonthaggi. The piece speaks to the unrecognised general popularity of the game in pre-war Victoria.
THE FIGHTING PARSON
THE PRIEST FOOTBALLER.
The fighting parson of Queensland (writes the Melbourne correspondent of the Ballarat "Evening Echo") is now widely known, and his views regarding sport and practical demonstrations in amateur competitions have reassured the sporting fraternity, who have labored according to the utterances of extreme narrowminded religionists "in spheres of damnation," that there is a possibility of them entering the confines of Paradise.
Now comes the news that a young Catholic priest in Melbourne is a soccer player with a reputation. This cleric is a native of Collingwood, where he is respected not only by his own sect but by thousands outside his church. After leaving school about seven years ago the reverend gentleman studied in the Manly College, and was ordained a priest in due course. While at college the aspirant for the pulpit, being exceptionally fond of sport of all descriptions, took a liking for soccer, and he developed such talent for the game that he was considered the crack of the college.
He was transferred to Melbourne after becoming a priest, and was sent on relieving work at Wonthaggi. A British Football Association exists in this town, the outcome of the large number of Scottish miners who have settled there since the mines were opened. One day it was stated the young priest, who is, by the way, also of Highland descent, was watching the players in question at practice. He was asked if he could play. "Well, I don't mind trying," he answered, modestly, only too eager to grapple at the invitation.
He soon unfrocked and was sprinting round the ground with remarkable alacrity, dodging, ducking, catching the ball on his cranium with precision, and complying with the requests of the Scotchmen, of "shoot, mon," when he had the ball anywhere near the goal posts. His reverence rarely missed the opportunity of placing the ball in the right position. That evening much surprise and satisfaction was expressed at the wonderful showing of the priest, who was often playing after that until his relieving work was completed, and he was transferred back to Melbourne.
When the "soccer priest," as he was named, was given a send-off by acquaintances he expressed no little disappointment at leaving his Scottish brethren. A few weeks ago, unable to suppress fhe anxiety of the soccer players Wonthaggi to get him back, the reverend gentleman was called upon at his parish in a northern suburb and asked to sign a contract to go and play every Saturday for "Thaggie." He has accepted the invitation, but a difficulty his arisen which might prevent him from completing the contract. "You see, Father (the present parish priest) doesn't mind me going down every Saturday," He remarked, "but we are going to have a change and perhaps my next senior will have anything but a sporting mind, and then my little game will end."
Imagine the popularity thai would accrue if ministers of religion such as the fighting parson and the footballing priest went into the game actively, and were permitted by their seniors to do so. Some little time ago after the Queensland parson had carried off the amateur competitions he was given a substantial offer to go to Melbourne and appear in the city, but, of course, he naturally declined to be staged in an exhibition bout, though, undoubtedly, he would have proved an exceptional draw, and might have resulted not only in an attendance of the usual followers of boxing but a clerical gathering representing all denominations which would have had the effect of raising boxing generally in their estimation.