UNCORK the champagne. Strike up the band, as they did in 1870 for Port Adelaide games. The moment has come. April 20 - the day, 150 years ago, when three men started a football club - and no ordinary football club.

John Albert Rann.

Richard William John Leicester.

And George Henry Ireland.

It was a Wednesday. They met at North Parade at Port Adelaide. They had a vision for their growing community, its people - and the new game of Australian football that was less than a decade-old in Adelaide.

By May 12, Rann had set up this new football club at the Port Adelaide Cricket Club, where he was president. The club's first committee was established with the presidency taken up by John Hart junior, the son of South Australia's 10th Premier, John Hart.

Leicester was the club's first secretary. Ireland, the first treasurer. Rann became a committee member, along with Messrs. R. Carr and F. Bridgeman.

The first practice game was played two days later on the Hart's family estate at Glanville.

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And, as they say, the rest is history with 37 premierships - and eight other titles - making the Port Adelaide Football Club the most successful in Australian football.

Unfortunately, not all the early history of the Port Adelaide Football Club - particularly from the club's first three decades - is under a glass cabinet for all to see. As Rann told The Advertiser, while seeking to put the club's early days on record in 1908, "official records of the history of the club were inadvertently burnt some years ago ..."

Can there be a greater tragedy in Australian football?

So who were these three wise men who met on an autumn Wednesday in the heart of Port Adelaide to bring forward a football club that 150 years later "exists to win premierships and to make its community proud"?

Ireland is recorded with 27 games, from the start in 1870 to the last season (1876) before Port Adelaide became a founding member of SA's first organised football competition, the SA Football Association.

Leicester played six, in the first two seasons. His tenure at Port Adelaide in its foundation years was shortened by a work transfer to Port Pirie in 1875.

Rann had the longest playing career, 38 games - and was the only Port Adelaide pioneer to feature in the club's first SAFA season in 1877. He also captained the club in 1874.

All three had significant administrative roles in the club's foundation seasons.

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JOHN ALBERT RANN was born in Dudley, Staffordshire in England on June 9, 1845. His obituary, following his death on April 27, 1912, recorded Rann was "an old and respected resident of Port Adelaide; (he) died at his residence, Church Place, (Port Adelaide) after about 18 months' illness. He took an active interest in athletics at Port Adelaide in former years. He was one of the founders of the Port Adelaide Football Club. A widow, one son, and five daughters survive him."

Four years before his death, Rann told The Advertiser of the club's formation years "as well as if it happened yesterday".

From his memory, the club's first practice game was at Buck's Flat on Saturday, May 14. This is in line with newspaper advertisements placed by Leicester.

The club's first game against the short-lived Young Australian Football Club was, in Rann's memory, at the North Park Lands on July 30, 1870 (and not as recent accounts have it at Buck's Flat on May 24, 1870 - a Tuesday public holiday for the Queen's Birthday celebrations).

Rann's recalled Port Adelaide first home game - the return bout with the Young Australians - on August 20, 1870 was "remarkable for having been decided in a blinding dust storm".

Also notable in his "reminiscences" of Port Adelaide's early years is Rann's thought that the change from the "Magentas" to the famous black-and-white bars jumper in 1902 had "the effect of which to make the men look heavier than they really are."

RICHARD WILLIAM JOHN LEICESTER was born in London in 1850 and immigrated to Australia on the Daylesford in 1853. He died on September 28, 1928 at his home at Rose Terrace, Wayville. His obituary in The News was titled "Port Football Pioneer".

A graudate of the Port Adelaide Grammar School, Leicester became a prominent community leader in Port Adelaide, Gawler and Port Pirie where he became the first town clerk. His first job, in 1865, was in the offices of John Hart & Co - and a decade later he was the company's branch manager at Port Pirie when the township had few houses and was a wheat shipping centre.

Leicester returned to Port Adelaide - via Gawler where he was stationed for 23 years - in 1907 to take charge of the Hart's large milling plant that had merged with the Adelaide Milling Company in 1882.

Beyond his interest in sport and duty in public service, Leicester also commanded attention in the arts, winning first prizes when exhibiting his paintings.

GEORGE HENRY IRELAND was born on December 5, 1847. He died, aged 80, at his famous Woodville residence - "The Grove" - on August 19, 1928.

Ireland was captain of Port Adelaide's "Blue" team - in the end-of-season match between "Blues" and "Whites", in recognition of the club's first colours - when the 1870 campaign ended at Buck's Flat on Saturday, October 1 with the Port Adelaide Artillery Band present.

Ireland was part of the Port Adelaide side for the opening game of the 1871 season on April 15 against Adelaide in the North Park Lands with the Concordia Band engaged to add to the entertainment.

Like Leicester, Ireland also moved from Port Adelaide to Port Pirie - to continue his extensive employment at the Globe Timber Mills. He also had a notable service record in cricket.

These are the three wise men who gave the Port Adelaide Football Club its start on April 20, 1870. If they were able to gather again, 150 years later, at North Parade with Pirate Life ale at their table, what would they make of the football club that stands today at Alberton?

They had walked the Port Adelaide docks in 1870 watching the new colony of South Australia export is wealth to the world. More than a century later, their football club ambitiously created a first by taking the game of Australian football off shore to China.

When they went to the North Park Lands in late July 1870 to play their first competitive game as Port Adelaide footballers, they could never have imagined more than a century later their football club would have played a pivotal part in redeveloping a grand sporting venue at Adelaide Oval.

How would have they sat on April 20, 1997 - the 127th anniversary of their North Parade meeting - while their Port Adelaide Football Club made a statement on a national stage by winning the first Showdown against a different version of the Adelaide Football Club to the one they had known in the Adelaide parklands in 1870?

When they closed the inaugural season in 1870 - having played three competitive matches against Young Australian and two "internals" - there was no premiership to have been won. On the 150th anniversary of their first meeting at North Parade, there are 37 premiership flags on display at their Port Adelaide Football Club.

All this seems far, far more than could have been the vision of Messrs. Ireland, Leicester and Rann on April 20, 1870. But it stays true to the Port Adelaide theme of its centenary season in 1970 - Proud of the past, confident of the future. And as the club says in 2020: Proud past, bold future.

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Five things we have learned in the past week


One of the fall-outs of no football while the COVID pandemic puts the AFL on hold until at least June 1 is long (and sometimes tedious) debates. The latest is on the appropriate minimum age for drafting players to the national competition - currently 18.

The push to lift the draft age has two major flaws - 1. It does not serve teenagers, such as Ollie Wines and Connor Rozee at Port Adelaide, who proved themselves more than capable of playing AFL football week after week and every week in their debut seasons at age 18. 2. There is no certainty that State leagues, particularly those in Tasmania and north of the Murray, are the ideal development fields for teenagers.

But if there is to be a rethink on the draft age, it would seem ideal for everyone to establish a rule that limits the drafting of 18-year-old talent to solely first-round picks. At its extreme, the best 18 18-year-olds would be called from picks Nos. 1-18 and then the draft must take only players aged at least 19.


Clearly when the AFL resumes there will be "isolation" hubs, perhaps as many as three with six teams to each hub and quick-fire games with potential three-day breaks.

If South Australia - a state that is fighting the COVID-19 pandemic with strong results - is chosen as a hub location, would every game be played at Adelaide Oval? Could Adelaide Oval's surface stand up to heavy foot traffic? As there is no need to cater for spectators, to be suitable any venue would need spotless changerooms, secure fencing to close off the arena and a sound playing surface, particularly in the winter months.

Dare it be that Football Park at West Lakes returns to the AFL's venue list? Would Alberton Oval be considered. 


AFL broadcaster Channel Seven is considering - and trialling - crowd effects to add to its coverage of games when they resume behind locked gates. Bit like the canned laughter than would be spliced into television comedy shows such as M*A*S*H when there was no studio audience.

This is just another sign of how the fans do make the game.


To quote a sage man, "It is good to barrack for a club that is older than you".

When there is only the past to grasp in Australian sport today, thank heavens the Port Adelaide Football Club has a rich story since 1870 to help work through the pain of an AFL season on hold.


Port Adelaide premiership midfielder Kane Cornes - with his marathon run around his tennis court at home while in self-isolation - has proven he can out-Forrest Gump Forrest Gump.


Saturday was to have been another symbolic day for the Port Adelaide Football Club in its 150th season. The club's commitment to play at Adelaide Oval during the Anzac Round gave a tribute match on Anzac Day - a Saturday night match against the Western Bulldogs.

Even with no match to be played, the concept of Port Adelaide recognising the defence forces and those who have served in conflict will not be lost.

Lest We Forget.