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Aussie Diggers at the Mena Base Camp, Egypt 1915
Aussie Diggers at the Mena Base Camp, Egypt 1915
Image © Australian War Memorial  

With the ANZAC centenary approaching, Lacrosse Victoria's historian Doug Fox has taken a look back at our sport during the first World War.

Spurred on by a successful visit by a Canadian team in 1907, lacrosse was growing strongly in the lead up to WW1.  When war came, large numbers of lacrosse players enlisted into the Australian Armed Forces.  In 1915 more than half of the players in the Brighton Presbyterians Lacrosse Club and the Kooyong Lacrosse Club enlisted.  Most clubs were severley affected and some never recovered.

The patriotic call to arms was powerful and the prospect of fighting for your country was appealing and exciting.  Government campaings urged all young fit men to enlist and sporting associations, including the Victorian Lacrosse Association, championed the cause.  Early in 1915, stories reached home of some makeshift lacrosse games being played by Aussies at the Mena Base Camp in Egypt where the troops were being assembled in preparation for the Gallipoli assault.

At the Annual Meeting of the VLA in February 1915, a motion was put that all competitions be suspended for the duration of the war.  After debate the motion was lost and a much-reduced competition took place.

A year later a much stronger motion was put to the VLA Annual Meeting by the Secretary Mr W.B. House...

"During season 1916 and for the currency of the present European war, or any extension thereof, no person shall be allowed to take part in any matches arranged by the association if over the age of 21 years, unless such person has volunteered for active service with the Australian Expeditionary Forces, and has been rejected by the Defence authorities or, unless... the circumstances of such person are a sufficient justification for his failure to volunteer for active service".

The motion was lost after debate but resurrected a year later and introduced during the 1917 season.  Skeleton lacrosse competitions were continued throughout the course of the war but casualties were high and many returning players never resumed the sport.  Over 500 lacrosse players had enlisted and the sport declined from 54 teams and 807 players in 1914 to just 11 teams of mainly juniors in 1917.


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