A timeline of football history in the Northern Territory

With Darwin set to host the Australia Cup 2023 Playoffs later this month, we take a look back on the long history of the round ball game in the top end - dating all the way back to 1899!

The following timeline is presented with thanks to Philip Mosely of Charles Darwin University. 

April 1899

First reference to British Association football in NT. It was a call for a meeting but there is no record of a meeting taking place or any other subsequent action. Organiser: Mr Parsons.

December 1911 – January 1912

First recorded game - challenge match - HMS Prometheus vs Darwin locals

Played at the Sports Ground on either Wednesday, 27 December or  Saturday, 30 December (conflicting press reports). Prometheus won 2-1, players listed.

There weren’t enough residents to be found to form a team, so locals and sailors combined to play Prometheus.

The Darwin locals team included Willy Allen (Larrakia nation – Darwin local), who was the first Indigenous player/sports champion in the NT.  Allen was a renowned cricketer and a member of the Rifle Club.

Second game – challenge match - HMS Prometheus  vs  Darwin locals

Played on Wednesday, 3 January 1912.  Darwin won 1-2, players not listed.

January 1919

G.Ducketto XI vs S.S. Orari

Played at Parap on Saturday, 18 January - S.S. Orari won 2-1.  

G. Ducketto XI vs Ryder-Bailey ‘O XI

Played at Parap on Saturday, 25 January 1919, 4:00 p.m. kick-off. Referee was Mr Stanley Howarth.

George Duckett – energetic secretary of the St Mary’s Catholic Club. (Born England 1874, arrived Perth 29/07/1909, Darwin 1914-1937, Mount Barker/Albany 1949. Labourer/carpenter.)

‘Professor’ William Henry Ryder-Bailey– staged entertainments, eg. concerts and dances in the Town Hall.  He obtained a 2nd class engine driver's certificate in 1918. (Born England 1884, arrived Perth, Darwin 1914-1922, Cloncurry 1930, Georgetown 1936-1937, Cooktown 1940s & 1950s, Died Cooktown 1957.  Journalist, prospector, miner)

April 1919

Darwin vs  Parap (today's Stuart Park) on Darwin Oval on Saturday, 12 April 1919, kick-off at 4:30 p.m.

January 1924

Chinese team vs Darwin in Darwin on Tuesday, 1 January 1924.  China won 1-0. 

Darwin’s Chinese Athletic Club was formed in April 1923.  The Chinese Recreation Club opened in Cavenagh Street on 22 December 2023.

January 1927

The Darwin Soccer Association was formed at a meeting held at the Chinese Recreation Club in early January 1927.  The Association secretary was former Vesteys football player, Tommy Ming Ket.  Four teams were proposed.  One Chinese Recreation Club team made the field, joined by Oil Tankers and another unnamed team.

The Chinese were caught up in the colour bar within Australian Rules and were active in battling it.  It led directly to their involvement in soccer.  

March 1927

Waratahs vs Wanderers in Darwin on Sunday, 13 March 1927.  1-1 draw.

Referee – Mr Ming Ket.  Many players disputed his decisions, resulting in times when the game was held up for long periods.

Waratahs [The Europeans]  vs  Chinese Recreation Club on Darwin Oval on Saturday, 19 March 1927.  Waratahs won 1-0 in front of a strong crowd. 

The game was played in a friendly spirit, with a cup presented to the winner. 

Five or six more matches were scheduled to be played in 1927.

HMAS Geranium vs Combined team from the Darwin Soccer Football Association took place on Saturday, 28 May 1927.  Darwin won 6-0.

April 1929

Darwin Soccer FA meet to start a competition under British Association Rules, with quite a number of new players in town. 

Three teams were confirmed as sure to play, one of which is the Chinese Club.  Valuable cup to play before, plus other trophies.  Play to “last pretty well right through the winter” [the dry].

July 1933

Tanks United [Oil Tankers] vs Magpies on Sunday, 2 July 1933 in last match of second round of competition. Tanks won 4-2.  

March 1934

Darwin Garrison soccer team vs HMS Suffolk – Photo in Sunday Times [Perth] 18/03/1934, p.14.

January 1937

Darwin vs Aroe Island [Vanuatu – British coconut plantation] at Darwin Oval on Sunday, 17 January 1937.  Darwin won 1-0.  Owing to the muddy field, the Aroe islanders found it hard to play without boots.  It was hoped to have a return match.

January 1945

Inaugural general meeting to plan the Darwin Soccer Competition to meet at the Parap Hotel, Civil Drome on Wednesday, 10 January 1945, 7:30 p.m.

Competition open to Army, Navy & Air Force teams. Organiser - Corporal Horan.

March 1945

Darwin Soccer Association:

First Division – Heavies, Field Artillery, Corinthians A, Navy, Bolshies, Winnellie Blues, Spitfires, Refugees, Wreckers, Nomads (withdrawn from competition).

Second Division – Corinthians B, Rangers, Wanderers, Medium (may have been more).

April 1949

Second meeting of Darwin FA held Tuesday evening, 5 April 1949.

Besides those who attended the inaugural meeting, others present were three representatives from the Works and Housing Camps at Francis and K9, a member from the audit department., & Mr E. Barrow.  Apologies from Rev Father Cox, Qantas, RAAF and Shell sports bodies. Officials and committee elected and listed.

Exhibition match to open the post-war soccer activities in Darwin, to be held on Darwin Oval on Saturday (Easter Eve), 16 April 1949, 4:00 p.m.  Combined Services team  V’s  Combined Civvies. Referee – Mr A. C. Brown.

Curtain-raiser – Convent of our Lady of the Sacred Heart  V’s  State School team, starting at 3:00 p.m.


Hellenic was formed exclusively by immigrants from the island of Kalymnos.  Hellenic became very dominant and successful.


A breakaway from Hellenic formed Olympic, which started a keen rivalry.  Derbies could be hostile on and off the field (see 1988).

Late 1960s, 1970s, 1980s

Greek community dominated Darwin soccer.  Greeks vs The Rest games were staged annually.


Palmerston Magpies formed in 1970. Originally known as the Internationals, the club was a mix of English and Greek players.


The Casuarina club was formed by a mix of Timorese and Portuguese refugees following their flight to Darwin after Indonesia invaded East Timor in 1975. The club won its first premiership in 1994.  Its smaller, sister club was Sanderson (between Wulagi and Anula).


Darwin First Division – Moil [Hellenic], Darwin City, Stuart Park, Alawa [Olympic], Casuarina [Portuguese/Timorese], D.C.S. [Dept. of Civil Service?].

1980SA Soccer Year Book

  1. Darwin Soccer Association
  2. Central Australian Soccer Association [Alice Springs]

Italians & Anglo-Australians dominated. Little Greek involvement.

  1. Gove Soccer Association [bauxite mining- Nabalco - Alcan Gove - Rio Tinto]
  2. Groote Eylandt Football Association [manganese mining – GEMCO]


Greek club Iraklis toured Darwin, Sydney Olympic were regular visitors from the mid-1980s to mid-1990s.


Darwin soccer was marked by violence, with Greek players from Hellenic and Olympic prominent.

Greek clubs – Hellenic, Olympic, Kalymnos

Portuguese-Timorese clubs – Casuarina, Sanderson

Italian club – Darwin City

Australian/British – Mindil Aces

Darwin Soccer Association.  Secretary Andy Easton (former Glasgow Rangers junior)


NT Soccer Federation Established – General Manager, Warren Fisher.

Australia Cup Playoffs 2023

Football remains the number one club participation sport in the Northern Territory, with the staging of the Australia Cup 2023 Playoffs set to excite and inspire more people to play football when the Australia Cup 2023 Playoffs come to town.

As it was in 2022, the Australia Cup 2023 Playoffs will feature the four clubs that finished 9th to 12th in the Isuzu UTE A-League Men 2022/23 Regular Season.

The Newcastle Jets FC (10th) will face Melbourne Victory FC (11th) on Monday 17 July, with Perth Glory FC (9th) to tackle defending Australia Cup winners, Macarthur FC (12th) on Tuesday 18 July at Darwin Football Stadium at Larrakia Park.

The Australia Cup is the nation’s largest knockout competition of any sport, with over 770 clubs taking part this year.

The winners of the two ties will each seal a spot in the Australia Cup 2023 Final Rounds alongside the top eight teams from the A-League Men’s 2022/23 regular season, as well as 22 Member Federation clubs from a variety of levels and locations from right across Australia’s football ecosystem.

Every match in the Australia Cup 2023 Final Rounds – including the Playoffs – will be streamed live and free across the nation on 10 Play.

Australia Cup 2023 Playoffs

Monday, 17 July 2023
Newcastle Jets FC vs Melbourne Victory FC
Kick-off: 7.00pm local / 7.30pm AEST
Venue: Darwin Football Stadium at Larrakia Park
Get Tickets

Tuesday, 18 July 2023
Perth Glory FC vs Macarthur FC
Kick-off: 7.00pm local / 7.30pm AEST
Venue: Darwin Football Stadium at Larrakia Park
Get Tickets

Ticketing Details

Tickets for each match of the Australia Cup 2023 Final Rounds Playoffs are $15 Adults, $10 Concession* and $40 Family

*Concession Card Holders, Senior Card Holders, Students

**Children 3 years and under free unless occupying a seat

Australia Cup 2023 Final Rounds Playoffs Proudly supported by:

H on Mitchell Apartment Hotel & H on Smith Hotel - the official accommodation partners of the Australia Cup 2023 Playoffs

Thrifty Car and Truck Rental Darwin - the official vehicle partner of the Australia Cup 2023 Playoffs

NT Major Events Company - Supporting a diverse range of events that represent our unique character and Territory culture. ntmajorevents.com.au

If you seek different, the Northern Territory is the holiday for you.

Unleash your sense of adventure in the Northern Territory's tropical capital. Beyond the game, immerse yourself in thrilling experiences, from two-wheeled escapades to encounters with wildlife. With endless options, you'll wish you had more time to explore.

Discover insider tips and travel inspiration at northerterritory.com.

Proudly supported by NT Major Events and NT Government