Festival kicks off

PUBLISHED : Friday, 26 January, 1996, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 26 January, 1996, 12:00am

AUSTRALIA'S national sport, Australian Rules Football or Aussie Rules, celebrates its centenary this year with a feast of action for players and supporters.

The first recorded match of the sport was played in 1858 between Scotch College and Melbourne Grammar, with 40 players on each side who battled for five hours before the contest was declared a draw.

It was not until 38 years later that the Australian Football League (AFL) was founded - and that is the anniversary being marked this year.

Centenary celebrations will be launched in February with 100 players being inducted into a Hall of Fame.

This year will also see the inauguration of the Coca-Cola AFL Centenary Season, with top teams contesting 176 games for the new Wills Harrison Trophy.

Other centenary highlights include: The AFL Centenary Black Tie Ball for 4,000 guests at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on April 16.

Release of centenary stamp series by Australia Post on April 18.

Penguin Books' launching of a chronicle of the AFL on May 7.

Opening of Essendon Football Club's Hall of Fame on May 8.

Team of the Century competition launched nation-wide on August 7.