Sporting periodicals | State Library of New South Wales

Sporting periodicals

Sporting news and events have been recorded in newspapers since the eary years of the colony. The Sydney Gazette, Australia’s first newspaper, featured reports of local sporting events, as well as its general coverage of news, politics, shipping, law and order. Other general newspapers such as the Sydney Herald and the Australian Town & Country Journal also featured sporting coverage along with their general news. Sport has always played an integral part in the social and cultural life of Australia, and this is reflected in the contents of our early newspapers and periodicals.

In 1810, the Sydney Gazette reported on Australia’s first official race meeting. Held at Sydney’s Hyde Park over three days, the race carnival was organised by Governor Macquarie and his 73rd Regiment as a welcome distraction for early colonists. The first organised sporting event in Australia, it was a way of bringing classes together and boosting morale.

> Read article from the Sydney Gazette & NSW Advertiser describing the first official race meeting in Hyde Park, 1810

First Sydney races

Sydney’s first sporting newspaper, as such, was Bell’s Life in Sydney, first published in January 1845. This weekly publication was based on the format of Bell’s Life in London. Although its focus was sport and recreation, it also covered other general topics such as local news, politics, crime and theatre.

> Read article from Bell’s Life in Sydney and Sporting Chronicle describing the AJC’s inaugural race meeting at Randwick Racecourse, 1860

Randwick meeting 1860

In 1848, Bell’s Life in Australia and Weekly Retrospect of all Events of Importance was published, aiming to give broader national coverage of sporting and general events in Australia and overseas. The newspaper was advertised in a broadside prior to publication as:

“…a summary of all the eventful Topics and News of the Week, both foreign and domestic … but will more particularly contain matters of general importance as relates and has reference to the SPORTING WORLD … “ (Broadside, 1847)

Broadside advertising a ' journal to be entitled Bell's life in Australia and weekly retrospect of all events of importance, 1847. Printed. DL Drawer item 369

> Read Bell’s Life in Australia and Weekly Retrospect of all Events of Importance, 1 January – 11 January 1848

Bell's Life in Australia

During the mid to late 1800s a number of other sporting newspapers were published, including The Sporting Times (1848), The NSW Sporting Magazine (1848), The Era (1856-1858), The Field (1891-1892), The Dead Bird (1889-1891) and The Bird o’ Freedom (1891-1896). Many were short-lived, only lasting for a year or two. In 1886, the legendary Referee began publication, along with The Arrow (Saturday edition). The Referee (1886-1939) was Sydney’s most popular and comprehensive sporting newspaper of the time, covering all sports – cricket, horse racing, football, boxing, cycling, swimming and athletics.

> Read the first issue of the New South Wales Sporting Magazine, 2 October 1848

NSW Sporting Magazine

> See a listing of 'Sporting newspapers published in Sydney, NSW and other Australian states', held by the State Library of New South Wales

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A day at the races
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