About Lacrosse WA


This is an excerpt of the article titled The Development of Lacrosse in Western Australia, by Brian Minikin.

The first appearance of lacrosse corresponds closely to the “Gold rush” period of the 1890’s and it is to this event that West Australian Lacrosseurs attribute the introduction of the game to this state. At this stage too Lacrosse was played according to the rules laid down by Beers in Canada 1850. So even though it was played, it was still in its crudest form with many injuries due to Stick-body contact. This may account for its apparent popularity among the men of the time as a social game. It wasn’t until 1896 that first organised games took place.

Lacrosse was played on an organised scale in two areas of WA

  1. The goldfields 1898 – 1915
  2. The Perth Metropolitan area 1896 - ?


The first reported official game on the Goldfields appeared in the July 16 edition of the “Coolgardie Pioneer” in 1898. The association in that year consisted of four teams, two each from Kalgoorlie and Coolgardie. Prior to this all reports on Lacrosse consisted of Adelaide fixtures with the occasional important Canadian fixture. If we assume that the newspaper cater for the majority of the population, then we can assume that there were a number of South Australian and Canadian Lacrosseurs on the Goldfields at this time who were probably responsible for starting the game as a relief from their mining tasks or otherwise.

1898 saw the first visit from a team representing the West Australian lacrosse Association formed in Perth two years earlier. The highlight if this tour occurred when the combined Goldfields team led by former South Australian in R. B. Andrews beat the W.A.L.A. team 4 - 0 in front of an estimated crowd of 4,000. Note the low score line which was almost a direct consequence of having the goals 150 yards apart and the general “all in melee” type of play. From this date Lacrosse on the Goldfields grew at respectable rate, although players in this region were given the opportunity to officially represent the state in interstate games until 1911. Between this however Goldfields Lacrosse managed to keep pace in most developments of the game through getting its own share of interstate visits as well as a real highlight in the Canadian team visit in 1907. This tour by the Canadians completely revolutionized Lacrosse in Australia and even though only one game was played on the Goldfields, the improvements initiated enabled Goldfields players to be in the position to insist that at least 4 players in any W.A.L.A team would come from the Goldfields in 1911 that year also saw the amalgamation of the two associations.

By the start of World War 1 lacrosse was wide spread throughout the Goldfields and received as much spectators following as any sport in the time. Possibly the only restrictor of growth to that stage was in the availability of the Canadian Hickory crosse. World War 1 then became the initiator of the extinction of Lacrosse on the Goldfields with most of the men gone to war by 1916, official games ceased completely. By the end of War no one seemed to want the responsibility or have the enthusiasm to start from scratch again and with the end of the gold rushes of early days most of the population, including undoubtedly many Lacrosseurs had moved to Perth in any case. With the backbone of the sport removed therefore Lacrosse became non exist ant other than on an occasional social level.

Some attempt to revive the game was reported in 1935 by former and Perth enthusiasts. At the start with the support of the W.A.L.A. and a visit from the Victorian team it seemed a though things would happen again. However by 1937 with zero growth to show for 2 years the association was again disbanded. Two reasons appear obvious for the failure:

  1. A tight money situation during the period probably discouraged may potential new players from investing in equipment other than boots.
  2. Rather than to spend extra to play an unknown sport people tended to stick to football which by that stage had reached immense popularity on the Goldfields as “Australia’s national game”. Where lacrosse on the Goldfields failed the game has survived in Perth as the Western Australian lacrosse Association.


The first few years.

The WALA was formed in 1896 by a group of Eastern States enthusiasts headed by F.C. Parsons and started but with the formation of two clubs in Perth and Fremantle, the latter which still runs today. The teams at this stage as we have mentioned consisted of 12 men with the goals being two upright sticks 6 feet apart and 150 yards away for each team.

From a playing point of view Lacrosse was initially slow in catching on among the locals. However from a spectator scene it is apparent that a good deal of interest was expressed towards the game. A number of reasons have been speculated to explain this slow playing start. Firstly that Lacrosse sticks availability and cost problems again. Secondly securing enough playing area to play in many cases retarded the development of new clubs. A number of approaches to the Minister for Lands at the time were apparently unsuccessful.

Lastly and probably most important the Young Australian League initiated a movement around the early 1900’s to make Australian Rules Football the “Australian Game”. This in particular involved directing this game at the junior level which would not only guarantee future players but attract the interest of the parent population. Despite all this WA Lacrosse still grew and strengthened enough to make a real game out of their first inter-state encounter against South Australia in 1903 there were 8 teams competing on a highly competitive basis.

Read the full article here.