Pre-War Rugby League

Just to demonstrate that the Youtube well of ancient football is running dry, here is a collection of highlights from Rugby League Challenge Cup Finals 1929-46. The quality of the late 30s film puts soccer to shame. I wonder why?


The film stock is quite obviously superior to most of the pre-War football we’ve seen here – but that could be no more than an accidental function of comparative rates of deterioration, modes of film storage etc.

On further reflection, I’m struck by how well both Rugby League, Rugby Union and Grand Prix racing looked in these early films, all sports where the action moved in a reasonably predictable manner (or at least without soccer’s ability to go from end to end in 2 secs) and took place largely at ground level (now that soccer is filmed from far above, the sheer amount of time the ball spends in mid-air is masked from the viewer).

From a spectator excitement point of view, there’s much to be said for filming at ground level from a fixed point with a standard (i.e. not zoom) lens – the experience is more immediate and unpredictable. It wouldn’t work for soccer, although some fixed-point camera work from time to time would be more revealing of formations etc. But it might revive Formula One, which at present, if you go by TV coverage, looks like a rather slow version of Scalectrix.

1 Reply to “Pre-War Rugby League”

  1. I’ve lived in League territory only once (in Queensland). Watching a televised match in an airport lounge in Sydney while waiting for my connection, I did notice that a few of the fans scarcely understood what they were watching. Like most of our football fans, but without their offensive manners.

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