Marn Grook

Marn Grook or marngrook, from the Woiwurung language for "ball" or "game", is a collective name given the traditional Indigenous Australian football game played at gatherings and celebrations of sometimes more than 100 players.

Marn Grook featured punt kicking and catching a stuffed ball. It involved large numbers of players, and games were played over an extremely large area. The game was not played tribe versus tribe. All tribes consisted of two halves (moieties) most often represented by the totemic symbols of Black Cockatoo and White Cockatoo. The tribes would therefore merge and divide themselves into the two teams based on the moiety totems. The game was subject to strict behavioural protocols and for instance all players had to be matched for size, gender and skin group relationship. However, to observers the game appeared to lack a team objective, having no real rules, or scoring. A winner could only be declared if one of the sides agreed that the other side had played better. Individual players who consistently exhibited outstanding skills, such as leaping high over others to catch the ball, were often praised, but proficiency in the sport gave them no tribal influence.[1]

Anecdotal evidence supports such games being played all over Australia, including the Djabwurrung and Jardwadjali[2] people and other tribes in the Wimmera, Mallee and Millewa regions of western Victoria (However, according to some accounts, the range extended to the Wurundjeri in the Yarra Valley, the Gunai people of Gippsland, and the Riverina in south-western New South Wales. The Warlpiri tribe of Central Australia played a very similar kicking and catching game with a possum skin ball, and the game was known as pultja.[3]

The earliest accounts emerged decades after the European settlement of Australia, mostly from the colonial Victorian explorers and settlers. The earliest anecdotal account was in 1841, a decade prior to the Victorian gold rush. Although the consensus among historians is that Marn Grook existed before European arrival, it is not clear how long the game had been played in Victoria or elsewhere on the Australian continent.[4][5][6]

Some historians claim that Marn Grook had a role in the formation of Australian rules football, which originated in Melbourne in 1858 and was codified the following year by members of the Melbourne Football Club.[7] This connection has become culturally important to many Indigenous Australians, including celebrities and professional footballers[8] from communities in which Australian rules football is highly popular.[9]

Marn grook illustration 1857
Australian Aboriginal domestic scene depicting traditional recreation, including one child kicking the ball, with the object and caption being to "never let the ball hit the ground". (From William Blandowski's Australien in 142 Photographischen Abbildungen, 1857, (Haddon Library, Faculty of Archaeology and Anthropology, Cambridge)
Marn grook football
Marn Grook (detail)

Eyewitness accounts

Robert Brough Smyth, in an 1878 book, The Aborigines of Victoria, quoted William Thomas, a Protector of Aborigines in Victoria, who stated that in about 1841 he had witnessed Wurundjeri Aborigines east of Melbourne playing the game.

The men and boys joyfully assemble when this game is to be played. One makes a ball of possum skin, somewhat elastic, but firm and strong. ...The players of this game do not throw the ball as a white man might do, but drop it and at the same time kicks it with his foot, using the instep for that purpose. ...The tallest men have the best chances in this game. ...Some of them will leap as high as five feet from the ground to catch the ball. The person who secures the ball kicks it. ...This continues for hours and the natives never seem to tire of the exercise.[10]

The game was a favourite of the Wurundjeri-william clan and the two teams were sometimes based on the traditional totemic moeties of Bunjil (eagle) and Waang (crow). Robert Brough-Smyth saw the game played at Coranderrk Mission Station, where ngurungaeta (elder) William Barak discouraged the playing of imported games like cricket and encouraged the traditional native game of marn grook.[11]

An 1857 sketch found in 2007 describes an observation by Victorian scientist William Blandowski, of the Latjilatji people playing a football game near Merbein, on his expedition to the junction of the Murray and Darling Rivers.[12] The Australian Sports Commission considers this sketch to be depicting the game of Woggabaliri. The image is inscribed:

A group of children is playing with a ball. The ball is made out of typha roots (roots of the bulrush). It is not thrown or hit with a bat, but is kicked up in the air with a foot. The aim of the game – never let the ball touch the ground.

Historian Greg de Moore comments:

What I can say for certain is that it's the first image of any kind of football that's been discovered in Australia. It pre-dates the first European images of any kind of football, by almost ten years in Australia. Whether or not there is a link between the two games in some way for me is immaterial because it really highlights that games such as Marn Grook, which is one of the names for Aboriginal football, were played by Aborigines and should be celebrated in their own right.

In 1889, anthropologist Alfred Howitt, wrote that the game was played between large groups on a totemic basis — the white cockatoos versus the black cockatoos, for example, which accorded with their skin system. Acclaim and recognition went to the players who could leap or kick the highest. Howitt wrote:

This game of ball-playing was also practised among the Kurnai, the Wolgal (Tumut river people), the Wotjoballuk as well as by the Woiworung, and was probably known to most tribes of south-eastern Australia. The Kurnai made the ball from the scrotum of an "old man kangaroo", the Woiworung made it of tightly rolled up pieces of possum skin. It was called by them "mangurt". In this tribe the two exogamous divisions, Bunjil and Waa, played on opposite sides. The Wotjoballuk also played this game, with Krokitch on one side and Gamutch on the other. The mangurt was sent as a token of friendship from one to another.[13]

Relationship with Australian rules football

Tom Wills (photograph-002)
Australian football pioneer Tom Wills grew up as the only white child among Djab wurrung Aborigines in Western Victoria.
Tom wills monument moyston victoria
Tom Wills monument in Moyston makes a claim to the Marn Grook connection.

Since the 1980s, some commentators, including Martin Flanagan,[4] Jim Poulter and Col Hutchinson postulated that Australian rules football pioneer Tom Wills could have been inspired by Marn Grook.[5]

The theory hinges on evidence which is circumstantial and anecdotal. Tom Wills was raised in Victoria's Western District. As the only white child in the district, it is said that he was fluent in the languages of the Djab wurrung and frequently played with local Aboriginal children on his father's property, Lexington, outside modern day Moyston.[14] This story has been passed down through the generations of his family.[15]

Col Hutchison, former historian for the AFL, wrote in support of the theory postulated by Flanagan, and his account appears on an official AFL memorial to Tom Wills in Moyston erected in 1998.

While playing as a child with Aboriginal children in this area [Moyston] he [Tom Wills] developed a game which he later utilised in the formation of Australian Football.
— As written by Col Hutchison on the plaque at Moyston donated by the Australian Football League in 1998.

Sports historian Gillian Hibbins, who researched the origins of Australian rules football for the Australian Football League's official account of the game's history as part of its 150th anniversary celebrations sternly rejects the theory, stating that while Marn Grook was "definitely" played around Port Fairy and throughout the Melbourne area, there is no evidence that the game was played north of the Grampians or by the Djabwurrung people and the claim that Wills observed and possibly played the game is improbable:[16]

Understandably, the appealing idea that Australian Football is a truly Australian native game recognising the indigenous people, rather than deriving solely from a colonial dependence upon the British background, has been uncritically embraced and accepted. Sadly, this emotional belief lacks any intellectual credibility. Hibbin's account was widely publicised[16] causing significant controversy and offending prominent indigenous footballers who openly criticised the publication.[17] Hibbins' assertion that the game was not played in the area in which Tom Wills grew up has since been disproved.

James Dawson, in his 1881 book titled 'Australian Aborigines', described a game, which he referred to as 'football', where the players of two teams kick around a ball made of possum fur.[18][19]

Each side endeavours to keep possession of the ball, which is tossed a short distance by hand, then kicked in any direction. The side which kicks it oftenest and furthest gains the game. The person who sends it the highest is considered the best player, and has the honour of burying it in the ground till required the next day. The sport is concluded with a shout of applause, and the best player is complimented on his skill. The game, which is somewhat similar to the white man's game of football, is very rough...
— James Dawson in his 1881 book Australian Aborigines.

Dawson also lists in the book's appendix the 'Chaap Wuurong' word for the game as 'Min'gorm'. .[20][21]

Professor Jenny Hocking of Monash University and Nell Reidy have also published eye witness accounts of the game having been played in the area in which Tom Wills grew up. [22]

In his exhaustive research of the first four decades of Australian rules football, historian Mark Pennings "could not find evidence that those who wrote the first rules were influenced by the indigenous game of Marngrook".[23] Melbourne Cricket Club researcher Trevor Ruddell wrote in 2013 that Marn Grook "has no causal link with, nor any documented influence upon, the early development of Australian football."[24]

Chris Hallinan and Barry Judd describe the historical perspective of the history of Australian Rules as Anglo-centric, having been reluctant to acknowledge the indigenous contribution. They go on to suggest this is an example of white Australians struggling to accept indigenous peoples "as active and intelligent human subjects".[25]

If Tom Wills had have said "Hey, we should have a game of our own more like the football the black fellas play" it would have killed it stone dead before it was even born.
— Statement by Jim Poulter During 7.30 Report (22nd May 2008).[26]

Comparisons with Australian rules football

Advocates of these theories have drawn comparisons in the catching of the kicked ball (the mark) and the high jumping to catch the ball (the spectacular mark) that have been attributes of both games.[6] However, the connection is speculative. For instance spectacular high marking did not become common in Australian rules football until the 1880s.

Marn Grook and the Australian rules football term "mark"

Some claim that the origin of the Australian rules term mark, meaning a clean, fair catch of a kicked ball, followed by a free kick, is derived from the Aboriginal word mumarki used in Marn Grook, and meaning "to catch".[27][28] However, the term "mark" has been used for a catch in both rugby football (the first recorded rule of Rugby football was the "fair catch" or mark rule to protect players) and early Association football in Britain since the 1830s—)—so the claim is almost certainly a false etymology. The term is still used worldwide in Rugby Union in reference to a fair catch by a player who calls "mark" when catching a ball inside their team's 22 metre line. The application of the word "mark" in "foot-ball" (and in many other games) dates to the Elizabethan era and is likely derived from the practice where a player marks the ground to show where a catch had been taken or where the ball should be placed.[29] The use of the word "mark" to indicate an "impression or trace forming a sign" on the ground dates to c1200.[30]

In popular culture

Due to the theories of shared origins, marn grook features heavily in Australian rules football and Indigenous culture.

A documentary titled Marn Grook was first released in 1996.[31]

In 2002, in a game at Stadium Australia, the Sydney Swans and Essendon Football Club began to compete for the Marngrook Trophy, awarded after home-and-away matches each year between the two teams in the Australian Football League. Though it commemorates marn grook, the match is played under normal rules of the AFL, rather than the traditional Aboriginal game.[32]

Marn Grook is the subject of children's books including Neridah McMullin's Kick it to Me! (2012), an account of Tom Wills' upbringing, and Marngrook: The Long Ago Story of Aussie Rules (2012) by Indigenous writer Titta Secombe.

The Marngrook Footy Show, an indigenous variation of the AFL Footy Show, began in Melbourne in 2007 and has since been broadcast on National Indigenous Television, ABC 2 and Channel 31.

See also


  1. ^ The Sports Factor, ABC Radio National, program first broadcast on 5 September 2008.
  2. ^ Aboriginal Heritage - History and Heritage - Grampians, Victoria, Australia, archived from the original on 22 April 2011, retrieved 5 January 2011
  3. ^ "Aboriginal Rules". 2007 video documentary by the Walpiri Media Association
  4. ^ a b Martin Flanagan, The Call. St. Leonards, Allen & Unwin, 1998, p. 8 Martin Flanagan, 'Sport and Culture'
  5. ^ a b Gregory M de Moore. Victoria University. from Football Fever. Crossing Boundaries. Maribyrnong Press, 2005
  6. ^ a b David Thompson, "Aborigines were playing possum", Herald Sun, 27 September 2007. Accessed 3 November 2008
  7. ^ "A code of our own" celebrating 150 years of the rules of Australian football The Yorker: Journal of the Melbourne Cricket Club Library Issue 39, Autumn 2009
  8. ^ Morrissey, Tim (15 May 2008). "Goodes racist, says AFL historian". Herald Sun.
  9. ^ AFL turning Indigenous dreamtime to big time - ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)
  10. ^ Robert Brough-Smyth The Aborigines of Victoria 1878 Pg.176
  11. ^ Isabel Ellender and Peter Christiansen, pp45 People of the Merri Merri. The Wurundjeri in Colonial Days, Merri Creek Management Committee, 2001 ISBN 0-9577728-0-7
  12. ^ Kids play kick to kick −1850s style from
  13. ^ AW Howitt, "Notes on Australian Message Sticks and Messengers", Journal of the Anthropological Institute, London, 1889, p 2, note 4, Reprinted by Ngarak Press, 1998, ISBN 1-875254-25-0
  14. ^ Minister opens show exhibition celebrating Aussie Rules' Koorie Heritage Archived 8 June 2008 at the Wayback Machine, Government Media Release accessed 4 June 2007
  15. ^ AFL News | Real Footy
  16. ^ a b AFL's native roots a 'seductive myth' The Australian 22 March 2008
  17. ^ Goodes racist, says AFL historian
  18. ^ James Dawson (1881). Australian Aborigines: The Languages and Customs of Several Tribes of Aborigines in the Western District of Victoria, Australia. Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies. p. 85. ISBN 978-0-85575-118-0.
  19. ^ Dawson, James (1881). "Australian Aborigines". Retrieved 5 March 2019.
  20. ^ James Dawson (1881). Australian Aborigines: The Languages and Customs of Several Tribes of Aborigines in the Western District of Victoria, Australia. Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies. p. xv. ISBN 978-0-85575-118-0.
  21. ^ Dawson, James (1980). "Australian Aborigines". Retrieved 5 March 2019.
  22. ^ Hocking, Jenny; Nell, Reidy (2016). "Marngrook, Tom Wills and the Continuing Denial of Indigenous History: On the origins of Australian football". Meanjin. Meanjin Company Ltd. 75 (2): 83–93.
  23. ^ Cardosi, Adam (18 October 2013). "Origins of Australian Football", Australian Football. Retrieved 30 December 2013.
  24. ^ Ruddell, Trevor (19 December 2013). "Pompey Austin - Aboriginal football pioneer", Australian Football. Retrieved 30 December 2013.
  25. ^ Duelling paradigms: Australian Aborigines, marn-grook and football histories Hallinan, Chris ; Judd, Barry Sport in Society, 2012, p.1-12
  26. ^ Debate over AFL origins continues: The AFL is celebrating its 150th season and this weekend the event will be marked by an indigenous round with a special match between Essendon and Richmond called "Dreamtime at the G". But the celebrations have reignited a long running debate over the sport's origins. [online]. 7.30 Report (ABC1); Time: 19:42; Broadcast Date: Thursday, 22nd May 2008; Duration: 5 min., 18 sec.
  27. ^ Early History
  28. ^ Aboriginal Football – Marn Grook Archived 12 May 2006 at the Wayback Machine
  29. ^ Joseph Strutt The sports and pastimes of the people of England from the earliest period. Harvard University 1801
  30. ^ Online Etymology Dictionary
  31. ^ Marn Grook (1996) (VHS. Classification: G. Runtime: 45 min. Produced In: Australia. Produced by: CAAMA (Central Australian Aboriginal Media Association), based in Alice Springs (NT). Directed By: Steve McGregor. Language: English.)
  32. ^ Richard Hinds, Marn Grook, a native game on Sydney's biggest stage, The Age, 2 March 1991. Accessed 9 November 2008

External links

AFL Coaches Association

The AFL Coaches Association (AFLCA) is the representative body for Australian Football League coaches.

AFL Players Association awards

The AFL Players Association awards are a group of awards given annually to players in the Australian Football League, voted for by all AFL players.

AFL Umpires Association

The AFL Umpires Association (AFLUA) is the representative body for Australian Football League umpires.

Aaron Davey

Aaron Davey (born 10 June 1983) is a professional Australian rules football player of Indigenous Australian heritage. He played for the Melbourne Football Club in the Australian Football League (AFL) until he retired from the club at the end of the 2013 season.Davey finished runner-up to the AFL Rising Star in 2004. He is one of few successful top-level footballers to have been elevated from the rookie list. Davey's representative honours include twice playing for Australia against Ireland in 2005 and 2006.

Davey was a cult figure at the Melbourne Football Club and a highly popular player with young Demons fans. Davey's achievements at Melbourne include a Best and Fairest for an outstanding 2009 season. Davey is also a recognised leader of Melbourne's young indigenous group of players.

Australian Aboriginal culture

Australian Aboriginal culture includes a number of practices and ceremonies centered on a belief in the Dreamtime. Reverence for the land and oral traditions are emphasized. Language groupings and tribal divisions exhibit a range of individual cultures. Australian Aboriginal art has existed for thousands of years and ranges from ancient rock art to modern watercolor landscapes. Aboriginal music has developed a number of unique instruments. Contemporary Australian aboriginal music is predominantly of the country music genres. Indigenous Australians did not develop a system of writing.

Comparison of Gaelic football and Australian rules football

The comparison between Australian rules football and Gaelic football is the subject of controversy among historians. The question of whether the two codes of football, from Australia and Ireland respectively, have shared origins arises due to similar styles of play in both games.

Both Irish and Irish Australian historians, including Patrick O'Farrell, Marcus De Búrca, Chris McConville, B. W. O'Dwyer and Richard Davis, have supported the theory that the two games have some common origins. Other Australian historians, including Geoffrey Blainey, Leonie Sandercock and Ian Turner, have rejected any such connection, emphasising instead the influence of rugby football and other games emanating from English public schools. Some sources also suggest that the Australian Aboriginal game of Marn Grook was an influence on Australian rules football.

In 1967, following approaches from Australian rules authorities, there was a series of games between an Irish representative team and an Australian team, under various sets of hybrid, compromise rules. In 1984, the first official representative matches of International rules football were played, and the Ireland international rules football team now plays the Australian team annually each October. Since the 1980s, some Gaelic players, such as Jim Stynes and Tadhg Kennelly, have been recruited by the professional Australian Football League (AFL) clubs and have had lengthy careers with them.

Aside from game-play, a social difference between the codes is that Gaelic football is strictly amateur, whereas Australian football offers professional (Australian Football League) and semi-professional (VFL, SANFL, WAFL, etc.) levels of competition, providing a strong financial lure for Irish players to switch to Australian football.

Djab wurrung

The Djab wurrung, also Tjapwurrung, people are Indigenous Australians who occupy the volcanic plains of central Victoria from the Mount William Range of Gariwerd in the west to the Pyrenees range in the east encompassing the Wimmera River flowing north and the headwaters of the Hopkins River flowing south. The towns of Ararat, Stawell and Hamilton are within their territory. There were 41 Djab wurrung clans who formed an alliance with the neighboring Jardwadjali people through intermarriage, shared culture, trade and moiety system.

Lelo burti

Lelo or lelo burti (Georgian: ლელო ბურთი), literally a "field ball [playing]", is a Georgian folk sport, which is a full contact ball game, and very similar to rugby. Within Georgian rugby union terminology, the word lelo is used to mean a try, and the popularity of rugby union in Georgia has also been attributed to it. In 2014, lelo burti, along with khridoli, a traditional martial art, was inscribed by the government of Georgia as a "nonmaterial monument" of culture.It appears in the 12th century Georgian epic poem The Knight in the Panther's Skin in which the characters play lelo burti.

List of English words of Australian Aboriginal origin

These words of Australian Aboriginal origin include some that are used frequently within Australian-English, such as kangaroo and boomerang. Many such words have also become loaned words in other languages beyond English, while some are restricted to Australian English.

List of North Melbourne Football Club individual awards and records

This is a list of individual awards achieved by the North Melbourne Football Club since its foundation in 1869.

List of individual match awards in the Australian Football League

In the Australian Football League, many teams contest trophies or individual awards on an annual or regular basis in individual premiership matches during the home-and-away season. Many of these awards honour a legend or legends of the competing clubs, or are used as part of events to support a charitable cause.

This list covers recurring trophies or awards in home-and-away matches of the AFL season. Not included are once-off awards, or awards presented in representative or finals matches.

Mark (Australian rules football)

A mark is a skill in Australian rules football where a player cleanly catches (is deemed to have controlled the ball for sufficient time or touched the ball in flight 3 or more times) a kicked ball that has travelled more than 15 metres without anyone else touching it (prior to the player marking the ball) or the ball hitting the ground.

Although catching the ball is also found in other codes of football, along with kicking the ball, it is one of the most prevalent skills in Australian football. Marking can also be one of the most spectacular and distinctive aspects of the game, and the best mark of the AFL season is awarded with the Mark of the Year, with similar competitions running across smaller leagues.

The top markers in the Australian Football League, like Jason Dunstall and Jonathan Brown took an average of over eight marks per game. An AFL match between St Kilda and Port Adelaide in 2006 set a record of 303 marks in a single game.

Moyston, Victoria

Moyston is a town in the Western District region of Victoria, Australia, near the Grampians mountain range. The town is located in the Rural City of Ararat local government area, 224 kilometres (139 mi) north west of the state capital, Melbourne. At the 2016 census, Moyston and the surrounding area had a population of 348.Moyston is the self-proclaimed "Birthplace of Australian Football", based on its connection to the sport's founder, Tom Wills, who grew up in the area in the 1840s, and, according to some, played Marn Grook with the Indigenous people of the area.

National Indigenous Council

The National Indigenous Council (NIC) was an appointed advisory body to the Australian Government through the Minister's for Indigenous Affairs Taskforce on Indigenous Affairs (MTIA) established in November 2004 and chaired by Sue Gordon, a Western Australian magistrate. It first met in December 2004 and wound up in early 2008.

Terms of reference of the council were to provide expert advice to government on improving outcomes for indigenous Australians.

Origins of Australian rules football

The origins of Australian rules football date back to the late 1850s in Melbourne, the capital city of Victoria.

There is documentary evidence of "foot-ball" being played in Australia as early as the 1820s. These games were poorly documented but appear to have been informal, one-off affairs. In 1858, cricketers, sports' enthusiasts and school students began to regularly play variants of English public school football in the parklands of Melbourne. The following year, four members of the newly-formed Melbourne Football Club codified the laws from which Australian rules football evolved.

Professional historians began taking a serious interest in the origins of Australian rules football in the late 1970s, and the first academic study of the sport's origins was published in 1982. Since then, empirical research has debunked various origin myths, including the view that Australian rules football is derived from the Irish sport of Gaelic football. Since the 1980s, it has also been claimed that indigenous football games, collectively known as Marngrook, may have influenced early Australian rules football. This claim is largely based on circumstantial evidence that Tom Wills, one of the game's pioneers, gained exposure to Marngrook while growing up amongst Aborigines in the Victorian bush. The proposed Marngrook link is still hotly debated amongst historians.


Woggabaliri is a traditional Indigenous Australian "co-operative kicking volley game" similar to the games of keepie uppie and footbag.The Aborigines in areas of and near New South Wales played a ball game called Woggabaliri. The ball was usually made of possum fur, and was played in a group of four to six players in circle. It was a co-operative kicking game to see for how long the ball can be kept in the air before it touches the ground.


The Woiwurrung are indigenous descendants of the people of the Indigenous Australian nation of the Woiwurrung language group, in the Kulin alliance.

The Woiwurrung people's territory in Central Victoria extended from north of the Great Dividing Range, east to Mount Baw Baw, south to Mordialloc Creek and to Mount Macedon, Sunbury and Gisborne in the west. Their lands bordered the Gunai/Kurnai people to the east in Gippsland, the Bunurong people to the south on the Mornington Peninsula, and the Dja Dja Wurrung and Taungurong to the north.

Before European settlement, they lived predominantly as aquaculturists, swidden agriculturists (growing grasslands by fire-stick farming to create fenceless herbivore grazing, garden-farming murnong yam roots and various tuber lilies as major forms of starch and carbohydrates), and hunters and gatherers. Seasonal changes in the weather, availability of foods and other factors would determine where campsites were located, many near the Birrarung and its tributaries.

Each of the various Woiwurrung tribes had its own distinct territory and boundary usually determined by waterways. The clans included:

The Wurrundjeri-Willam, who occupied the Yarra River and its tributaries and inhabited the area now covered by the city of Melbourne. Referred to initially by Europeans as the Yarra tribe.

The Marin-Bulluk

The Kurung Jang Balluk

The Wurundjeri Balluk

The Balluk Willam

The Gunung Willam Balluk

The Talling WillamThe term Wurundjeri has become one of the common terms used today for descendants of all the Woiwurrung tribes, as they were forced together for the survival of their ethnic group. Their totems are Bunjil the eagle and Waa the crow.

The Jindyworobak Movement claimed to have taken their name from a Woiwurrung phrase jindi worobak meaning to annex or join.

Woiwurrung language

Woiwurrung (sometimes spelt Woiwurrong, Woiworung, Wuywurung) is an Indigenous Australian language of the Kulin Nation people from the Yarra River (Birrarung) basin in Victoria. The language remains, but is not widely known or spoken due to the impact of colonisation.

Yubi lakpi

Yubi lakpi is a seven-a-side traditional football game played in Manipur, India, using a coconut, which has some notable similarities to rugby. Despite these similarities, the name is not related to the game of rugby or Rugby School in England, it is in fact of Meitei origin, and means literally "coconut snatching". Emma Levine, an English writer on little known Asian sports, speculates:

"Perhaps this was the root of modern rugby? Most Manipuris are quite adamant that the modern world 'stole' the idea from them and made it into rugby... this game, which has been around for centuries, is so similar to rugby, which evolved a great deal later, that it must be more than a coincidence."However, traditional football games can be found in many parts of the world, e.g. marn grook in Australia, cuju in China and calcio Fiorentino in Italy and Levine provides no documentary or material evidence of its antiquity.

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