The origins of modern hockey have not been officially recorded in any detail, as a result we can only make assumptions as to the roots of the game.
Hockey is believed to date from the earliest civilisations, and is possibly one of the oldest sports in the world. As far back as 500BC, pictorial illustrations have been found depicting different variations of stick and ball games in many parts of the world. The Arabs, Greeks, Persians and Romans each had their own versions of the game, as did the Aztec Indians of South America. It is also possible that hockey has its origins in the national game of Ireland - hurling.
It is unknown how the word hockey was derived, but the most likely explanation is that it came from the French word "hoquet" meaning a shepherds crook. The English may have adopted the word, anglicised the spelling and pronunciation to hockey.
The birth of hockey as we know it today took place at the Teddington Cricket Club, where a more sophisticated game of hockey was being developed. It was through discussions at this club that decisions to include dribbling, passing, no use of the hand to stop the ball, goal scoring only from inside the goal circle and restricting the stick to shoulder height on follow through were reached.
With experience, the rules of the game were revised and altered. In 1889 the pyramid system of using 5 forwards, 3 half backs, 2 full backs and 1 goalkeeper evolved. This system is the most commonly used in hockey today.
Hockey at the Olympics
Men's hockey was first played in the modern Olympic Games in London 1908. Host nation England won the tournament from Ireland.
Hockey was not included in the 1912 Olympic Games due to insufficient support, but it was included on the roster in 1920 where England was awarded the gold medal. Hockey was not included in the 1924 Olympics, but it was reinstated for the 1928 Games in Amsterdam and has remained ever since.
Women's hockey first appeared on the Olympic program at the Moscow Games in 1980. The boycotts of the Moscow Games by various countries did not lend itself to a smooth start for women's hockey as an Olympic sport. Australia first participated in the women's hockey competition in 1984. The format of the women's tournament has changed several times over the years, the most recent being an 8-team format in 1996 and to be a 10 team competition in Sydney 2000 and 12 teams in 2004. The men's competition comprises 12 teams.
Hockey in Australia
The British Army has been credited with the spread of hockey throughout the world, but in the case of Australia, the British Navy deserves the honours. In the late 1800's, Australia did not have a naval fleet of her own, and relied upon the Royal Army for the security of her coastline. The British Naval officers stationed in Australia taught the locals the game of hockey, and laid the foundations of a sport which Australian's have mastered, and developed a style of their own.
Records do not show where or when the first game of hockey was played in Australia. It has been suggested though, that as South Australia was the first state to form an association, that the first game took place in that state. The South Australian Hockey Association was formed in 1903.
In 1906, Victoria, and New South Wales formed their own state associations. Men's clubs sprang up in both Melbourne and Sydney, and hockey became an established sport in Australia.
Hockey was played in Western Australia as early as 1902, but the West Australian Hockey Association was not formed until 1908. Queensland was a late starter not forming a governing body until the late 1920's.
Australian governing body
The need for an Australian Hockey Association was identified as early as 1912, but it did not come into being until 1925. The first sitting of the AHA Council took place in Sydney on 8 May 1925 at which Queensland, New South Wales, and Victoria were represented.
The first Annual General Meeting of the Australian Hockey Association was held on 29 June 1925. The minutes of that meeting noted that there were 54 teams playing hockey in Australia in 1925. New South Wales had the largest hockey playing community with 18 teams, Victoria 17, Queensland 15 and South Australia 4.
Australia became a member of the International Hockey Federation (FIH) in the same year. As the number of Australian's playing hockey grew, so too did the Australian Hockey Association. The founding members of NSW, Victoria, and Queensland were joined by South Australia later in 1925, WA in 1927, Tasmania in 1934, the ACT in 1972, and the NT in 1979 (full member).
The Australian Men's Hockey team is recorded as playing their first international game against New Zealand in 1922. New Zealand provided the only source of international competition until 1925 when the world leading Indian team visited Australia for the first time.
India returned to Australia in 1926, en route to New Zealand. The Australian team was severely outclassed by the powerful Indian team which went on to win the Olympic gold medal in Berlin in 1936. In order to become a more competitive force in international hockey, Australia decided to change and adopt elements of the Indian game, and develop a unique Australian version of hockey.
Australian hockey today
In 2009, Hockey Australia comprises of eight member states and territories, and numbers approximately 100,000 male participants throughout the country. Hockey is played by all ages, starting with Hook in2 Hockey for primary school children, progressing to half-field hockey, junior hockey, and the full game, which can be played through to veterans years.
The Australian Hockey League (AHL) season is played during late summer, in the months February through to April. Australia has hosted numerous major international hockey tournaments in recent years including the Champions Trophy Tournament in Perth in 1985, Melbourne in 1990, Adelaide 1997 and Brisbane in 1999, the World Cup in Sydney in 1994, the 2000 Olympic Hockey Tournament, the 2006 Commonwealth Games and in 2009 Sydney will host the Women's Champions Trophy and Melbourne will host the Men's.