written by Sean Fagan


The long-forgotten badge of the first Wallabies jersey endures on cricket’s ‘baggy green’ cap.

As any keen observer of Australian cricket will point out, the badge used on the front of the Aussie team’s cap is not the Australian coat-of-arms, but something unique.

So what is the connection between the Wallabies and the Aussie XI?

Australia’s first appearance on the Rugby field was in four home Tests held in 1899 against the British Lions.

Just 18 months before the colonies joined into a federation to form the nation ‘Australia’, for many it was a time of great patriotic enthusiasm.

The common shout as a sharp rejoinder to “Rule Britannia!”, was “Advance Australia!”.

The NSWRU negotiated the 1899 Lions tour arrangements, and with the QRU planned one of the four test matches in Brisbane.

Seemingly as an afterthought, in late May 1899 the QRU wrote to the NSWRU concerning the colour of the jersey ‘combined Australia’ was going to wear against the Lions (who had a red, white and blue hooped jersey).

It appears that the QRU proposed that the ‘home colour’ be used for the Test match in their colony’s capital city (the same as Australian cricket teams did in the 1890s with their caps and blazers).

The NSWRU’s minutes record: “It was agreed that the colors of the Colony in which the match is to be played be adopted with the substitution of the Arms of Australia as a distinctive badge instead of the Colony” i.e. sky blue in Sydney, deep red/maroon in Brisbane.

Baines (England) football card of early 1900s.

Though an Australian Coat of Arms was not conferred until well after 1901’s federation (in 1908 and revised in 1912), in the 1890s unofficial ‘Arms of Australia’ were in popular and commercial use.

The most commonly seen design was not dissimilar to what we know today as the official version, with a kangaroo and emu surmounting a shield.

In a reverse though the ‘arms’ badge on the 1899 Australian Rugby team’s jersey had the emu on the left and kangaroo on the right.

Within the shield’s four quarters (defined by a cross with stars) were placed a full-rigged sailing ship, a golden fleece (‘hanging sheep’), a wheatsheaf, and a pick and shovel crossed over.

At the top of the design was a rising/setting sun, and at the base underneath a scroll with ‘Advance Australia’.

First Australian Rugby team jersey in 1899 - sky blue with 'Advance Australia Arms' badge
First Australian Rugby team jersey in 1899 – sky blue with ‘Advance Australia Arms’ badge
1899 Australian team in Brisbane - maroon jersey, 'Advance Australia Arms' badge
1899 Australian team in Brisbane – maroon jersey, ‘Advance Australia Arms’ badge

The 1899 series was the only time in the first decades of Wallabies history that an Australian coat-of-arms was used on the jersey.

A few months after the 1899 series against the Lions the same badge appeared on the Australian cricket team’s newly introduced green caps.

In 1912 cricket officials changed the design by swapping the emu and kangaroo over, and later ‘Advance’ was clipped from the scroll.

While this is the same as the official coat-of-arms, the four-quartered shield and rising sun on the ‘baggy green’ are those from the original design of 1899 and the first Wallabies jersey. 

baggy-greenOther variations on the theme can still also be found today on state flags as well as on the trademarks and remaining buildings of 19th century businesses or government departments.

The official coat-of-arms made its debut on a Wallabies jersey in 1929, when the first ‘all Australian’ team was selected following the revival of Rugby in Queensland and Victoria.

The ‘baggy green’ design has become iconic, and is unlikely to ever be changed.

© Sean Fagan

Advance Australia Arms, Bank of NSW building, Sydney
Advance Australia Arms, Bank of NSW building, Sydney