The sport of Balnarr was invented by Irish Celts and Norse Vikings in the late 10th century CE. Although historians record it as a means of settling disputes without bloodshed, the truth is that the sport was easily as deadly as hand to hand combat was in that era – and that its invention was something a little closer to an attempt to find a common language (violence, scoring, and post-game drinking being the three things the Irish and Norse had in common), or at least to get people to stop killing each other long enough to try to talk.
It consisted of attempts to hit a ball (the ‘bal’) into nets made from ship sails, using pieces of wood stripped from shipwrecks (named ‘narrs’ after the ships, which were called knarrs). It was in many ways a predecessor of modern hockey, but lacking the general amicability and peacefulness of that game. Unsurprisingly, it became popular throughout the Celtic and Viking realms, except in Normandy, where the Normans – former Vikings who wanted so very badly to be French – despised it as uncivilised.
After the Norman Conquest of England in 1066, and the following centuries of uniting the British Isles into a single kingdom, it largely died out. Even in Ireland, where the game was born, it was largely abandoned after Cromwell viciously suppressed it (and most other forms of Irish culture). Only a few players remained, contesting in a shadow league that met only at night, well away from the hated Sassenach.
The game was carried to Australia by Irish convicts, who saw in the south-eastern portion of the Mornington Peninsula the perfect place to revive their lost sport. Emboldened by the long distance separating them from England, they even dared to name the area they planned to use for the sport itself.
In the event, Balnarring never resumed as a sport. The Irishmen who planned to revive it were distracted by the lure of easy riches that the gold rush of the 1850s represented, and abandoned their plans in (mostly) fruitless attempts to make fortunes. Only the name remains of their scheme.
Suburbs near Balnarring: