The official opening was conducted by Sir Thomas Gibson-Carmichael, the Governor of Victoria, at 3:00 pm on Wednesday 19 August 1908, in the interval between the first and second matches of the carnival (the first match started at 1:15 pm, the second at 3:30 pm). The crowd of 7,000+ was in an excited mood: in the first match, New Zealand had come back from a 26-point half-time deficit to win by a single point.
The seven participating teams, with each player in their team uniforms, lined up and formed a hollow square.
The official party, the Governor of Victoria, accompanied by his private secretary, Victor Albert Nelson Hood (1862–1929), Sir Thomas Bent, Premier of Victoria, H. C. A. Harrison, Australian Rules administrative pioneer (then 71 years old), Mr. Cornelius Michael "Con" Hickey (1866-1937), Fitzroy footballer in the (VFA 1887-1894), secretary of the Fitzroy Football Club (1893-1910), foundation member and first treasurer of the Victorian Football League, and the inaugural president of the Australian National Football Council (formed in 1906), Mr. E.L. "Ernie" Wilson, the first secretary of the Collingwood Football Club in the VFL, and secretary of the VFL from 1897-1929, and Mr. Albert E. Nash, president of the New South Wales Australian Football League, were each introduced to the captain of each team and shook hands.
The ceremony was notable for the performance of "war cries" by both the New Zealand and Queensland teams; and, in the opinion of "Old Boy", despite not performing well on the football field, the Queensland "war cry" was the best of the two, in that its effort was "dramatic, descriptive, and interesting". Although it is not clear (as it was in the newspaper accounts of the New Zealand team on other occasions) from any of the contemporary reports of the day's proceedings whether, on this occasion, the New Zealand "war cry" was specifically a haka or not, "Follower's" report in "The Age" strongly suggests that to be the case: "a feature of the [Governor's] inspection … was the Maori war cry, given with great zest by the New Zealand team, and equally stirring was the aboriginal battle cry of the Queenslanders".
The second match, played immediately after the opening ceremony, was nowhere near as exciting: Tasmania beat Queensland by 140 points.
The New South Wales team included Conlin, Scott, Bob Rahilly, Hunter, G. Colley, E. Gluyas, and Algy Millhouse from the Barrier, and G. Thomas, Maxfield, McConechy, Ralph Robertson, T. Vanman, C. Murray, J. Delaney, H.Welsh, A. Bartnell, J. O'Leary, C. Shipton, and F. Carrick from Sydney; Watson from Hay, O'Keefe from Narrandera, plus Greer and W. Hanes/Haines (locations unknown). During the carnival, the New South Wales team trained at the St Kilda Cricket Ground.
Former Collingwood player Tom Wright, who would be killed in action in France in 1916, was the captain of New Zealand. The selected team was: E. George, F.A. Lording, W. Monteith, J.G. Marshall, Tongue, H. Fletcher, J.J. Abfalter (Auckland), P.H. Elvidge, S.G. Darby, A. Swann (Waihi), M. Bonas, D. Patrick, E. Furness, A. McGrath, L.L. Paull (Wellington), G.P. Dempster, H.L. West, Wright, H. Wilkinson, A. Porter, A. Fisher. Paisley, F. Ross (Christchurch), with emergencies, Burns, Welch, and L.A. Breese from Auckland, and Grant, and T. Smith. During the carnival, the New Zealand team trained at the Richmond Cricket Ground and was coached by Richmond's Dick Condon.
This was the only time in the history of Australian rules "interstate" football matches that a team from New Zealand participated. It was anticipated that, immediately following the carnival, and before returning to New Zealand, the New Zealand team would play matches in Adelaide, Ballarat, Bendigo, Geelong, Sydney, Brisbane, and Newcastle.
The New Zealand team played a match, in Adelaide, on 1 September 1908 (Eight Hours Day), before the Governor, George Le Hunte, on a very wet ground (in several places the water was inches deep). South Australia won the match 5.8 (38) to 3.10 (28). The match was not as one-sided as the final scores indicate: the score at quarter time was South Australia 4.5 (29) to New Zealand 0.1 (1). In the process of the day, the New Zealand team performed two hakas, one before the match commenced, the other before the second half began.
All in all, the New Zealand team won six out of the eleven matches they played on their tour, including the carnival matches against New South Wales and Queensland, and were described in the Melbourne press as "the surprise packet"; and, due to the fact that only two of their matches were played on dry grounds, they also became known as the "wet weather birds".
The selected team was: J. Hay, M.S. "Merce" Hicks, E. Miller, A. M'Gregor and T. Morris (City), V. "Vic" Lowndes, M. O'Dwyer, J. Greenwood, and Jack Keir (Locomotives), W. MacDonald, G. Paget, H. Heidemann, and J. M'Cormack (Ipswich), L. Perkins, and H. Parker (Valley), L. Kelly, A. "Jack" Bolton, and H. Hopkins (Wynnum), Ralph McKellar (captain), H. Coates, and A. Atkinson (Brisbane), and Lieutenant B. Watts (Thursday island). Emergencies: M. Cooper (Valley), A. Tipper (City), J. Hickey (West Moreton), and E. "Ernie" Watson (Ipswich). It seems that B. "Bas" Bolton was a later addition to the team. During the carnival, the Queensland team was coached by Jack Worrall, and trained at the Carlton Cricket Ground.
The selected team was; C.G. Gwynne, Ernie Johns, Jack Tredrea, Jack Chamberlain, Richard Townsend, S. Dickson, Alfred Roy Le Messurier, E. Beare, A.C. Bennett, O.H. Hyman. H.W.D. Stoddart, C. Adcock, T. McKenzie. A. Ewers, A.E. Hewitt, Stewart Geddes (vice captain), George Wallace, Jack Mack, Tom Leahy, James Tierney, John Albert "Alby" Bahr (captain), Jack Woollard. During the carnival, the South Australian team trained at the East Melbourne Cricket Ground.
The South Australian team that was defeated by Victoria 10.15 (75) to 2.14 (26) on 26 August 1908 was: Back, Ewers, Hyman, and Woollard; half-back, Stoddart, Beare, and McKenzie; centre, Hewitt, Tredrea, and Bennett; half-forward, Bahr, Townsend, and Chamberlain; forward, Dickson, Johns, and Gwynne; ruck, Tierney and Leahy; rover, Wallace.
The captain of Tasmania was Bruce Carter. The squad originally selected was: from the South: R. Bailey (half back), P. Orpwood (back),Walter Burrell(following and back), L. Bridges (wing), W. Arnold (centre), C. Ward (centre and half-back), E. RusseIl (wing), W. Lee (forward and rover), T. Abel (follower), C. Webb (follower and back), W. Forster (rover and half-forward); from the North: A. Tynan (full back), Badcock (half-back), Ride (back), Thomson (back), C. Searl (wing), H. Woolley (half-back and follower), Joe Littler (forward), Viv Valentine (forward); from North-West Coast: B. Carter (centre), Rutter (follower), Mahoney (follower); from West Coast: Trotter (centre and forward), George McLeod (forward and follower). Emergencies: Appleby (North-West), first back and follower; Albert Pannam (North West), first forward and second follower; Norman (North), rover and third forward; Tucker (South) second back and wing; Filgate (North-West), full back and wing. During the carnival, the Tasmanian team trained at the South Melbourne Cricket Ground.
The Victorian team that defeated South Australia 10.15 (75) to 2.14 (26) on 26 August 1908 was: Back, Joe Pearce, Robert Nash, and Phonse Wood; half-back, Hugh Purse, Bill Busbridge, and Bill Luff; centre, Barclay Bailes, Rod McGregor, and George Bruce; half-forward, Paddy Shea, Dave McNamara, and Harvey Kelly; forward, Wally Johnson, Dick Lee, and Henry Young; ruck, Herbert Milne and Bert Franks; rover, Alick Ogilvie.
Before the first match was played, it was noted that six of the possible "Victorian" players, Barclay Bailes, Bert Franks, Bill Goddard, Harvey Kelly, Paddy Shea, and Phonse Wood had all played their first senior football in Western Australia.
The selected team was: from metropolitan district: Jim Everett, Glenn, Leonard Edwards, James Doig, Harry Sharpe, Thomas McNamara, Sam Gravenall, Wyatt, Henry Thompson, Francis Dunn, Dick Sweetman, Billy Orr; from goldfields: William Trewhella, Phil Matson, William "Nipper" Truscott, Alex Robinson, Walter Smith, George Tyson, William Cook, George Renwick, William Metheral, J. "Snob" Polglaise, Charles Tyson, Joe O'Dea. During the carnival, the Western Australian team trained at the Fitzroy Cricket Ground.
In competition, the teams' uniforms were:New South Wales:Royal blue with a red waratah on breast; white knickers; royal blue hose.
New Zealand: All black with gold fern leaf; black knickers; black hose,
Queensland: Dark maroon with white 'Q' monogram; white knickers; maroon hose with white tops.
South Australia: Turquoise with brown band; white knickers; turquoise blue hose.
Tasmania: Green, rose and primrose braces, map of Tasmania on breast with football in centre; white knickers; green hose.
Victoria: Dark blue with white letter 'V' ; white hose; dark blue hose.
Western Australia: Dark green jersey with gold swan on breast; white knickers; dark green hose with white tops.
When not playing, the members of each team wore plain straw hats that clearly displayed their team's distinctive colours on their hat-bands:New South Wales: Light royal blue band, displaying a red waratah emblem.
New Zealand: Black band, displaying a gold fern leaf emblem.
Queensland: Dark maroon band, displaying a white letter "Q".
South Australia: Brown with turquoise band, displaying a football with the letters "S.A.".
Tasmania: Myrtle green band, displaying a small map of Tasmania in primrose, with a rose football in the centre;
Victoria: Oxford blue band, displaying a white letter 'V'.
Western Australia: dark green band, displaying a gold swan.
The program for the carnival was arranged as follows:The seven teams were broken up into two sections:
The stronger Section A comprised Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia
The weaker Section B comprised Tasmania, New South Wales, New Zealand and Queensland
Ten preliminary matches were played. These games were:
A full round-robin amongst the four section B teams
Two matches within Section A: South Australia vs Western Australia; and Victoria vs the loser of the first game
Two matches between a Section A team and a Section B team: Victoria vs New Zealand; and New South Wales vs the winner of the South Australia vs Western Australia game
From there, finals were played:
The third placed team from Section A played the first placed team from Section B for third and fourth place
The first placed team from Section A played the second placed team from Section A for first and second place
If two undefeated teams remained, a Grand Final was to be played between them to decide the championship
All of the matches were played at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.
Because Tasmania was beaten by South Australia, Victoria was the only remaining undefeated team. Therefore, it was crowned the champions without the need for a Grand Final.
Victoria: Shea, Pearce, Busbridge, Luff, McGregor, Bailes, McNamara
Western Australia: Gravenall, Dunne, Matson, Metherell, Orr, Truscott
South Australia: Tredrea, Tierney, Le Mesurier, Gwynne, Chamberlain, Townsend
Tasmania: Lee, Mahoney, Bridges, Webb, Littler, Arnold
New Zealand: Darby, Elvidge, Wilkins, Wright, George
New South Wales: Colley, Robertson, Rahilly, Gluyas, Maxfield
Queensland: Coates, Watts, Kelly, Paget, Hicks