– Visit by AFLNSWACT

On Tuesday this week two high level employees from the AFLNSWACT made a visit to the History Society offices at Croydon Park; they were Simon Wilson, Regional Manager, Sydney Harbour and Illawarra and Jonathan Drennan, State Manager, Media & Communications.

Both spoke at length about recent developments and changes with the league and the goals the organisation has within the foreseeable future.  The duo also showed a great deal of interest in the operation of the Society and were at pains to demonstrate their appreciation and admiration they and the staff at the league has for the work the History Society have undertaken.

Jonathan told those on the committee who were in attendance that the work the Society undertakes in the recording of history of the game in NSW is more than likely unique in Australia.  He also said other major sports were beginning to realise the importance of their history with a number establishing fulltime archival departments within their organisations.

Simon confirmed that a memorandum of understanding between the league and the society will be drawn up so that the relationship and responsibilities are more easily identified and lines of communication firmly established.

Image shows from left: Jonothan Drennan, Society President, Ian Granland and Simon Wilson

– Player availability at the 1947 Carnival

In past days, the Australian National Football Council (ANFC) the peak body for the game in Australia, since absorbed by the AFL, conducted regular interstate carnivals where states played against other states in a round robin situation.  Since WWII, because of the obvious disparity in standard, these carnivals were comprised of two divisions. They do not hold these type of events any more.

In 1947 Hobart hosted the first carnival following the war, the overall attendance and gate was marginally larger than the 1924 carnival, also held at Hobart (see image).

Carnivals of this nature are a testing time for players.  The 1947 event was conducted over 10 days (including rest days) which is a fair commitment for all the players and officials who also at that time had to hold down a job, so it meant taking holidays.

New South Wales played four games:

  1.   defeated Canberra (as the nation’s capital team was then known, now ACT) 18-22 (130) to 7-8 (50)
  2.   lost to Tasmania in what was described as a fantastic match 16-10 (106) to 13-18 (96)
  3.   lost to South Australia 17-9 (111) to 5-10 (40)
  4.   defeated Queensland 14-16 (100) to 5-12 (42)

The major issue of the carnival was the weather.  Before their third game against South Australia officials seriously considered cancelling the game.  The North Hobart Oval was described as a “mud pie – again” and “atrocious” by a number of newspapers.  It was so bad that the umpire could not bounce the ball and for the division 1 games officials decided to use a new ball each quarter however the poor old division 2 matches could only get a new ball at half time in their games!

The other problem for New South Wales, in particular, was the growing injury list.  By the last game they had ten injured players and under normal circumstances these men would not have played but the team had no replacements.

It was so bad that an application was made to the authorities to allow the NSW coach, 38 year old Frank Dixon to play.  Initially the request was granted along with permission for an Eastern Suburbs player, Jack Nicholls, a visitor to the carnival but subsequently permission was withdrawn because other teams did not have the same luxury.  Dixon who had successfully captained and coached the South Sydney Club before the war had not played since his return to Australia following a severe wound received at El Alemein in North Africa during WWII.

These were the days before interchange and NSW took the field with the bare eighteeen players along with Newtown’s injured Frank Larkin standing by, hoping not to play as 19th man.  And that was their complement for the match. Queensland, by the way, had similar problems.

Frank Larkin

NSW won the game easily however Larkin had to take the field late in the last quarter as a replacement for another injured player.  When the game finished, Larkin was the only player standing with a clean, sky blue jumper.  In an act of frivolity his team mates rushed to Larkin and rolled him in the mud so he finished up in the same fashion as themselves.

In the evening the North Hobart Club organised a ball for the wounded NSW team.

You can check out the games on our site here.

94 and still going

Dick Wilson
today

A story from our president, Ian Granland:

“Yesterday I had the pleasure of visiting a 94 year old gentleman at his home in Carlingford, Sydney.

My purpose was to conduct and record an oral interview with Dick Wilson, a former player with both the St George and Eastern Suburbs Clubs.

My knowledge of Dick was provoked by his nephew, Andy Horton a former player and official with the Liverpool Club in Sydney.  Andy visited our rooms at Croydon Park for some research last year when he mentioned that ‘Uncle Dick’, who represented NSW, was alive and well and living at Carlingford.

Dick Wilson
in 1949

I kept this information in my memory bank until I began researching players for the Society’s Representative Games section which was started some time ago beginning with NSW representative games in 1881;  I am now up to the 1947 All States Carnival in Hobart.  Since starting, I have loaded 221 games together with their details as well over 1200 players and their bios and in many cases, images.

I saw Dick’s name pop up when documenting rep games after the war in 1946.  In that year he played against Queensland, Broken Hill, Perth and Richmond Football Clubs.  My interest in him deepened when I found that he was a local and had never played football until the same year.

Letter to Dick Wilson enclosing
entry tickets to game

Dick was a marvellous candidate to interview, now living alone in a modest cottage he built for himself and his family in the mid 1950s.

He loaned me some of his ‘football treasurers’ which included photographs, football records, letters and invitations which we shall scan and add to our digital collection.

I set up our digital recording equipment in his back room and as I asked him questions he gave an amazing account of his life, as a child born in Kensington, Sydney, only 300m from South Sydney’s home ground, his early working experience, a detailed record of his time in WWII, his football and how he moved into working with his brother as builders.

Unfortunately I failed to gain a photograph of Dick, although we do have a number of him when he played.

We will load the interview on our website in the podcast section and hope to have it available for listening in the very near future.”

The photograph we have posted here is from 1990 when the league invited all known members of the 1949 NSW team that played the VFL at the SCG to attend a function at the ground prior to another game against the VFL rep team.  Dick is at the bottom right.

– 1947 Job Offers

 The 1947 NSW
Carnival Team Opening
Parade @ Hobart

In 1947, an All-States Carnival was played in Hobart.

These seven team contests were played about every four years.  After World War II because of the disparity in standard, the Australian National Football Council,  divided the competition into two divisions.  New South Wales found themselves in division two along with Queensland, Tasmania and Canberra.  This meant in Hobart they should have played three matches;  They won their games quite handsomely against Queensland Canberra then went down in the final game against Tasmania by ten points 13-18 (96) to 16-10 (106).  They also played South Australia who were a Division I team however were convincingly defeated.

A 1950 pic
of Jim Cracknell
at his best

Following the game it was reported that five of the New South Wales Australian players in their carnival team were offered contracts by two Tasmanian clubs.

The Hobart Club offered Sydney’s captain-coach, Jim Cracknell, Albury FC’s star centre Jim Mathews, and Newtown’s Emrys Owen £10 a week, including a job. Clarence Football Club offered Roy Watterson from the Newtown Club, who would later go on to coach in the Riverina, and South Sydney’s Ron Matthews a job at £8 a week and a retainer of £3 a week.

The report said that the offers would hold good for the following season. Apparently the players are considering the offers, but unknown if they took them up.

– Books to Libraries

The Committee of the Football History Society has resolved to donate copies of their World War I publication to various public libraries throughout the state.

This, the committee thought, will give many people the opportunity of reading about Australian football in the early days in New South Wales, the game in Sydney during the first world world war and the situation with football following the conflict.

The Society has sold around 200 of the books however still have a number over and part of this number are the ones which will be donated.

Anyone interested who would like their local library to receive a copy can contact the Society with the library’s particulars to ensure their branch is on the list.