In the first decade of the last century, country areas in the state, particularly the Riverina, put pressure on the NSW Football League to take representative teams to their areas to help promote the game.
It would appear that the league had to fund all or part of such tours , other than where arrangements were fashioned with local clubs or associations. In this case however the cost of taking the Sydney team to Hay, Narrandera and Coolamon was shared equally three ways at eleven pounds ($1,508.00 in today’ s money) each. It is unknown how the subsequent deviation to Wagga was paid for.
Nevertheless, representative games are expensive and this was at a time when the league recorded a deficit of four hundred pounds (calculated at $54,857.00 in day’ s terms) and yet still played nine representative games in 1907.
We have written before about similar excursions in that period and are still amazed at how players got the time off work to make trips of this nature. This particular trip was for a weeks duration in July 1907 during which they played four games . At the same time, a NSW representative team was visiting Brisbane to participate in a representative match against Queensland. Naturally enough play in Sydney for that round was suspended.
This leads us to speculation that the best representative team did not make the trip and in any case, four of those chosen failed to make the journey. Some research in other such circumstances suggest that players were asked to put their names forward regarding their availability, rather than being selected on merit.
The team was announced two days before the team left Sydney and so it would have been a case of a last minute scramble to secure additional players at a time when telephones were almost non-existent. So it is fair to say that many of those who went would have just made up the numbers.
A group of 20 players together with the manager, Bill Prince, took the 755 rail kilometre trip, probably travelling second class, from Sydney to Hay, leaving on Sunday Evening, July 7. They would have arrived at their destination by mid Monday afternoon. This rail trip would have taken at least 10 hours travelling via Goulburn, Junee and Narrandera.
In this first game which was played on Tuesday 9 July at Hay, the local businesses closed their premises in order to attract the largest crowd possible to the Park Oval. Manager, Bill Prince, aged 35, played in the first game before a crowd of 900, each paying six pence (now, $3.00) entry; the gate was later declared at fifteen pounds (now $2,057.00). Hay won the encounter 5-11 (41) to 2-10 (22). Afterwards the team was treated to local hospitality at Tattersall’ s Hotel, incidentally, the same venue where a cordial welcome was thrust upon the visitors on their first night in town.
The following day, Wednesday, it was off on a 172km journey east to Narrandera by the early mail train. The players complained of being stiff and sore as they failed to keep pace with the locals who fielded the best side possible. The Sydney team’ s performance was described as poor and were badly beaten 10-19 (79) to 2-1 (13).
But after the game they were again feted by the locals which didn’ t add to their condition particularly when the next day they again travelled but this time only 61km to Coolamon where they played a further match. This time the visitors showed a bit more promise and were able to get over the relatively inexperienced Coolamon side 5-6 (36) to 3-9 (27) at the Recreation Ground. A social followed in the evening in honour of the Sydney team.
They must have all been very thankful at the rest the team got on the Friday but the following day they had to back up against a very experienced Wagga combination.
Regular football was played in Wagga in 1907 between the established clubs: Lake, Newtown, Oldtown and Federals. They too chose a solid combination to match their Sydney opponents.
All the work the Sydneysiders had undertaken during the previous few days however took its toll and a number of players were unable to take the field. Inconceivably, it was first suggested that replacements would be sent from Sydney but in the end the team was supplemented with players from Narrandera (3), Coolamon (1) and Ganmain (1).
Before a crowd of 350 this replenished side put up a better showing than they did against Narrandera and at the Wagga Cricket Ground were beaten 10-27 (87) to 5-5 (35).
In the eyes of the locals, the results of the tour did little to enhance the standing of the game in Sydney, given that it was only four years since its resurrection. [Australian Football had folded in Sydney in 1895 only to be re-established by a number of enthusiasts eight years later].
So much did it not impress the locals that the Hay newspaper labelled the tour a joke following their dismal display in the four match tour.
Regardless of this, the football officials in Wagga put on another function that evening where the Sydney boys again indulged in night time pleasure.
The team made their way back to Sydney the following day by train arriving Sunday Evening.
(With thanks to Rail.net for the map of NSW Railways)