1974 Umpires’ Boycott – by Jim McSweeney

     A younger
Jim McSweeney

Here is an article by Society member, Jim McSweeney, a former umpire in the Sydney competition and later in Masters Rules.  He was an official with the St George Junior Association and also umpired in that competition.  The article provides details of a ‘boycott’, not a strike, by Sydney umpires in 1974.  This was a period when Sydney Newspapers frequently published articles of happenings in the code in the city (sadly no more), so we are able to bring you associated newspapers articles.

“I am sure that over the years’ clubs have expressed concern over certain umpires and expressed a wish that these umpires no be appointed to their matches. No doubt on some occasions these wishes may well have been granted.

However, in early July 1974, the fourth year of my Presidency, the Umpires Association was informed by the League that the Western Suburbs Club had informed them that they would not play if Umpire Earl Beeck was appointed to any of their matches. No reasons were given for this ultimatum.

This led to a very long and heavily debated Umpires’ Association meeting and brought back to me memories of the 1961 Strike. There were many actions proposed and debated. A large number were very determined to withdraw all umpiring services until this ultimatum was withdrawn.

After much debate and different proposals considered it was agreed that all clubs should not be penalised because of the action of one. It was then unanimously resolved that Association Members would not umpire any Western Suburbs matches whist this ultimatum was in place. This decision was passed to the League as soon as possible after the meeting.

Western Suburbs were due to play Southern Districts the following weekend at Rosedale Oval, Warwick Farm and no Association umpires were appointed. It was an interesting lead up, because a number of people associated with the home club were involved with junior football in the area. One of their first grade players also umpired local junior football. The Umpires’ executive were required to talk with these people and request that they support the Umpires in this matter. They all agreed to fall in line. The match went ahead with Bill Hart, the 48 year old League President, along with vice president Doug Bouch initially set down as umpires. (I’d love to see those two running around the paddock, Bill may have represented the state in 1948 and Doug Bouch won the Sanders Medal in 1959, but please … it can be, no it is, hard work out there in the centre and Doug was one who loved a drink on a hot day).   However the two with the whistles was later altered to Wests president and former VFA player, John Donovan and Southern Districts official, Arthur Clark taking on the officiating duties.

Following this, the ultimatum was withdrawn and everything went back to as normal as it can be in the Football world.”

Top of the table Western Suburbs had no trouble defeating ‘Districts in the game by over fourteen goals to continue their unbeaten run.

So What Happened?

Hereunder is an article which appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald on 2 June 1866.

“Football Club -The first annual meeting of the Sydney Foot Ball Club was held last night, at the hotel of Mr. B. Palmer, Pitt and King streets. The chair was occupied by Mr. Oliver. The minutes of last meeting having been read and confirmed, the secretary, Mr. R. C. Hewitt,read the following report, and it was adopted – In submitting this our first report to you, your committee feel much pleasure in complimenting you upon the steady and favourable progress the club has made from its formation throughout its first season. Although at first, many prejudices were held against us in our infancy, and in spite of great opposition the club has clearly shown that foot ball properly played, is not a perilous break-neck folly, but a means of health, giving recreative enjoyment. The number of members elected during last season, was 66, out of whom only 24 paid their subscriptions, but before the finish of the ensuing season, from present prospects, your committee feel much pleasure in announcing to you that they have sanguine hopes that the number of members will be greatly increased. Your committee have also great pleasure in being able to inform you that not only is the club favourably looked upon in this city, but that its fame (principally through the report of its excellent matches with the Australian and University Clubs) has extended to the neighbouring colony of Victoria, and your secretary has received an intimation of the willingness of the football players of that colony to inaugurate a series of intercolonial football matches, and to show the earnestness of the Victorians, they would visit Sydney during the forthcoming season, could a team able to compete with them be got together and us guaranteeing to play them a return match during the next season in Melbourne. In conclusion, your committee would urge upon their suc-cessors the desirability of at once selecting some other ground more suitable than that on which the club played last season-namely, Hyde Park-as it is certainly dangerous to all who play thereon, also to endeavour, as has always been their maxim, to keep the club well supplied with ‘the sinews of war’ ‘ The following gentlemen were unanimously elected to the offices prefixed to their names -President, Mr Richard Driver, M L.A. , secretary and treasurer Mr. Richard C. Hewitt, committee, Messrs Shepherd, Samuel Cohen, Dawson, Charles Oliver, and Leslie J.Park. Nine new members were elected. A resolution was carried to the effect that the “Victorian Rules of Football, agreed to at a meeting of delegates of clubs held at Melbourne on the 8th of May 1866, be adopted as the rules of the Club. ” The secretary stated that he had received a challenge from Melbourne to play a match in Sydney, and the proposal was very favourably entertained, Mr Hewitt and Mr Cohen were elected delegates to confer with the represetatives of other clubs with a view to make the arrangements for accepting the challenge. The business was concluded with a vote of thanks to the chairman.” (Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 – 1954), Saturday 2 June 1866, page 6)

We will endeavour to get the answer to this very vexed but important question.  More news on this coming  and just who were these people: Hewitt, Cohen and Charles Oliver.

Riverina’s Mr Football – Bert Schmidt MBE

By Dr Rodney Gillett

“Wherever you are listening to this game don’t tune out this is one of the best games of football I’ve ever seen!” exclaimed 2WG Farrer League football commentator Bert Schmidt at a Culcairn v The Rock Yerong Creek game circa 1964.

“I couldn’t always go to away games so I used to listen to Bert’s call of The Rock’s games on the local radio” recalls former long-time Riverina Australian Football player and leading official Greg Verdon. “He knew all the player’s names and he used to call the games with great clarity and accuracy”, he added.

Bert called the Farrer League match-of-the-day for just on twenty years starting in 1958 and continuing until 1978. He never missed a game according to Cr Yvonne Braid who spent her working life at radio station 2WG in Wagga.

That was the “hay-day” of the league when it stretched from Temora in the north down to Holbrook in the south and west to Lockhart and was based on country clubs rather than clubs in Wagga.

He used to call games from the back of a truck or farm ute backed up to the fence at most grounds from a portable table and chair with the landline connected to the phone in the club secretary’s office or a neighbouring house. The only grounds with press boxes were at Wagga’s Robertson Oval and the Yerong Creek Recreation Ground where the grand final was played.

“Bert was always immaculately dressed in a three-piece suit or woollen cardigan and he always carried an umbrella” recalls Cr Braid. “He was always fully prepared”.

“He was a perfect gentleman”, she added.

Bert Schmidt’s active role in football was not just confined to broadcasting he also produced the weekly football match programs for the South West and Farrer Leagues, served on the Wagga promotions committee, provided hospitality to the Melbourne umpires for the finals, and his lasting legacy, founding the licensed Riverina Australian Football Club.

“The Rules Club was his love child” Cr Braid told me.

Bert Schmidt was the instigator of a licensed club for Australian Football in Wagga. The main purpose was to provide a headquarters for the code in the region and to generate funds to promote the game, particularly at the junior and school level. The club’s ground Maher Oval has hosted AFL practice matches, interstate fixtures and local representative games; it is still Turvey Park’s home ground is used for Farrer League finals and junior fixtures.

He was the inaugural chairman of the club in 1973 after doing all the hard yards to get it up and going. He stayed on the board until 1978. After initially struggling in the early years of its existence the club has now prospered mainly as a result of its location in the southern suburbs of Wagga. Meanwhile, the downtown Wagga Leagues Club shuts its doors in 2004.

Bert identified the need for match day programs for the two major leagues in the Riverina  and subsequently developed and produced The Aussie Ruler (later called the South-Wester) for the South West District Football League and The Crier for the Farrer Football League from 1961.

He funded the project and recouped costs through advertising. He initially wrote the editorials for both: always positive, constructive and based on facts and his deep and intimate knowledge of the game, its officials, players, and supporters in the area.

The distribution of the programs for match day in the region involved an intricate network of trains, taxi trucks, delivery vans, and was sometimes even carried by the umpires driven to games in taxis.

When the program production was taken over by Gary Allen in 1983 he paid tribute to Bert Schmidt for his work over twenty-one years in the first edition for the season:

“Producing a programme nowadays still requires much hard work hut the problems with starting from scratch would have been countless. But thanks, to his dedication and love for the game, he stuck to the task. Bert had to give up most of his holidays, year in and year out, to keep in touch with his advertisers at the start of each season. (Riverina Australian Football Record, 10 April 1983).

Bert Schmidt was also a member of the Wagga Australian Rules Promotions Committee  that was formed in 1968 “ to promote and foster the Australian Football code in Wagga and surrounding districts and to extend Australian Football into all primary and secondary schools” (Wagga Daily Advertiser, 13 February, 1968).

The promotions committee was initially very successful in getting the game going in all primary schools. They arranged for 16 sets of jumpers, 24 footballs and 15 sets of goalposts as well as suitable playing areas for the primary schools in their first year.

The establishment of football in the high schools proved more challenging as rugby league was firmly entrenched largely as a result of schoolteachers coming from the Sydney. Also the Catholic secondary schools were reticent despite the assistance on offer.

Bert, who was the driving force behind the schools’ push, came up with the idea of naming the cup after the Catholic Bishop for the Diocese of Wagga Wagga, Most Reverend Francis Carroll, who was a Carroll from Ganmain. “Father Frank” had played football for both Ganmain as a youth and for Griffith when he served as priest at the Sacred Heart Church.

With the Bishop’s “blessing” the Carroll Cup for open age schoolboy football commenced in 1969 along with the Robb Cup (named after highly successful Riverina coach Tim Robb) for Year 9 and below.

The Carroll Cup is now firmly established as the premier secondary schools’ competition in Wagga and attracts strong media interest and crowds of up to 2,000 at the final played under lights at Robertson Oval.

Bert did not play footy; but after returning from military service in Japan with the British Commonwealth Occupational Force and as a Lieutenant in the Australian Army Ordinance Unit in the Korean War in 1952-53 he gravitated to the Wagga Tigers football club which was closest to his work place at the council-owned Wagga Gas Centre in Bayliss St.

Wagga Tiger’s club legend Doug Priest recalls going to games out-of-town on the team bus in the mid-50s with his father Merv, who was the coach, and Bert leading the sing-along playing on the ukulele on the trip home.

He had a marvellous party trick – he could scull a beer while standing on his head!

Bert Schmidt was highly respected throughout the Riverina for his dedication and service to the game and he has been duly recognized by the Farrer League and the Victorian Country Football league (VCFL).

The reserve grade best and fairest in the Farrer League was named in his honour until the VCFL investigation in 1981 created the Riverina Football League and the Riverina District FL.

Upon the renaming of the RDFL as the Farrer Football League in 1985 the best player in the grand final was named the Schmidt-Nitschke medal in honour of Bert and his long-time friend prominent Wagga solicitor Galva Nitschke, who did so much legal work for football on an honorary basis. Bert and Galva were the duo who did all the work behind the scenes to establish the Rules Club.

He received the VCFL Recognition of Service award in 1973.

Bert Stanley Schmidt was awarded an MBE for military service in 1953.

“Bert got everyone involved. He didn’t leave anybody out”, recalls Cr Braid.

 

AKNOWLEDGEMENTS: Cr Yvonne Braid (Wagga City Council), Major-General (ret.) Brian Dawson (Australian War Memorial), Doug Priest (Wagga Tigers), Greg Verdon (ex MVAFA president), Garry Allen (former Riverina Australian Football Record publisher), and Allan Hull (2WG)

 

 

BOOK REVIEW by Dr Rodney Gillett

Roy Hay’s Aboriginal Football in the Nineteenth Century: They Did Not Come From Nowhere clearly shows that that there is no direct evidence that the game of Australian Football was derived from the Aboriginal game, marngrook.

There is a fundamental problem with the view that Tom Wills, one of the four members of the Melbourne Cricket Club that devised the original rules for the game in 1859, was influenced by marngrook. This is because there is no contemporary evidence that Wills saw Aborigines playing marngrook; there is no record of it in his or his family’s correspondence or in published sources about Wills at that time.

On the contrary, Wills advocated the adoption of the rugby rules that he had played under at the Rugby School in England to his fellow MCC committee members (J.B. Thompson, William Hammersley and Thomas Smith) at the meeting but it was rejected as they were not commonly understood. The rules drafted were an amalagam of the rules for football games played in England during this period.

Hay argues that Wills’s role in the origins of the game have been overestimated largely as a result of an early history of the game in The Footballer (1876) that unduly attributed credit to Wills and his cousin H.C.A. Harrison for devising the game. A myth that continues to this very day. Wills even got the year wrong, stating 1858. Another myth perpetuated.

Hay elects to focus less on finding a link between the games that the indigenous people played and the origins of Australian football in Melbourne, but to develop “the stories of those who saw the white men play their strange game.”

This outstanding scholarly work shows that Aboriginal footballers have had a profound influence on the game of Australian football and have shaped the game and the way it is played. This has not just been in the major competitions, particularly in recent years, but also in the country leagues around the nation.

Hay suggests that the first Aboriginal players of the new code learnt how to play to a high standard in the latter part of the nineteenth century and were ready to take their place in senior teams. The problem was that these richly talented indigenous footballers were trapped within the confines of the isolated missions in rural areas to which they had been consigned in the late 1860s by the colonial authorities. Thus, they could not participate as fully as they might otherwise have been able to in the emerging elite teams of metropolitan Melbourne and country towns.

Much of this book details the stories of notable indigenous footballers living on these seven missions across the colony, namely, Coranderrk, Framlingham, Lake Condah, Ebenezer, Lake Tyers and Ramahyuck, and Cummeragunja (situated on the NSW side of the Murray River near Echuca).

These aboriginal missions were described in contemporary newspapers as “crucibles of athletic achievement” – Cummeragunja in particular. Despite their undoubted talent, these Indigenous athletes were rarely accepted into elite football clubs across the colony. Framlingham’s ‘Pompey’ Austin’s appearance in the Geelong team in 1872 was an aberration; far more common was the refusal by football’s governing authority to allow them to play such as the case of Dick Rowan from Coranderrk to play for South Melbourne.

In the case of Cummeragunja the football officials penalized the whole team because it was too good. It was the winner of the premiership in 1921 (quite possibly with Sir Doug Nicholls in the team before he went to play in the VFL) and it was excluded from the local league as a result. After winning the Western and Moira Riding League (now the Picola District Football League) five times out of six between 1927 and 1932, the club was restricted so that no players over the age of 25 were allowed to play.

Hay’s research is mostly based on his reading of relevant local Australian newspapers that have digitized through the Trove program, a government-sponsored project that has seen many thousands of pages of colonial newspapers made available through trove.nla.gov.au He also made extensive use of the reports of the Board for the Protection of Aborigines in Victoria.

Hay has complemented the story with remarkable visual material, including a host of team photographs of country clubs in which white and dark faces feature at ease with each other.

Of interest to this reviewer is the Dimboola premiership team of 1928 that includes aboriginal players, Alf Marks and star centre half-forward A. Taylor, alongside my grandfather, Mick Gillett.

The Cummeragunja team photo of the mid-1920s, is all-aboriginal, and while it does not feature Doug Nicholls, it is a roll-call of names still prominent in football in the local area including the Rumbalara aboriginal team based in Shepparton but over the years, Kyabram, Nathalia, Lemnos, Mooroopna, and Echuca. Players named Atkinson, Briggs, Charles, Jackson, Whyman, Morgan, Nelson, and Walker all feature; the former Carlton star Andrew Walker has continued the tradition and now coaches Echuca in the Goulburn Valley League.

Aboriginal People and Australian Football in the Nineteenth Century is an ambitious project. It covers a lot of territory but in doing so, Roy Hay has considerably enhanced the knowledge and widened the perspective of the origins of the Australian football and the role and influence of Aboriginals on the game. He has handled the complex issues with great respect and strong admiration for his subjects. His work exhibits deep empirical research and well-considered historiography – he challenges the proponents of marngrook as a major influence on the origins of football to do the research and provide the hard evidence to show that it is “more than a seductive myth”.

Roy Hay, Aboriginal People and Australian Football in the Nineteenth Century: They Did Not Come from Nowhere,
Cambridge Scholars Publishing, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE6 2PA, UK, 2019. ISBN: 9781527526488
Hardback, A5, 315 pages, illustrated. RRP £64.99. Paperback $39.95.
Paperback version is available from the author roy@sesasport.com.au for $39.95.

A New Photo Feature

1953 NSW Team v QLD in Brisbane
1953 NSW Team v QLD in Brisbane

Following a recent upgrade to the Society’s website officials have introduced a new format to display images.

One of the first areas to be changed if the NSW State Representative Teams Gallery; these range from 1886 to the present day and are viewable through this site’s gallery or by clicking here.

Almost 80 have now been uploaded to that gallery, most of these display the team name and venue with quite a number including the players’ names.

Interesting, another programme will soon allow the indexing of these players’ names so that you can view a particular image by searching using the player’s name.

One problem though organisers have found is the lack of state photos from the late 1950s to the early 1990s, in particular.

If you have access to a NSW State Team photo which is not listed on our site please contact us so we can arrange the scanning and uploading of the image.

These photos are out there and the History Society is keen to fill the gaps.

Another coming feature is the listing of as many inter-league and association teams from throughout NSW as possible, no matter where they are from.  We must retain all the history of the game in the state.

Again, if you have access to any of these, contact us so we car arrange their transmission to the Society’s website.