Jack Luhrs – Footy Media Man in the MIA

Legendary Griffith Australian footballer, Jack Luhrs, known as ‘Ironman’, carved out an illustrious media career after he finished playing with Eastern Suburbs (1948-49) and Griffith (1949-55) that entailed a best and fairest in Griffith’s premiership win over his hometown Whitton in 1952.

Jack was the father of well-known Wagga country music songwriter and performer Grant Luhrs, himself a highly talented and successful footballer with Griffith, East Sydney and Claremont (WAFL). Grant currently hosts the Saturday morning radio show on ABC Wagga.

In this article of 11 June 1993, published in The Area News, Jack recalls his time in the media in the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area (MIA) and how he got football broadcast on the airwaves. This article is published on https://www.swansonscreen.com/. – “the most comprehensive history of the Griffith Swans and their opponents from 1914 to the present day” – (a wonderful football site).

Footy Takes to the Air

                              Jack Luhrs

THE football of yesteryear’s was totally different to that of today. Throughout the country areas and particularly that of the old South West District Football League, football meant most of the local community reserved Sunday to support their local footy team.

Then extent of community involvement was even more highlighted in the smaller country centres such as Ganmain, Coolamon, Whitton, Ardlethan, Ariah Park and Mirrool, Matong and Grong Grong.

This area and the bigger centres of Griffith, Leeton, Narrandera and Wagga were ripe for the broadcasting of South West League premiership matches and this is how I became involved.

By 1955 my own football was finished where I had played in the Swans first ever South West League premiership with Tom Roulent as coach in 1952.

In the 50’s, Rugby League controlled the airways where the late Freddy Turner called the game from the hills of Tumbarumba to the rice-fields of the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area.

I was a member of the Griffith Apex Club at the time and one of our meetings listed a debate that ‘Rugby was a better footy game than Australian Rules’.

It was meant to be a friendly issue but somehow it go out of hand.

Charlie Lee, a great Rugby fan, said that Aussie Rules wasn’t much of a game because it was never broadcast through 2RG. I replied to Charlie the reason why you did not hear Aussie Rules on Sunday was ‘because the management of the radio station was biased against the Australian game’.

Ray Gamble was the then radio manager of 2RG and a fellow member of the Apex Club.

Ray was furious at my allegation so much so he said, “Right…beginning next Sunday you will call the first game of Aussie Rules”.

Having opened my big mouth too wide I had to go on with it. I had never called a game of footy before, in fact I was a tractor salesman at time working for J. S. Vagg and Company, but I was stuck with it.

Needing some help on how we were going to do it I asked Dick Bitcon, a fellow member of the premiership side, to give me a hand.

The games were played those days on the Griffith showground oval. We set up our little table on the boundary and had a technician from 2RG with us to read the commercials and to hook up the landlines to the studio.

Our first efforts were clumsy and naturally a great learning experience. Dick stayed with me for a while, but he was a rice farmer out at Benerembah and was not always available to help me call the games. Soon I was on my own and remained that way for most of the next 25 years.

The extent of the radio cover and the interest it created surprised me and certainly surprised the management of 2RG. Almost immediately I was given a spot-on Sunday nights when 2RG occupied the present building of the Griffith Area News newspaper, to provide a round-up of matches played that day in the South West League.

Not always careful with my words and certainly ignorant those days in laws of defamation, I was inclined to be too outspoken and soon found myself earning the ire of a number of footy clubs.

I remember one time I named a Leeton player for deliberately kicking a Griffith opponent in a match at Griffith on the Showground oval. Perhaps just as well the Leeton player was given a match suspension for the incident, or I could have been facing a defamation charge.

But I tempered my radio style in time for the next 20 years became part of the golden years of football in the South West, through the 60’s and 70’s and almost to the time the South West League changed its named to the present Riverina Football League.

Australian football was featured strongly by Radio 2RG where we not only had the Sunday broadcast, and the Sunday night match report but we also did a match preview on Saturday night.

These aspects were continued and expanded even further when MTN9 first began its telecasting from its Remembrance Drive studio in Griffith.

It was not long before footy clubs began providing broadcasts boxes at their grounds and there was no doubt that radio was king as far as footy was concerned.

Again repeating I was proud to be part of these golden years, I also maintained my interests as a newspaper stringer for a number of publication. They included The Area News in the days when ‘Doc’ Jones published it as a broadsheet two days a week. The Riverina Daily News when Paul Jones attempted to bring a daily newspaper to the Griffith region to rival the Wagga Daily Advertiser.

It was at that time I worked with Graham Gorrel, editor of The Wagga Daily Advertiser, I also wrote for the Griffith Advocate, the Griffith Times and from 1988 till two years ago, was on the sports desk at the Wagga Daily Advertiser until my retirement. (Jack Luhrs passed away in 2011- Ed)

The Formation of the Newtown Club

    C.J.A Powditch

Amongst the files and records from what is now regarded as the “Stan Powditch Collection” is a handwritten letter from his father, Charles James Augstus Powditch about the formation of the Newtown Club in 1903.

Charles Powditch, a boot maker, was born in Melbourne in 1867 and moved to Sydney at about the turn of the century.

He and his family took up residence in a single storey semi detached house at 16 Francis Street Enmore and later teamed up with Jim Phelan, Jack Keogh and J.P. Buckley (in particular) to form the new club although strangely he was not elected onto the committee.

It was not until 1907 that C.J Powditch took a role on the executive of the club, as treasurer.  A job he continued with until the end of the 1910 season.

In 1932 Powditch wrote a letter (left) to his son, Stan, providing a brief account of the formation of the Newtown Club.

Stan re-wrote the letter (right) to provide a more legible view of the proceedings which we provide for your information.  This might make it easier to read his father’s hand writing. Below is a short article from The Daily Telegraph of 21 March 1903 reporting on the formation of the club.  The suggested attendance etc. outlined here differs markedly from Charlie’s version of the meeting.

Newspaper Report on the formation of the Newtown AFC

 

Charles Powditch died at Hurstville, aged 65, in 1933.

 

“Powder Fingers” fires up SCG at 1933 Carnival

Written by Dr Rod Gillett

            NSW full-forward Stan Powditch breaks clear of a 
              Queensland opponent to kick a goal on the SCG

On the biggest stage in the big games, NSW full-forward Stan “Powder” Powditch stepped up to boot the goals the Light Blues needed to take it up to rivals from the other States. 

At the 1933 ANFC Carnival at the SCG, he came into the team after the loss to Victoria in round one, to boot 11 goals in a convincing 85-point defeat of Queensland. He subsequently kicked 5 goals in the win over Canberra, 6 goals in the victory over Tasmania, and 5 goals in the narrow 10-point loss to WA. 

Powditch was only trumped as the leading goalkicker for the championships by Victoria’s Gordon Coventry, the champion Collingwood VFL full forward, who booted 12 goals in the Vic’s 60-point demolition of Tasmania to win the title with 30 majors. 

While Coventry scored his goals in five matches, Powditch kicked 27 goals in his four games.  

Both forwards finished well ahead of two of the greatest full-forwards of all time, Victoria’s Bob Pratt (South Melbourne) and South Australia’s greatest goal-scorer Ken Farmer (North Adelaide), who both only scored 12 goals each at the 1933 Carnival. 

NSW finished fourth overall, behind champions Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia. 

“Powder” was an athletic 6’ (180cm) tall 13 stone (81.5kg) forward; he had huge hands described as “glue-fingered” by the contemporary press that enabled him to “clunk” marks. A hallmark of his goal-kicking was his unerring accuracy; he kicked 27 goals 5 behinds in the 1933 Carnival and 7.1 in the win over Queensland in 1940 at SCG No 2. 

His overall goalkicking record set out below reveals his career average was remarkably above 4 at both club and interstate level: 

  POWDITCH’S OVERALL GOAL KICKING RECORD 

Club  Years  Games  Goals  Avr. 
South Sydney  1930-33  71  242  3.4 
St George  1933-43  106  534  5.03 
Total  1930-43  177  776  4.38 
NSW  1933-39  11  46  4.18 

 Powditch grew up and learnt to play football in Sydney. His father, Charles, was a foundation player and official at Newtown FC when the competition in Sydney re-commenced in 1903.  

 A young Stan Powditch

He first played football at the Gardener’s Road Public School at Mascot after the family moved to the area. This was a rich nursery for the South Sydney Club, one that also produced Jimmy Stiff, who was voted the best player at the 1933 Carnival.  Powditch then played with Metropolitan Football Assn senior team, Rosebery (pictured) at age17,

Making his senior debut for Souths in the first game of the 1929 season against Sydney, he kicked six goals from full-forward and went onto to boot 56 goals for the season. He finished third in the goalkicking award behind Newtown’s star forward Lionel Hastie (also from Gardener’s Rd school and a future Fitzroy FC player) with 64 and Eastern Suburbs goal-kicking machine Stan Milton on 59.  

He kept in an exercise book details about his career including every game played, opponents, results, goals and behinds kicked, with annotations.  

Powditch broke through for his first competition leading goal-kicking award in 1932 with 59 goals even though he played eleven matches at centre half-forward. Stan Milton finished 2nd with 55 goals.  

For the 1933 Carnival in Sydney Powditch was preferred as full-forward to Stan Milton. Milton had been a fixture as full forward for NSW for 29 matches including the win over Victoria in 1923. He kicked over 1200 goals in a career spanning from 1919-38. 

In a controversial move prior to the commencement of the 1934 season, Powditch requested a transfer from South Sydney to St George.  We believe this occurred mainly because of a change of residence to Brighton-le-Sands, following his marriage to Bessie Sinclair. 

Souths refused to clear him so he went and played first-grade soccer with senior Sydney Soccer team, Metters. In an ironic twist to his position in football as a goal-scorer; in soccer, he played as the goal-keeper! He’d had never played soccer before. 

Eventually, the impasse was sorted out after several appeals and he was cleared to St George but suspended for twelve weeks on a technicality for not declaring a change of residence. 

Nonetheless, Powdictch was selected in the State team as full-forward in 1934 and kicked three goals in the comfortable 34-point win over Queensland at the SCG on 18 August.

He subsequently carved out a stellar career as a key forward for St George and played a key role in the club’s success in this period, winning premierships in 1937 and 1938 and runner-up in 1935 and 1939, and a further premiership in 1943 that Powditch missed through injury. 

In 1935 he topped the league goalkicking for the second time with 80 goals (49 behinds) including six in the grand final Powditch’s notes reveal that he never missed a game (18) and never missed training (52). 

1937 proved to be Powditch’s best season in the local football competition, and St George broke through for its first-ever premiership when it convincingly beat South Sydney in the grand final, 11.16.82 to 6.9.45. 

“Powder” booted his first century of goals, 114 (and only 38 behinds), to top the league goalkicking. He played in seventeen matches averaging 6.7 goals per game. This included bags of 12 against North Shore, 10 against Eastern Suburbs, and 9 goals against Easts, Sydney, Norths (twice) and 10 against Souths in the major semi-final win.  

Powditch won the competition goalkicking award for the fourth time in 1939 with 89 goals including two hauls of 12 goals (and no behinds) against North Shore and Newtown. He bagged five goals in the grand final but Newtown proved too strong and won by 22 points.  

He didn’t play in 1941-42, but returned to play for St George in 1943 with champion Collingwood ruckman  Phonse Kyne as captain.  However, he developed knee trouble and it finally gave way on him in the final round match against top team RAAF. It was to be his last ever game. He still kicked 67 goals in fifteen matches for the season. 

St George beat the strong RAAF team in the major semi-final and then beat South Sydney in the grand final – without their star forward. 

Stan Powditch won four leading goalkicking awards; he is second to Stan Milton (six times) while Newtown’s Laurie McAnulty and East Sydney’s Peter Ruscuklic who both won three times. 

                

 Acknowledgements: Warwick Powditch and family for the donation to the Society of all of Stan Powdich’s football records including photos, match programs, newspaper clippings, and personal reminiscences. 

Keith Miller AM MBE – NSW Rep 1947

Former NSW AFL Commissioner Rod Gillett recalls his association with Australian sporting legend Keith Miller when “Nugget” was the Chief Commissioner of the state body. Keith Miller is the only former Australian football player/official featured in the SCG’s Walk of Honour. He was also  made a Life Member of the SCG.

                       Inaugural NSW AFL Chief Commissioner Keith Miller (standing) and Rod Gillett (seated right)

“Roddy, could you chair the meeting for me please mate? Thanks old boy”.

Keith Ross Miller MBE, then the NSW AFL Chief Commissioner, would ask me this prior to our monthly meetings. This would enable him to enjoy a scotch and soda while perusing the form guide as I led my fellow commissioners through the agenda.

Keith Miller was a Boys’ Own Hero – war fighter pilot, Test cricketer, and VFL footballer. A dashing, handsome physically blessed man who also liked a drink, a punt and a night-out.

Appointed the inaugural chief commissioner for the AFL in Sydney in 1986, Keith had an impressive background in football. He had been a star player for St Kilda in the VFL prior to the war and then returned to the Saints in 1946 when he also represented Victoria.

Upon moving to Sydney after he played for Sydney Naval in the local competition and represented NSW at the 1947 ANFC interstate carnival in Hobart.

After the 1948 Ashes tour of England where he was a key member of Bradman’s “Invincibles”, Keith became a sportswriter reporting on cricket and football.

While he wasn’t really that interested in sports administration, he played a key role as chairman of the inaugural commission by leading the re-union of the disparate football bodies in NSW (Sydney, Country & Juniors) back under the one governance model. He stood down from the position in 1988.

It was a shame he didn’t stay on for the last ever national carnival in Adelaide in which NSW playing as an Origin team for the first time lost narrowly to the SANFL and beat Western Australia. He could have taken my place in the governor’s box at the game as he was very comfortable in the company of royalty.

When he was Chief Commissioner he would come down from his home in Newport Beach meet me for an hour or so prior to the meeting at the Old Fitzroy Hotel in Cathedral St just opposite the Powerplay offices in Woolloomooloo. At that stage Powerplay had the licence to run the Sydney Swans and were responsible for funding Development work in schools and for junior football through the NSW AFL.

Marketing guru Bob Pritchard and Swans general manager Ron Thomas were the Powerplay nominees on the NSW AFL Commission.

Then-NSW AFL CEO Ian Granland would join Keith and I to “caucus” at the pub.

Keith would regale us with all stories both from the war and his world of sport.

His best mate from the war, Gus Glendinning was a favourite conversation piece as he had played footy for East Perth in the WAFL and was the father of the inaugural West Coast Eagles captain and North Melbourne 1983 Brownlow medalist Ross Glendinning.

Miller and Glendinning meet while serving in the RAAF in the UK and both became commissioned pilot officers flying Mosquito bombers over Germany during the war. They remained life-long friends; Keith was very proud of his association with the Glendinnings.

The other footballer he spoke highly of was South Melbourne premiership star Laurie Nash. Keith played cricket at South Melbourne with Nash, who had played two Test matches for Australia as a fast bowler. It was Nash who leapt high at mid-on to take spectacular catch that netted a sixteen year old Miller his first wicket in District cricket in the 1935-36 season.

Keith came up against Nash’s South 1933 premiership team-mate and legendary goal-kicker Bob Pratt after Pratt had transferred to Coburg in the VFA. Playing at full-back Miller played the first match of the season for Brighton in 1940 and kept Pratt to one goal. He then transferred to St Kilda in the VFL and played two seasons before enlisting.

According to The Encyclopedia of AFL Footballers (5th ed.)  Keith was “a strong marking key defender with a necessary touch of toughness and a fine exponent of the drop kick”. He won the St Kilda best and fairest award in his first season and was runner-up the next year.

He told us his school-boy hero was the swash-buckling Spitfire fighter pilot Keith “Bluey” Truscott DFC and Bar, from his school, Melbourne Boys’ High, where Truscott was captain of the school cricket and football teams. Keith played in the First XI under Truscott when he was in Year 9.

Truscott, a rugged, fiery half-forward flanker starred in the 1939-40 Melbourne premiership teams before enlisting in the RAAF. He died in a flying accident in 1943; the Melbourne Football Club best and fairest award is named in his honour.

Keith continued playing football when he came to Sydney in 1947 turning out for Sydney Naval (the old Sydney club had changed name in 1944) which was comprised mainly of ex-armed services personnel like himself.

He was famously late for a practice match prior to the season at Trumper Park, arriving from Randwick racecourse at half-time, and running out straight after the interval and booting a drop kick goal from centre half-back!

 Keith Miller NSW rep 1947

Selected to play for NSW at the 1947 ANFC Carnival in Hobart, Keith was injured in the second quarter in the first match against Canberra and moved to the forward pocket from which he kicked 5 goals and was awarded 3 votes in the Tassie Medal for best player of the championship.

His roommate at the carnival, Neil Stevens, a convivial country cop from Henty, who joined Eastern Suburbs after serving in the AIF in New Guinea in WWII, remained life-long friends with “Nuggett”. “We used to catch up for the occasional counter-lunch and he would come down to speak to the boys when I was coaching the Police team in the services competition” Neil told me in the company of his son Gregory, at a Sydney Swans game in 2005.                                          

Many honours and awards including the Australian Sports Hall of Fame as well as those at the SCG have been bestowed on Keith Miller but he told me he was most proud of his portrait hanging in the pavilion at Lords; his favourite cricket ground. However, he did tell me that the SCG was his favourite cricket ground in Australia, and the MCG, his favourite football ground.

Keith Miller is honoured for cricket in SCG Walk of Honour.

A Sight You Don’t See These Days

A report in a leading Sydney newspaper of a Sydney match to start the 1931 season (a mere 90 years ago) between Newtown and South Sydney played at the old Erskineville Oval – yes there were two.

The article, along with a total of four images, was printed in the Sunday Guardian of 26 April of that year and highlights the effort the league went to for ANZAC Day with both teams and officials lining up before the game and several members of a marching band sounding the normal salute for the day .

Australian Football was reported on in all Sydney newspapers before about 1982, and some, like the one referred to in this article which gave a good review of all the games played in the city. Reporters from most Sydney newspapers would attend all games and as you can  see from one of the attached images below left, the Labor Daily journo even had its own logo for his reports.

Unfortunately there were only six clubs in the senior competition in 1931, Newtown, South Sydney, Eastern Suburbs, Sydney, North Shore and St George with the latter two the only sides still functioning today.

There was a veiled suggestion, certainly supported by Jim Phelan, secretary of the NSWAFL from 1915-24 and after whom the Sydney first grade B & F Medal is named, that the code could only get (find/lease/rent) three grounds where an entry fee could be charged and in those days, when the league operated the gates at all grounds, the fee charged for admission was vital to the very existence of the game.  So there was a certain section of the league who felt that any more than six clubs, playing at three venues with facilities for an admission fee, would be detrimental to the game.  Yes there was a ‘second division’, ie the Metropolitan Australian National Football Association, which operated mainly in the inner city suburbs, but that is another story.

It was common to see regular photographs of players and officials in newspaper articles as well as reports leading up to and results of the games each week.  There were also reports of club’s annual meetings and other items of interest.  Sadly, this situation is long gone with now only news of national games in all codes getting reported.

Newtown, who were runner-up in 1931 won this game, 15-12 (102) to 8-17 (65).  At the Sydney Cricket Ground No. 2, the Sydney Club 14-11 (95) defeated North Shore 12-9 (81) while  at Hampden Oval (Trumper Park), Eastern Suburbs beat the relatively newcomers to the competition, St George, 10-21 (81) to 5-4 (34) to complete the round 1 results.

We would dearly love one of our supporters who might lend a hand by colouring some of our black & white photographs.

Source: Sunday Guardian 26 April 1931 p.10