Sydney AFL Grand Final week brings back memories of Wests’ win in 1965

Again the Football History Society’s, Vice President, Dr Rod Gillett, has sought out a great period in NSW football:

Western Suburbs were the most successful club in Sydney football in the 1960s. The Magpies, which had been re-formed in 1948, played in seven grand finals winning four.

Under dual Melbourne premiership player Athol Webb, Wests convincingly beat St George in the 1965 grand final at Trumper Park, 17-15 (117) to 12-9 (81).

Wests had become a powerhouse through sound administration, access to its own ground  in Picken Oval and the establishment of the first licensed club for Australian football in NSW in 1962.

Club secretary Bill Hart, later to be president of the NSWANFL from 1966-1978, was instrumental in getting Webb to come to Sydney from Tasmania.  The previous year he had coached the East Launceston FC (1962-63) in the NTFA and prior, the New Norfolk FC (1960-61) after finishing up in the VFL where he played with the Melbourne club from 1955-59.

Webb was essentially a full-time coach with Wests.  In addition to coaching duties, he worked in the licensed club and ran school programs in the inner west. He resided in a house next to the club which they also owned.

Western Suburbs finished on top of the table with 15 wins in 1965 and only two losses in the home-and-away matches to St George and North Shore. Wests lost to St George under Col Harris in the second semi final but came back to comfortably beat Newtown in the preliminary final.

Statistics were provided in the NSWANFL Football Record (19 September 1965) that show the following:

Kicks Marks Hand Passes Free Kicks Hit Outs
Western Suburbs 181 63 13 12 53
Newtown 147 52 17 25 30

Wests ruckman Russ Lockett, later a long-term secretary-manager of the licensed club, led the ruck division to a decisive advantage over Newtown, 53 hit-outs to 30.

In an interview for this piece, Athol Webb, now aged 85 and living in The Rock where he went to coach after Wests, recalled it was a “very hot day, 97° F” but “we were pretty well set-up to win”.

The grand final victory which was described by the President Herb Conlon in the club’s annual report for 1965 as “an inspired performance to outplay St George in every position”.

Amongst the best players for Wests were “close-playing” full back Peter Burgess, “fearless rover” Cliff Hayes (later an umpire), key forward John Godwin “a former rugby player” and “versatile” vice-captain Roger Nobes (quotes from the Football Record for the Grand Final).

Western Suburbs FC contingent boarding the plane for NZ

Wests went on an end-of-season trip to Auckland to play an exhibition match. A party of 43 players, officials and committeemen journeyed to New Zealand. The match played at Cromwell Park attracted a crowd of 7000. The Kiwi team proved to good for Wests. The game covered on the national television news on the Sunday following the game.


The next year, Athol Webb was enticed to southern NSW to coach The Rock-Yerong Creek in the strong Farrer League. Webb coached TR-YC for three seasons and stayed on as a player for a further six years.

Athol told me that The Rock was a “terrific little spot” and a great place to raise a family.

Asked to name the highlights of his career, Athol modestly told me, “Kicking 5 goals in the 1956 VFL grand final against Collingwood, I suppose”, but then he lit up when he said “also winning the Tassie One Thousand (professional foot race) at Burnie”. When pressed about his share of the purse he said, “750 quid!”.

Athol Webb (pictured left in Tasmanian jumper) is described in the Encyclopedia of VFL/AFL Footballers Since 1897 (2003) as a “former Tasmanian forward whose speed and elusive style made him a constant menace to opposition sides”. He played 74 games and kicked 146 goals for Melbourne from 1955-59.

He told me that Norm Smith was a “master coach”, “…he knew how to get the best out of everyone, every week”

He was captain-coach of NSW in 1965 and also in 1964 in matches against North Melbourne and Hawthorn in Sydney.

He also represented Victoria and Tasmania and kicked the match-sealing goal when Tassie famously beat Victoria at York Park, Launceston in 1960.

Athol Webb has been nominated for a place in the inaugural AFL NSW Hall of Fame.


 “Poddy” Slade – ‘Wonder’ Footballer Who Beat the Mail Train

Football History Society Vice President, Doctor Rod Gillett, takes us back to one of the champions of the game in the Riverina Area of New South Wales:

Coolamon’s greatest-ever player Alonza “Poddy” Slade, was rated a “wonder” player because of his “skills and sheer brilliance” according to contemporary media reports.

The most astounding story in relation to Poddy Slade is when he beat the South West Mail train from Coolamon to Matong, almost thirty kilometres, riding a bicycle!

Football teams in the South West league in the 1920s would travel by train to games along the south-west rail line from Junee to Griffith, alternating venues based on the fixtures. All the clubs except Leeton in this period were based on the rail-line that gave the league its name.

One particular Saturday, Coolamon were playing at Whitton, and Poddy missed catching the train by a few minutes due to being delayed at work; undeterred he went after the train on his bike, a cumbersome old Malvern Star, and furiously pedalled over the unpaved road to Ganmain, only to see the train depart the station just as he rounded the corner. He redoubled his efforts and caught the train in Matong. That afternoon he was Coolamon’s best player!

Poddy Slade played his first game for Coolamon in 1908 at the age of 14. He subsequently played until 1934.

The photograph(above) of Poddy Slade in his football prime shows a superbly muscled, powerful frame with a face set in steely determination. He worked for the local granary on tasks that required physical strength such as lumping bags of wheat.

In an interview I did with him in 1981 he told me that he also worked at his fitness by jogging at night along the then bumpy Coolamon-Marrar road.

Poddy was the star player in Coolamon’s 1920 and 1922 premiership teams. The premiership in 1920 was Coolamon’s first premiership; the club was formed in 1894.

Coolamon defeated Naranderra at Coolamon by thirteen points. A crowd estimated at over 3000 attended the match and the gate takings were a record £78. A half-day holiday was declared in the town for the game.

Narrandera had challenged for the premiership after being declared the winner of the semi-final against Marrar at Grong Grong. This followed the controversial “football stabbing” incident by an unknown Marrar player.

Best player for Coolamon was Poddy Slade – “ … with his high marks and general play was always in the limelight” (Coolamon-Farmers’ Review, 24 September, 1920).

The following season Coolamon lost to Junee in the grand final at Naranderra by 16 points. A special train conveyed over 1200 people to Naranderra from Junee for the grand final halting at all stops along the line.

Coolamon secured their second premiership in three years when they took out the 1922 pennant by beating Narrandera at Coolamon. Poddy Slade was again named the best player.

The highlight of his extensive football career was leading a combined South West team against VFL powerhouse Collingwood at Narrandera in 1924.

The Magpies were led by Charlie Tyson and included Charlie Dibbs, Len Murphy, Joe Poulter and the Coventry brothers, Syd and Gordon. Known as “The Machine” Collinwood would win four premierships in a row, 1927-1930.

The Narrandera Argus (18 July 1924) reported that “the SWDFL made a grand showing against such formidable opponents”. Collingwood won 13-8 (86) to South West 10-15 (75).

According to the match report, “Slade was one of the few to match these leaping wonders” and “used his height and weight judiciously”. He was named in the best players and kicked two goals.

Poddy played for Coolamon until 1934 when his last game was the final game for the season against fierce local rivals Ganmain. Ganmain won 7-21 (63) to 5-9 (39). Poddy kicked three goals.

“The Coolamon team is fortunate in having such a talented player as A. (Poddy) Slade…. He always plays the game as it should be played … he has set an example that footballers should strive to follow. The football and goals have always been his object, and whenever he beats an opponent, he beats him fairly”.    (Narrandera Argus 2 August 1929)

As to how Alonza Slade got his nickname the answer was given to me  by Mrs Slade at my interview with Poddy in 1981, his wife told me, “When his mother bought him home a relative exclaimed “My isn’t he a little poddy” and the name stuck.







Newcastle’s Western Suburbs Reigned Supreme in 1960

Senator JJ Arnold would have derived immense satisfaction from Western Suburbs premiership victory in 1960 over Hamilton at the Showground that made four premierships in a row.

It was even more meritorious given the club was only formed in 1951, and finished bottom in 1955.

The Arnold family had very deep connections to Wests with James Arnold snr playing a role in its formation, son Jim Arnold jnr playing with the club in the early years and then serving the club in multiple capacities, whilst his  grandsons, David and Bruce played with the club from the ages of 13 through until their early thirties. Both also served the club off-field in various capacities.

James Jarvist Arnold had been secretary of the Newcastle league in 1935. At that time, following the Great Depression, there were insufficient numbers of players for a competition; internal games were played, and combined teams played matches against Sydney clubs.

However, the league worked hard at promotion and hosted an exhibition game between Collingwood and South Melbourne at the No. 1 Sportsground in which “Collingwood proved to be the better team on the day” (Newcastle ANFL Annual Report 1935).

Although JJ Arnold was elected to the Senate in 1941 and served until 1965, he continued his involvement in the administration of the game up until his passing in 1967 as patron after serving on the management committee for many years. His son, Jim also became a long-serving official of the Newcastle ANFL in various capacities.

J J Arnold

After WWII, the Newcastle Australian National Football League re-formed, and in 1948 allocated seven players from the sole Newcastle club to new clubs: Mayfield, Broadmeadow, Waratah and Newcastle City. This move rejuvenated the Australian game in Newcastle. Western Suburbs bought the number of teams in the competition up to five when they were formed in 1951.

According to the 1958 NANFL Annual Report, the Newcastle clubs were “…stronger than at any other time of their existence”. There were six senior clubs with Maitland and Hamilton having joined in 1953; Broadmeadow after not winning a game in 1952 dropped out. A third grade (Under 17s) had been introduced in 1957, and by 1960, there was also an Under 14 grade.

Also, there were five secondary schools in a separate competition won by Newcastle Boys’ High.

Wests completely dominated the grand final, and at no time did they allow Hamilton into the game, according to the match report by “High Mark” in the Newcastle Herald (5 September 1960) with the final scores being Wests 13-8 (86) to Hamilton 3-12 (30).

Wests also won the Reserves by eleven points win over Maitland, Hamilton beat City in the Under 17s, and City beat Mayfield by 9 points in the Under 14s. The only club not to have a team in the grand final was Waratah.

Wests were led by Keith Haddow; amongst the best players were ruckman Jeff Evans, back pocket Don Sharman, and follower Doug Hoare, who won the competition best and fairest award in 1958 and in the same year represented NSW.

While many players came to Newcastle to work in the heavy manufacturing industry as engineers, iron workers, and fitters and turners as well as from the RAAF base at nearby Williamtown there was a strong contingent of locals according to Jack Shelswell, a locally-produced Wests rover in the 1960s.

“It was a joyous time in our lives” according to Jack, who played over 200 games for Wests. “We looked forward to playing each week, and we developed strong rivalries with the other teams, mainly because we played them so often. We always socialised with the opposition after games, sometimes at the grounds where we played, Wickham No 2 or Islington Oval, or at president, John Newton’s cafe in New Lambton for an ice cream spider (drink) ”.

The history of the game in the Newcastle area has been volatile depending on the economic circumstances in the nation at any point in the cycle.

The one constant has the been the Black Diamond Cup – “the oldest sporting trophy in Australia” – awarded each year to the premiers (Newcastle AFL Grand Final Record 1989).

Football was first played in the area in 1883, and the grandly named Northern Districts Football Association was formed in 1886 with four clubs: Newcastle City, Wallsend, Northumberland, and Summerhill. However, the Depression of the 1890s unravelled the code, and just like the game in Sydney it did not start again until 1903.

Western Suburbs won further premierships in 1962, 1977-78, 1982-83 and 1986. In 1999 the club changed its name to West Newcastle. For the start of the Black Diamond Cup competition involving clubs from the Central Coast, Wests combined with Wallsend to become Wallsend West Newcastle.

Black Diamond Cup

This club won the Black Diamond Cup in 2001 but folded in 2003.

In 2020 the competition, now known as the AFL Hunter Central Coast, and made up of ten senior clubs from Greater Newcastle, the Hunter Valley and the Central Coast of which five are based in Newcastle: Newcastle City, Cardiff, and Warners Bay in the seniors. Lake Macquarie and Wallsend West Newcastle (recently reformed) are in the reserves competition which consists of six teams. Division III consists of seven teams.

Meanwhile, there are fifteen teams in the Women’s Premier Division and seven teams in Division II.

The junior competition based on the Hunter and Central Coast areas has fourteen age groups for boys and girls ranging from Under 9s to 17s.

The current state of the game may have given Senator JJ Arnold even greater satisfaction.

Wayne “Wacky” Walker – The Mark Ricciuto of Broken Hill Football

To commemorate the 140th anniversary of Australian Football in New South Wales in 2020, 140 coaches, players, umpires, administrators and media personalities will be inducted into the inaugural New South Wales Australian Football Hall of Fame.
Rod Gillett profiles the nomination of Wayne Walker.

1987 NSW AFL Team
Wayne Walker seated second from right.
NSW 10-12 (72) d VFA 8-5 (53)

At the opening bounce in the NSW v VFA match at Lavington in 1987, Wayne Walker bored in to get the tap from ruckman Barry Denton bundling his opponent out of the way to boot the Sky Blues into attack.

Defender Dennis Sandral immediately ran to “Wacky”, as he universally known, to say “You’ll do us!”. Sandral, the tough-as-teak Ovens & Murray Hall of Famer, had challenged Walker at training about his key role in the mid-field.

“Wacky” responded the best way known by playing a pivotal role in the historic victory over the Victorian Football Association and being named second best player. Sandral from the Corowa club was also in the best players along with his O & M colleagues Dick Hamilton and Ralph Aalbers.

Walker had driven his car from Broken Hill to represent his State. There were only two flights out of Broken Hill to Sydney during this period. Like everything else in Broken Hill such as the newspapers, the time, and the beer, the flights came from Adelaide.

This commitment really endeared “Wacky” to his teammates as did his cheery nature.

It proved to be NSW’s only ever win over the VFA. The first match between these two sides had been played in Sydney in 1881 which was the first-ever interstate (colony) football match of any code involving NSW, a year before rugby. The VFA morphed into the VFL in 1995.

“Wacky” told me that “the spirit and competitiveness of the (NSW) players was unbelievable. They were all so committed (to win). “Leechie” (coach Greg Leach) and “Huey” (Greg Harris) knew how to bring the boys together for rep games. It was a very satisfying win”.

Walker carved out a highly distinguished career in local football in Broken Hill from his debut in 1975 until his retirement in 1996 marked by competition best and fairest medals, premierships and representative honours.

He started his senior career at Centrals in 1975. He played 149 games including premierships in 1979, 1981, 1982, 1983, and 1984.

“Wacky” was a core member of the Centrals mid-field contingent led by skipper Dean “Stixie” Files, ex Port Adelaide centreman John Eade, and the dynamic Visko Sulicich.

Premiership team-mate and former AFL Broken Hill chairman Peter Nash recalls “Wacky” as a player, “Wacky mostly played as a ruck-rover. Got the ball out of packs. He was as tough-as-nails, hard but fair. Very skillful on both sides of the body. He was the Mark Ricciuto of Broken Hill football”.

He stunned the local football world when he moved to Norths in 1985 as playing coach.

Geographically, Broken Hill is divided by the line-of-load into two discernible districts, Town and the South. But as Keith Newton shows in his chapter on footy in Broken Hill in Footy Town (2013) football is tribal. The existence of the football clubs since the turn of the 20th century divides the city into four communities.

Keith Miller

“Wacky” took Norths to a premiership in 1986; he would play 202 games and participate in further premierships in 1988, 1992 and 1994.  He retired in 1996.

He won the Middleton Medal as the best player in the Broken Hill FL competition in 1978 and 1983 at Centrals then again in 1991 and 1995 at Norths which gave him four awards over three different decades. He also won two club best and fairest awards at both Centrals and at Norths.

Wayne played six games for NSW. He was a regular representative in Broken Hill teams in the South Australian country championships. He also represented SA Country team on four occasions.

From 1996 – 2002 he was the AFL Development Officer in the Far West region and for 5 years coached the Primary State Schools Association team at the intra-state carnival.

He is best-known these days as the father of “Tex”, Adelaide key forward Taylor Walker.

NSWAFL: President Keith Miller, AM MBE and legendary Australian Cricketer, who also represented NSW in Australian Football was present at the match.

Announcement of Carey-Bunton Medal Results and NSW 2020 Origin Team

Richard Colless NSWAFL and later AFL NSWACT Chairman 1997-2000

The New South Wales Australian Football History Society is pleased to advise the results of its new awards and team of the year for NSW players in the AFL in season 2020.

Society patron Richard Colless, who instigated the introduction of the awards at the start of this season said, “I am delighted to announce the winners of the various awards and the NSW State-of-Origin team for 2020”.

“While it has been a shortened season, it nonetheless has been a highly competitive one. We had twenty-one different players poll votes in the Carey-Bunton Medal, which shows the growing depth and quality of NSW players in the AFL.”

“The winner of the Carey-Bunton Medal, Tom Hawkins had an outstanding season marked by topping the goal-kicking with 42 goals, and thus winning the Coleman Medal for the first time. For these two honours, Tom was selected as the recipient of the Achievement Award”.

“Lachie Schultz, originally from Moama, just across the border from Echuca, has shown remarkable persistence to achieve his dream of a career in the AFL and his performances this season for Fremantle earnt him the Emerging Talent Award”.

“The Origin team was selected from the 49 players currently in the AFL from NSW-based clubs, ranging from Broken Hill in the west, to Newcastle in the north, Tathra on the far south coast, Sydney, and of course, the Riverina and southern border districts”.

“As the convenor of the selection panel, I want to thank the selectors, Gerard Healy, Mike Sheahan, Mark Maclure, and Wayne Carey, as well as Dr Rodney Gillett for his research and administrative support”.

“We were very pleased to have the support from the AFL Coaches Association for the voting system for the Carey-Bunton Medal, it provided tremendous credibility for the award. Thank you to Mark Brayshaw and his team at the AFLCA”.

“And finally, thanks to the media, particularly the Daily Telegraph in Sydney, but also all the regional newspapers for their enthusiasm and support for our awards”.

Tom Hawkins

Tom Hawkins (Finley)
Geelong Football Club
Full voting details below.

Tom Hawkins (Finley) – Geelong Football Club


Lackie Schultz

Lachlan Schultz (Moama)
Fremantle Football Club





Coach: John Longmire Sydney (Corowa Rutherglen Kangaroos)
Assistant Coaches:  Brett Kirk Sydney (North Albury Grasshoppers) Mark McVeigh GWS (Pennant Hills Demons), Jarryd McVeigh Sydney (Pennant Hills Demons), Adam Schneider GWS (Osborne Tigers).
Fullback Back line Harry Cunningham Dougal Howard Harry Perryman
Sydney Swans St Kilda GWS
Turvey Park Bulldogs Wagga Tigers Collingullie Glenfield Park Demons
Half Back Line Callum Mills Dane Rampe (v-capt) Zac Williams
Sydney Swans Sydney Swans GWS
North Shore Bombers ES-UNSW Bulldogs Narrandera Imperials
Centre Line Isaac Smith Jacob Hopper Will Setterfield
Hawthorn GWS Carltonb
East Wagga Kooringal Hawks Leeton-Whitton Crows Albury Tigers
Half Forward Line Luke Breust Tom Hawkins (capt) Lachie Schultz
  Hawthorn Geelong Fremantle
  Temora Kangaroos Finley Cats Moama Magpies
Full Forward Line Michael Gibbons Harry Himmelberg Taylor Walker
  Carlton GWS Adelaide
  Lavington Panthers Mangoplah-Cookardinia United Eastlakes Goannas North Broken Hill Bulldogs
Ruck Jarrod Witts Isaac Heeney Andrew Kennedy
  Gold Coast Sydney Swans Carlton
  Sydney University Students Cardiff Hawks Collingullie Glenfield Park Demons
Interchange Jeremy Finlayson Aaron VandenBerg
  GWS Melbourne
  Culcairn Lions Tathra Sea Eagles
  Nick Blakey Todd Marshall
  Sydney Swans Port Adelaide
  ES-UNSW Deniliquin Rams


1 Tom Hawkins (GEEL) 35 
2 Jarrod Witts (GCC) 31
3 Dane Rampe (SYD) 20
3 Harry Perryman (GWS) 20
5 Isaac Heeney (SYD) 19
6 Jacob Hopper (GWS) 12
7 Callum Mills (SYD) 11
8 Isaac Smith (HAW) 9
9 Derek Eggmolesse-Smith (RICH) 8
9 Dougal Howard (ST K) 8
11 Zac Williams (GWS) 5
12 Nick Blakey (SYD) 4
12 Jacob Townsend (ESS) 4
12 Matthew Kennedy (CARL) 4
15 Luke Breust (HAW) 3
15 Jeremy Finlayson (GWS) 3
17 Michael Gibbons (CARL) 3
18 Todd Marshall (PA) (2)
18 Harry Himmelberg (GWS) 2
18 Charlie Spargo (MEL) 2
18 Elliott Himmelberg (ADEL) 2