Trouble at Coolamon in 1957

<center>Jim Conway“Keenly contested matches and a brawl were the order of the day for the followers of the Australian Game of Football played in the South West District FL (NSW), on Sunday 9 June 1957.

The Coolamon v Whitton game was played at Kindra Park, Coolamon was hard and fast but not as tough as made out. The only trouble sited was an incident in the third quarter  when Coolamon’s rover, Jacko Reid and Whitton highly excitable ruckman, Rusty Kelly had a bit of a tiff in the middle of the ground.  Both players ended up on the wing throwing punches at each other.  After that Reid backed up onto the concrete bicycle track which surrounds the ground and became level with the much larger man, Kelly and gave him a fair pounding.  The umpire stopped the fight and the game carried on.

The match came to a conclusion with Jim Conway’s (pictured) Coolamon men 39 points ahead.  12-26 (98) to 10-9 (69). At this point Rusty Kelly took off in pursuit of Jack Reid who ran very fast towards the dressing shed.  “Get him Boxy”. Kelly shouted.  Bill Gill Box duly obliged and tripped the Coolamon rover over, enabling Kelly to nearly catch him.  The Coolamon crowd then came off the boundary line, many in an angry mood and from there the ruckus started.  Players, trainers and spectators from both clubs then proceeded to pound each other in the middle of the ground.

The local sergeant of police came onto the ground and he took a pounding as well!

After about 15 minutes the umpire pulled up the fight.  Whitton bus driver, Mr Boxer Lloyd then drove his bus up to the gate and the footballers left the ground, not showering or changing and got straight onto the bus then onwards to Whitton.  The VFL umpire said later that it was all very exciting while it lasted.”

Ref. History of the South West District Football League 1913-1981 p.283, author Ged Guthrie.

HAWKINS CLAN – A footballing family from Finley NSW

Tom HawkinsThe Hawkins clan are an exceptional footballing family from Finley in southern NSW.

Four members of the family were on the selection list for the NSW Greatest Team.

Current Geelong power forward Tom Hawkins, who was named an All-Australian for the second time in 2019, was selected on the interchange bench in the NSW Greatest Team.

His father, Jack, was in serious contention for a back pocket berth but was edged out by dual premiership players Chris Lethbridge (Sydney YMCA/Fitzroy) and Ross Henshaw (North Albury/North Melbourne).

Jack’s brothers, Michael and Robb, who both played in the VFL for Geelong, were also on the list.

Since being drafted under the father-son rule by Geelong in 2006, Tom Hawkins has played 254 games for the Cats. In his football career to date he has won two premierships (2009 & 2011), seven leading goal-kicking awards, a club best and fairest (2012), and booted 550 goals (at the end round 22, 2019).

Hawkins was born and raised in Finley and went to the local high school before moving south to be a boarder at Melbourne Grammar, a school his father also attended. He played his early football for Finley in the Murray League as well as when returning home for school holidays.

“Away from the farm, I loved playing sport – I played football and cricket for Finley. There used to be social tennis on Monday night, and I enjoyed that. My parents encouraged us to be involved in sport”, he told Country Style (1 May 2018).

Tom’s father, “Jumping” Jack Hawkins was a cult-figure at Geelong where he played from 1973 to 1981 accumulating 182 games and kicking twenty goals. He also represented Victoria.

He was renowned for his vertical leaping to take marks on the last line of defence. He was the school high jump champion. Hence his nickname, “Jumping Jack”.Jumping <br>Jack Hawkins

Jack suffered a serious knee injury in 1982 which resulted in his retirement from football in 1983.

He went home to the farm but could only play only one game for the local side due to the debilitating knee injury. He did however play in a premiership team for Finley in 1971 with his brother Michael. They beat Deniliquin in the grand final under journeyman country football coach Wally Mumford.

Jack later became president of the Finley Football Club from 1987-89 and then served on the MFL executive from 1990 including the last nine years as president until he stepped down at the end of last season.

He said he needed more time to relax and time to see both of his sons play football.

“I’ve been trying to balance out Murray league duties and watch Charlie playing for Finley as well as travelling to Geelong to watch Tom”, he told the Southern Riverina Weekly (3 January 2018).

Michael played two senior games on match permits with Geelong in 1973 when Finley had byes. He replaced the injured Ian “Bluey” Hampshire as first ruck.

He continued to play for Finley and was a key member of the 1981-82 premierships under ex Fitzroy player Mark Newton. He was also a regular Murray league representative in NSW State and country championship fixtures. Michael was recently inducted into the Finley Football Club Hall of Fame.

Robb Hawkins also went to Geelong under zoning but after not playing a senior game he went to South Adelaide in the SANFL in 1979 where he carved out a niche career of 115 games, two best and fairest awards, and state selection in 1981.

He returned to Geelong in 1984 but only played three games. He went to Sydney in 1984 but injuries curtailed his career at the highest level.

Robb returned home to the farm and to play for Finley. He led the club to the 1988 premiership. He has had three stints coaching the club as well as coaching juniors and a member of the match committee.

Wynne HawkinsThe father of the Hawkins brothers, Wynne, played for near neighbours and arch rivals, Tocumwal. He sought a clearance from Toc. when he moved to a farm near to Finley. It was denied and he never played again. He was aged in his mid-twenties.

There is a history of acrimony between Tocumwal and Finley. This is captured on the Tocumwal Football Club’s website, which has excellent coverage of the club’s history. There is a section entitled “Bloody Finley”, which details some of the more colourful incidents between the two clubs. ( http://websites.sportstg.com/club_info.cgi?c=1-6191-147841-522354-26427634&sID=382344).

One of the most interesting concerns the coach of the NSW Greatest Team and legendary St Kilda & Hawthorn premiership coach Allan Jeans.

Jeans was recruited to St Kilda from Finley in 1955, but he was originally a Tocumwal player. He was enticed to play for Finley in 1952 by a good offer to play and work in a local pub when the 1951 Toc. coach Bert DeAbbel went to coach Finley and run the Albion Hotel.  Tocumwal refused the clearance and Jeans stood out of football for a year. He was cleared to Finley the next year.

Finley has been a rich source of players for the VFL/AFL. Other players on the NSW Greatest Team list from Finley are David Murphy (Sydney Swans), Peter Baldwin (Geelong), Damian Sexton (St Kilda), Bert Taylor (Melbourne), Darren Jackson (Geelong), Shane Crawford (Hawthorn) and Mark Whiley (GWS & Carlton).

However, it is the Hawkins that name is the most strongly linked with Finley and they have all contributed significantly to the Finley FC, the Murray League and the game in NSW.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS: David Murphy (Sydney), Hamish Bull (Deniliquin), Mick Taylor & Mark O’Bryan (champions and stalwarts of the Finley Football Club) and the Tocumwal Football Club) for information and feedback.  Author – Rod Gillett

1949 – Liverpool Club Emerges

Committeeman, Ian Wright came across an interesting newspaper article regarding the formation of the Liverpool Club in Sydney in 1949.

Not a lot of descriptions of how and where clubs like this started are publically available so this goes to show the value of providing reports of proceedings to the local media, in particular, newspapers.  The digital age cannot provide such history.

The report in the “Biz”, a local rag circulating in the Fairfield area in Sydney not only provides an account of events but also gives us a copy of the advertisement placed in the same newspaper together a preliminary article the week before the meeting.

The report says:

AUSTRALIAN RULES FOOTBALL

CLUB FORMED IN LIVERPOOL

Over 40 enthusiastic followers and players of the Australian Rules Football code attended an inaugural meeting held the home of Mr C. Williamson in Northumberland Street, Liverpool, last Monday night. It was decided to form a club to be called Liverpool Australian Rules Football Club and to affiliate with the head body. The matter of guernseys is creating some difficulty, as manufacturers stated that it will be two years before they could supply a set. However, the club will probably overcome this problem.

A practice match will be held on Bigge Park Sunday next at 10 a.m., and all players interested are invited to have a run. Already fifteen players have notified their intention of playing. At the conclusion of the meeting, Mrs. C. Williamson and her daughters served a very dainty supper.

The first general meeting will be held in the R.S.L. Clubrooms, Liverpool, on April 7, at 7.30 p.m.”
Biz (Fairfield, NSW : 1928 – 1972), Thursday 31 March 1949, page 6

And despite several name and club colour changes, the Liverpool Club is still in existence, now 70 years old.  It played its early games at Woodward Park, located in Hoxton Park Road, then later at Liverpool Showground and eventually to Rosedale Park (as it then known), Warwick Farm from 1955.  They were initially known as The Rangers.

A baker, Cliff Williamson, was the first president of the club while former St George premiership player, Keith Wilcoxen took on the secretary’s role and bank manager, Austin Prigg settled in as treasurer.  Leo Sullivan was the captain coach.

Sir Douglas Ralph Nicholls KCVO MBE OBE by Rod Gillett

Doug Nicholls
as a young man

The search for the Greatest NSW Team unearthed a most distinguished Australian, Sir Doug Nicholls.

Sir Doug was born on 9 December 1906 and raised on the Cummeragunja aboriginal mission on the NSW side of the Murray River, near Echuca.

He began working life as a tar boy on the sheep stations in southern NSW. After moving to Melbourne to play football he became a council worker, boxer in Jimmy Sharman’s travelling boxing show, professional foot-runner, pastor, advocate for aboriginal advancement, and finally, Governor of South Australia (1976-77).

He was knighted in 1972 for “distinguished service to the advancement of aboriginal people. He had earlier been awarded an MBE (1957) and an OBE (1968). He was awarded the high honour of KCVO (Knight Commander of the Royal Victorian Order) by the Queen in Adelaide in 1977.

However, it was on the Cummeragunja mission oval that he learnt to play football according to Roy Hay, the author of the recently released ground-breaking book, Aboriginal People and Australian Football in the Nineteenth Century (2019).

Nicholls played his early football with the Cummeragunja mission team in the Western and Moira Riding district league based around Nathalia that was the forerunner to the Picola Football League. We are still trying to establish if he was member of the team that won the 1921 premiership.

In 1925 he joined nearby Tongala then playing in the Goulburn Valley Football League where he linked up with his brother Herbert, better known as “Dowie” (Great Goals: Goulburn Valley Football league 1894-1994).

Nicholls went to Melbourne in 1927 to try out for VFL club Carlton and played some reserve grade games. He famously left Carlton after a trainer refused to rub him down after training because of his skin colour according to his biographer Mavis Thorpe Clark, author of Pastor Doug: An Aboriginal Leader (1965).

He subsequently joined Northcote in the Victorian Football Association (VFA) where he became a regular member of the team. According to the AFL Record (27-29 May 2016), he starred in the 1929 win as well as the losing grand finals in 1930-31. He won the club’s best and fairest award in 1929-1930 and finished third in the Recorder Cup for the best and fairest in the VFA.

The Sporting Globe reported in 1929 that ‘he flashes through packs of big men, whisks around small men . . . and attempts marks at the back of any six-footer’. Nicholls was 5 ft 2 inches (158 cm) tall, but muscular and lightning fast. He was also a professional runner and won the Nyah and Warracknabeal Gifts in 1929

A further highlight of his VFA career was representing the Association in interstate matches in 1931 against NSW at the SCG and against the VFL at the MCG.

Doug Nicholls
Fitzroy Footballer

In a preview of the NSW v VFA match, The Sydney Morning Herald (15 August 1931) rated Nicholls as one of the main attractions, “He is a beautiful pass and high mark. Is very plucky, and revels in crushes, out of which he bounces like a rubber ball”. The VFA won 16.11.107 to NSW 13.17.95.

In 1932, Nicholls joined Fitzroy in the VFL and played alongside the great Hadyn Bunton, originally from Albury who was selected as first rover in the NSW Greatest Team. Bunton befriended Nicholls at Fitzroy and made him feel welcome, according to Mavis Thorpe Clark.

After Bunton was killed in a road accident in 1955, Pastor Doug officiated at his memorial service in Adelaide.

Nicholls played 54 games and kicked two goals for Fitzroy in the period 1932-36. He finished third in the club best and fairest in 1934 behind Hadyn Bunton (Brownlow medallist 1931-32 & 1935 ) and Wilfred “Chicken” Smallhorn (who won the Brownlow medal in 1933).

In 1934 he became the first aboriginal player to represent the VFL when they played the VFA. The following season he was selected for the tour to play against Western Australia and South Australia. He played in both Victoria’s wins over WA but missed the match against the SANFL due to injury.

Nicholls returned to Northcote in 1937 but ongoing knee injuries forced him to retire in 1939.

However, he did return to home to Cummeragunja for one last game in 1940 for a fund-raising game against Echuca at the Victoria Park Oval in Echuca.

Nicholls also returned to Northcote as non-playing coach in 1947. He is believed to be the first aboriginal person to coach a senior football club. Another example of him pushing the boundaries for his people.

Sir Doug expressed his passion for the game of football in an article in the Sporting Globe (1 June 1935):

“I get a tremendous kick out of football, because I know my people in New South Wales follow my doings and play closely by wireless and in the newspapers. This always spurs me on, and gives me added confidence”.

Shepparton Street Art
a fitting tribute

The ultimate football tribute for Sir Doug Nicholls has been the naming of the AFL’s Indigenous Round in his honour.

A Forgotten Footballer

   Matthew Blair

As time passes the memory of those who played football in New South Wales fade until they are forgotten.

Such is the case of a former school-teacher, Matthew Blair.

He was born at Marulan, near Goulburn in 1880.  The son of English migrants, he was one of five children.

The family moved around a bit but finally settled in Wallsend, west of Newcastle.  Matthew attended the Wallsend Superior School where he was an outstanding student.  Like his elder sister, Ann, Matthew took on teaching and passed the public teachers examination in 1896.  His first appointment as a student teacher was to Jesmond Public School in 1897.

This was a pretty good effort given that his mother died when he was aged 14 and his father, five months later.  There is that question as to who looked after the family upon the father’s death?  At the time the youngest son, William was five years of age.

It was at Wallsend that Matthew and his brothers learned Australian Football.

Matthew was eventually transferred to Sydney where he taught at the Petersham Superior School.  In 1904 he encouraged his students to play Australian Football.  Other schools in their competition included Double Bay, Balmain, Erskineville and Waverley (public) schools.  There was also a separate Catholic schools competition in operation.

Petersham School Team Part of the Play Part of the Play

As the season progressed more schools participated with a total of seven in the ‘A’ division and over forty schools playing in the ‘B’ division covering a number of zones.  Petersham won the outright schools competition and as a reward (unbelievably) played the curtain raiser match to the VFL Grand Final on the MCG on 17 September, against the Victorian champion school, Albert Park, winning 7-6 (42) to 1-0 (6).  There was mention of the size of the NSW boys but no-one had bothered to check the school age differences between the two state education systems.  The Petersham boys were older and of course more mature, physically.  On the right of the Petersham team photo in the top hat is Henry Harrison, one of the founders of Australian Football.

Matthew signed on with the Sydney club where he played a number of seasons, captaining the side in 1907 to a premiership over Newtown, the grand final being played at, of all places, at Kensington Racecourse (where the University is now located);  after the win he was chaired off the ground.  In the same year he had his brother, George also played with the club.  Amazingly enough, that year Matt travelled down from Wallsend where he was teaching at the local school, each weekend .

Blair’s early
Education Record

The Department of Education moved Matthew around after his stint at Wallsend.  He taught at Mungindi in 1911, Wardell in 1912 and Woodburn on the north coast in 1917 – although it appears he did not get to that final posting because on 22 June 1916 he enlisted in the AIF.  This was after his young brother, William or Bill, fell at Gallipoli on 26 April 1915.

On 11 May 1917 he was on the Shropshire en route to England and on 2 April the following year had been promoted to the rank of lieutenant and transferred to the 20th Battalion.  On the 11th April, Blair, along with some colleagues was killed at Hagan Wood, which part of the Somme Offensive.  His body was not found for some time.

We have been able to gather some witness statements regarding his death which are attached below:

The sad thing about deaths like these in our wars is the way they are then treated as just a number.

Jinny Blair, Matthew’s wife of fourteen years was living at 351 Miller Street, North Sydney at the time of his death along with their two sons aged thirteen and seven along together with daughter, Mary aged just twelve months.

Another sad part of this story is, like other deceased servicemen, how and what of Matthew’s belongings were wrapped up and returned to his widow.  Then there was the matter of a pension.

It would appear that Jinny, also a teacher did not receive a pension however the children, Kevin received eighteen and six pence per fortnight, Jack (John), one pound per fortnight and young Mary, ten shillings per fortnight – why the difference in pay?

Jinny or to give her correct name, Jane, passed away in 1949 at 66.  So at least we can give notice of a former footballer from this state who in all reality, has now not been forgotten.