Best NSW Team Ever Announced

       Wayne Carey

The player regarded by many as the best player to ever play the game, Wayne Carey, has been named as captain of the Greatest NSW Team at the Carbine Club of NSW annual AFL Lunch today (9th May, 2019).

“The King” captained North Melbourne to two premierships in the 1990s and was selected in seven All Australian teams and was named captain four times. He won four best and fairest awards at North Melbourne and was leading goal-kicker five times. He captained the club from 1993-2001.

Carey played in the NSW team that beat Victoria at the SCG in 1990 and led a NSW/ACT team against Victoria at the MCG in 1993.

He began his football journey at North Wagga and strongly identifies with that club where his brother and nephews played. His boy-hood hero was the illustrious North Wagga captain-coach Laurie Pendrick.

The selection of the NSW Greatest Team was jointly sponsored by the NSW Australian Football History Society and the AFL NSW/ACT.

A panel of experts was assembled to undertake this extraordinarily challenging exercise. Senior selectors were Mike Sheahan and Gerard Healy supported by NSW Australian Football Society executive members Ian Granland and Rod Gillett and society member and author Miles Wilks. AFL NSW/ACT CEO Sam Graham and AFL Commissioner Gabrielle Trainor represented the AFL.

The panel was chaired by former Sydney Swans chairman and inaugural NSW/ACT AFL chairman, Richard Colless, who is the AFL convenor for the Carbine Club of NSW.

Nearly 500 NSW players have since 1897 played senior football in the VFL/AFL and a smaller number in the SANFL.

NSW players have won seven Brownlow Medals, five Magarey Medals, and three Sandover Medals.

There have been various attempts to select teams that represent part of NSW, e.g. Southern NSW/ACT, Riverina and Sydney teams. And there have also been a number of teams selected by historians and supporters that have been posted on the internet.

There has however, never been an official NSW team that embraces the game’s 140-year history and includes every part of the State in which the game indigenous has been played.

One of the issues is that there has never been a natural senior competition in NSW. Broken Hill, Sydney, and various Southern NSW and Riverina Leagues have at one stage or another been ascendant.

Nonetheless the game has a very rich history in NSW and the selection of the Greatest Team represents a major celebration for Australian Football in this state.

The team is:





Click here for criteria and bio of each player


Playing Football in 1925

We thought you might like to read a comment about football in Sydney in 1925 from a sporting newspaper of the time:

The N.S.W. player is a hero. He plays the game for honour, and in some cases pays a weekly fee to his club for the honour of playing. If he is injured in the course of the game, what does he receive? The same as if his club won the premiership. Even less than that— absolutely nothing. There is no insurance, because the controllers of the game have been too busy looking after the ‘gates’ to give the matter consideration.

One club insured its players last year, why not do the same again this year. That appears to be in order, but it was only through the personal exertion of an energetic club secretary, that a policy was obtained. This season the story was different. Insurance companies said ‘Yes, providing all the teams insure their members.’ Here again the League should give a helping hand – the club secretaries being responsible for the collection of the insurance money each week, fortnight or month, as the case may be.

‘The conduct of the affairs of the N.S.W. Australian Football League has been left to three or four officers, and the time is now ripe to remove the drones and place in their stead, a bunch of live-wire workers, all striving for the one object, first and foremost, the furtherance of the Australian Rules Code in N.S.W.’ [Arrow (Sydney, NSW : 1916 – 1933), Friday 17 July 1925, page 12]

Shape Up or Ship Out Constable Moon

       Jack Moon

Jack Moon was a railway porter come shunter at Narrandera who successfully joined the NSW Police Force in 1949. He was 20 and married.

John Brian Moon was born and raised in Culcairn, New South Wales and went on to play in the firsts with the Narrandera Imperials in the 1940s. He was a big 1.82cm ruckman 90kg and full of strength. But probably like a lot of young footballers, he played rugby league on Saturdays. Certainly we have recorded him playing for Culcairn with his brother, Clive in the mid 1940s.

Jack moved to Sydney without his wife, Betty and resided in Newtown whilst he underwent the then limited training at the police training centre in Bourke Street Redfern. Following his time there he was stationed at Randwick Police Station in Coogee Bay Road.

The Eastern Suburbs Club were altered to the presence of this big fella and quickly signed him up; he went straight into their first grade and fitted in well. Easts were becoming a strong hard to beat combination peppered with many stars.

In 1951 Jack took an interest in Rugby League and tried out with the Balmain club. In early April he was playing in their reserve grade. It is likely he was encouraged to move to Rugby League by fellow policeman, Roy Dykes, who was living at Marrickville and had switched from Newtown to Balmain also in 1951. At the time Dykes was stationed at Redfern.

Jack continued to play both codes, Rugby League of a Saturday and Australian Football on Sundays. The Balmain club seemed happy with the arrangement but it wasn’t long before there was some reaction.

On 19 May, Eastern Suburbs secretary, Norm Ferguson handed Moon a letter asking him to choose codes and if he chose to keep playing Rugby League he could have a clearance to any Australian Football Club of his choice.

Easts then were dripping with good footballers and could afford to lay down the law even to players like Moon who only in the previous year had represented the state in an All-States carnival in Brisbane.

Moon said he intended to play for Balmain when Easts were not playing however took the option of a clearance telling club officials that he intended to transfer to the Newtown Club (Moon at the time was living in Newtown).

On 23 May, Moon announced that he would give Australian Football away in favour of Rugby League and confirmed his commitment to Balmain Rugby League Club. He had, however, to wait until 12 July 1952 before he played in his initial first grade game for the Tigers, against South Sydney at the Sports Ground; Jack was sent off early in the match for kneeing an opponent.

By the middle of July 1952 Jack was transferred in the police force to the NSW Country town of Coonabarabran but by May 1954 he was back in Sydney and again playing for Balmain.

Jack was a tough customer, always getting into strife and he loved confrontation on the field however his biggest notoriety came in August 1954 when he illegally played a game for the Bargo club in Group 6 (competition name) against Picton at the Bargo Showground.

He was identified by many people as the current Balmain player, Jack Moon but played under the name of J Clissold. The controversy went on for over two months with the NSW Rugby League, Country Rugby League and Group 6 all holding inquiries as to what took place. Moon denied playing on that day even though he was identified by many, including the referee who sent him off for rough play and subsequent abusive language. The issue made headlines in newspapers for weeks and he was eventually suspended for four competition matches.

Jack continued to play into 1955 but in 1958 found himself transferred to the NSW Coastal town of Urunga. He died in Sydney in 2010.  Jack only played 56 games with Balmain and was a member of the 1956 Balmain team who were defeated by St George in the grand final, 18-12.

Garth Burkett – Champion Footballer

            Garth Burkett

When researching football in NSW I came across a player who we would term today, as a “real gun”.

He is Garth Burkett who represented New South Wales against Victoria on the SCG in 1949 where he was named one of the best. He was chosen as vice-captain of the state side in the 1950 Carnival in Brisbane where again he was one of the best in the three games he played.

Garth Burkett was the coach of West Broken Hill between 1949 to 1951. As a 22 year old he came from the West Adelaide Club where he had won their best and fairest as a youngster in 1945 & 46. At the age of 17 was a regular member of the West Adelaide team.

What prompted him to apply for the coach’s job in Broken Hill is a mystery, although, it may well have been money. He was one of 15 applicants from South Australia, Victoria and Tasmania for the position and was joined at WBH with fellow West Adelaide player, Bob Lee.

He began work as a fitter and turner at the Zinc Corporation in Broken Hill in March 1949.

Burkett had already represented South Australia against Victoria and Western Australia as well as in the South Australian team that contested the ANFC Carnival in Hobart in 1947. At the time of his appointment at WBH he was regarded as the best player in the state of South Australia.

In his first season with West Broken Hill he took them to their first premiership in ten years and during his time at Broken Hill represented the league on a number of occasions. He won the league B&F Medal in 1949 and his club’s best and fairest award in 1949-50 & 51.

In 1952 at 24 and still in his prime, Burkett then accepted playing position at the Stansbury Club on the York Peninsular and together with former West Adelaide team mate and coach, Jack Broadstock, was instrumental in making the club one of the most powerful in the area.

Then in 1954 Burkett returned to West Adelaide and represented South Australia against Victoria in July of that year yet again being named as one of the team’s best in a losing match. He was again identified as one of West’s best in their grand final defeat against Port Adelaide.

In 1956 Burkett, still only 29 was signed as captain coach of the Myponga Club (south of Adelaide) in the then Southern Football Association (now Great Southern) at a reputed fee of two hundred and twenty five pounds (in excess of $7,300 today) , taking them to a flag in 1957. Ironically Burkett is not in the club’s best team 1946-66.

Unfortunately we can find no further information on Garth following the 1957 season.

He was a true champion who perhaps should have played in the VFL.

Harrison Questioned as “Father of the Game”

   H.C.A. Harrison

Henry Harrison has long been recognized as ‘The Father of Australian Football’.  A term he earned after a long life spent as a player, administrator and umpire of the game.  He was born near Picton NSW in 1836 and his family moved to Melbourne in 1850.  He was an athlete who excelled at pedestrianism (athletics) then went on to play in the early games of Australian (then Victorian) Football in 1859. [1]

He played for three clubs, Richmond, Melbourne and Geelong and Melbourne again, at all of which he was captain but probably gained more notoriety as allegedly being solely responsible for drafting the second revision of the rules of the game in 1866. [2]  These changes were adopted unanimously.

The following paragraph written in 1908 by a journalist with the non de plume of ‘Cynic’ from the Referee Newspaper, quotes from page 363 of the Sydney Mail of 25 August 1883, which validates the suggestion that Harrison was not involved with the initial founding of those first rules (the game).  History credits Tom Wills as the man most instrumental in the introduction of ‘the game’, but as you can read, it says “Tom Wills suggested the Rugby rules, but nobody understood them except himself…”  This leads to the speculation that perhaps all four were ‘fathers of the game’ and possibility W.J. Hammersley, and Englishman, may well not have received the recognition due to him.

“In ‘The Referee’ (17/8/’08) I touched on the origin of the Australian Game of Football, and quoted evidence to show that the title, ‘The Father of the Game’, has been incorrectly conferred, by the Press of Melbourne upon Mr. H. C. A. Harrison. The evidence was from the writings of Messrs, T W Wills and J. B. Thompson, two of the committee of four which drafted the first set of rules just 50 years ago. I have received two letters on the subject from Melbourne footballers, but while agreeing with the statements I put forward, they throw no fresh light on the matter. As Mr. Harrison is still quoted on all sides, in the Press and at official functions, as ‘the father of the game’, further reference to the first code of rules for what is to-day known as the Australian Game having been drawn up by a committee consisting of Messrs. T. W. Wills, W.J. Hammersley, J. B. Thompson, and T Smith, is timely. The evidence of Messrs. Wills and Thompson is thoroughly borne out by the late Mr. Hammersley, who, for 18 years. was sporting editor of ‘The Australasian’. In 1883, after he had withdrawn from regular journalistic harness, Mr. Hammersley, in an article referring to football in Victoria, made the following statement :— When the game was first started in Victoria on anything like a sound footing (that was in 1857), it was a very rough game and no mistake. My shins now show honourable scars, and often I had the blood trickling down my legs. No wonder, for hacking was permitted and no objection was taken to spiked shoes. One day, however, after a severe fight in the old Richmond paddock, when blood had been drawn freely and some smart rape exchanged, and a leg broken, it occurred to some of us that if we had rules to play under it would be better. Tom Wills suggested the Rugby rules, but nobody understood them except himself and the result was – adjourn to the Parade Hotel close by and think the matter out. This we did, with the following result: Several drinks and the formation of a committee consisting of Tom Wills, myself, J.B. Thompson and Football Smith, as he was termed, a master in the Scotch College, a rattling fine player, and splendid kick, but of a very peppery temper. We decided to draw up a simple code of rules and as few as possible, so that anyone could quickly under-stand. We did so and the result was the rules then drawn up form the basis of the present code under which the game is universally played in Victoria and most other parts of Australia. I feel sure that neither Rugby nor the Association code will ever supplant them. In the light of this indisputable, corroboratory evidence, ”there cannot be any possible doubt that Mr. H. C. A. Harrison is not ‘the father of the game.’ In the article from which I have quoted, Mr. Hammersley made some reference to the early days of cricket in Victoria and to the ‘old Identities,’ and in this he paid a tribute to the good work done in the interests of that game and athletic sports by Mr, Harrison : There are not many left ; but amongst all the men I remember who have worked hard for the game in Australia, Mr. W. H. Handfield, Mr. T. F. Hamilton, and the late Mr. D.S. Campbell deserve the most credit for their disinterested labor in the game of cricket. And another name I may add to the list, I think, in the promotion of not cricket only, but of all athletic sports that of Mr. H. C. Harrison.” [3]

[1]  Australian Dictionary of Biography
[2]  Wilipedia – H.C.A. Harrison
[3]  Referee (Sydney, NSW : 1886 – 1939), Wednesday 9 September 1908, page 8

Newspaper Man Not Happy

Before the Sydney Swans became the focal point of football in Sydney, newspapers gave coverage of the game and the Sydney competition reasonably good exposure, so much so that it enables us to write stories like this.

Initially newspapers would send a representative to each senior game and quite often a photographer.  Later, part time reporters from AAP and other news agencies would cover the games which saved papers the cost of sending individual journalists out to various sporting events in Sydney.

Going through some 1948 newspapers we came across this article in the Sydney Truth by a reporter who was obviously very upset at the facilities available for those reporting on our game:

Truth (Sydney, NSW : 1894 – 1954), Sunday 23 May 1948, page 17


Australian Rules teams played good games on four Sydney ovals yesterday. The attendance at each ground was small.

League officials often express surprise that the game does not become more popular in N.S.W. Truth (Newspaper) can tell them why.

No encouragement whatever is given to those who would give the game publicity, and they are many. No facilities are made available to the Press, and often there is not even a form upon which they can write their copy. Phones, supposed to be reserved served for the Press are used by S.P. bookies, punters in search of results, and amorous youths trying to make appointments with girl friends. The result is that a lot of copy misses out. This year the committee is offering £1 to a supporter who happens to buy a programme which bears a certain number. These programmes cost six pence each, and often do not contain the names of more than four players who actually take the field. Under these circumstances, the programmes would be dear at one penny.

The spectators are left in the air; and have no method of ascertaining who is playing and who is not. Boys are employed to keep the score. More often than not the figures shown are wrong, and even if they are right the youthful scorekeepers stand in front of the board and so prevent it being read. The scores are often removed from the board before the final bell has stopped ringing.

If the League wants the game to progress it must, first of all, consider the public. Without support the game is not worth two bob, and, whether they believe it or not, at present the average follower of the game is annoyed and rapidly becoming disgusted. Scores in all games yesterday South Sydney 15-17 (107) beat St, George 13-14 (92); North Shore 16-17 (113) beat University 4-9 (33); Newtown 20-23 (143) beat Balmain 8-9 (57); Eastern Suburbs 12-18 (90) beat Western Suburbs 10-15 (75).”

Sydney University’s         first win

1948 saw the introduction of three new clubs into the Sydney competition: Balmain, Sydney University and Western Suburbs and they are all still there, with the same name.  The only change in these three is Balmain’s colours.

Sadly three from that era have gone and another has combined with another Sydney Club.  St George and North Shore are two that remain from that era.

We have located an interesting article published in the Sydney Sun on 16 May 1948 which relates Sydney University’s first win.  Although there was a team from the University formed in 1888, it only played about three games and was mostly put together to play a couple of games in Melbourne, particularly against the University of Melbourne.

Rep Games in 1947

One of the gun NSW Players from 1947: Frank Larkin

During the past ten months or so we have written a number of stories on the year 1947 but we found there is more to be said.

In that year the NSW Football League (NSWANFL) played TWELVE representative matches – four of which were played on consecutive days over respective weekends (see green shade). Three of these games were played in Sydney and the other in Broken Hill;  all were against different opponents.  Of course the respective NSW teams that played on the both days of these same weekends were made up of different players.

Now if you have ever been involved with representative football or even club football, putting a team on the field requires a fair amount of planning, commitment and work.  The team which travelled to Tasmania comprised of players from Sydney, Broken Hill, Riverina and Albury.

Now granted 1947 was a year of a national carnival, played in Hobart (shaded in yellow) which made up four of the games, but nevertheless the other matches required players, managers, trainers, jumpers, shorts and socks and the list goes on.

In one of our earlier posts about 1947 we mentioned that the league secretary of the time, Ken Ferguson, made a public appeal for ‘clothing coupons’ in order to purchase player ‘clothing.’  Remember, this was just two years after the finish of WWII and the general public were still operating under the coupon system for food and clothing etc.

When the NSW Carnival team returned from Hobart, as if they didn’t have enough football, the league arranged for this side to play “The Rest” on the following weekend.

‘The Rest’ were made up from players not chosen in the NSW Carnival contingent but were Sydney players selected in the other NSW teams whilst the main team was in Tasmania.

So from a competition of seven Sydney clubs a total of 66 players were involved in representative football during that year. A further six were selected from clubs outside the metropolitan area.

Here are the matches:

1947-05-25 Sydney Queensland 20.13 (133) 15-17 (107) Won
1947-06-01 Sydney Broken Hill 18-15 (123) 8-13 (61) Won
1947-06-14 Broken Hill Broken Hill 12-12 (84) 11-9 (75) Lost
1947-06-15 Sydney Canberra 21-9 (135) 19-16 (130) Won
1947-06-21 Brisbane Queensland 18-22 (130) 18-24 (132) Won
1947-07-30 Hobart Canberra 13-18 (96) 7-8 (50) Won
1947-08-01 Hobart Tasmania 6-10 (46) 16-10 (106) Lost
1947-08-06 Hobart South Australia 14-12 (86) 17-9 (111) Lost
1947-08-08 Hobart Queensland 8-11 (59) 5-12 (42) Won
1947-08-09 Sydney Subiaco FC 12-6 (76) 11-10 (76) Lost
1947-08-10 Sydney East Fremantle FC 20-13 (133) 15-11 (101) Lost
1947-08-17 Sydney “The Rest” 21-18 (144) 13-16 (94) Won

You can see by the last score that the better players in the Sydney competition were chosen for the main NSW team.
All NSW games from 1881-1947, together with all their details, players, umpires and scores are listed here.

NSWAFL 1947 annual report
NSWAFFL 1947 Football Records
Metropolitan and Broken Hill newspapers of the day

– Visit by AFLNSWACT

On Tuesday this week two high level employees from the AFLNSWACT made a visit to the History Society offices at Croydon Park; they were Simon Wilson, Regional Manager, Sydney Harbour and Illawarra and Jonathan Drennan, State Manager, Media & Communications.

Both spoke at length about recent developments and changes with the league and the goals the organisation has within the foreseeable future.  The duo also showed a great deal of interest in the operation of the Society and were at pains to demonstrate their appreciation and admiration they and the staff at the league has for the work the History Society have undertaken.

Jonathan told those on the committee who were in attendance that the work the Society undertakes in the recording of history of the game in NSW is more than likely unique in Australia.  He also said other major sports were beginning to realise the importance of their history with a number establishing fulltime archival departments within their organisations.

Simon confirmed that a memorandum of understanding between the league and the society will be drawn up so that the relationship and responsibilities are more easily identified and lines of communication firmly established.

Image shows from left: Jonothan Drennan, Society President, Ian Granland and Simon Wilson

– Player availability at the 1947 Carnival

In past days, the Australian National Football Council (ANFC) the peak body for the game in Australia, since absorbed by the AFL, conducted regular interstate carnivals where states played against other states in a round robin situation.  Since WWII, because of the obvious disparity in standard, these carnivals were comprised of two divisions. They do not hold these type of events any more.

In 1947 Hobart hosted the first carnival following the war, the overall attendance and gate was marginally larger than the 1924 carnival, also held at Hobart (see image).

Carnivals of this nature are a testing time for players.  The 1947 event was conducted over 10 days (including rest days) which is a fair commitment for all the players and officials who also at that time had to hold down a job, so it meant taking holidays.

New South Wales played four games:

  1.   defeated Canberra (as the nation’s capital team was then known, now ACT) 18-22 (130) to 7-8 (50)
  2.   lost to Tasmania in what was described as a fantastic match 16-10 (106) to 13-18 (96)
  3.   lost to South Australia 17-9 (111) to 5-10 (40)
  4.   defeated Queensland 14-16 (100) to 5-12 (42)

The major issue of the carnival was the weather.  Before their third game against South Australia officials seriously considered cancelling the game.  The North Hobart Oval was described as a “mud pie – again” and “atrocious” by a number of newspapers.  It was so bad that the umpire could not bounce the ball and for the division 1 games officials decided to use a new ball each quarter however the poor old division 2 matches could only get a new ball at half time in their games!

The other problem for New South Wales, in particular, was the growing injury list.  By the last game they had ten injured players and under normal circumstances these men would not have played but the team had no replacements.

It was so bad that an application was made to the authorities to allow the NSW coach, 38 year old Frank Dixon to play.  Initially the request was granted along with permission for an Eastern Suburbs player, Jack Nicholls, a visitor to the carnival but subsequently permission was withdrawn because other teams did not have the same luxury.  Dixon who had successfully captained and coached the South Sydney Club before the war had not played since his return to Australia following a severe wound received at El Alemein in North Africa during WWII.

These were the days before interchange and NSW took the field with the bare eighteeen players along with Newtown’s injured Frank Larkin standing by, hoping not to play as 19th man.  And that was their complement for the match. Queensland, by the way, had similar problems.

Frank Larkin

NSW won the game easily however Larkin had to take the field late in the last quarter as a replacement for another injured player.  When the game finished, Larkin was the only player standing with a clean, sky blue jumper.  In an act of frivolity his team mates rushed to Larkin and rolled him in the mud so he finished up in the same fashion as themselves.

In the evening the North Hobart Club organised a ball for the wounded NSW team.

You can check out the games on our site here.

94 and still going

Dick Wilson

A story from our president, Ian Granland:

“Yesterday I had the pleasure of visiting a 94 year old gentleman at his home in Carlingford, Sydney.

My purpose was to conduct and record an oral interview with Dick Wilson, a former player with both the St George and Eastern Suburbs Clubs.

My knowledge of Dick was provoked by his nephew, Andy Horton a former player and official with the Liverpool Club in Sydney.  Andy visited our rooms at Croydon Park for some research last year when he mentioned that ‘Uncle Dick’, who represented NSW, was alive and well and living at Carlingford.

Dick Wilson
in 1949

I kept this information in my memory bank until I began researching players for the Society’s Representative Games section which was started some time ago beginning with NSW representative games in 1881;  I am now up to the 1947 All States Carnival in Hobart.  Since starting, I have loaded 221 games together with their details as well over 1200 players and their bios and in many cases, images.

I saw Dick’s name pop up when documenting rep games after the war in 1946.  In that year he played against Queensland, Broken Hill, Perth and Richmond Football Clubs.  My interest in him deepened when I found that he was a local and had never played football until the same year.

Letter to Dick Wilson enclosing
entry tickets to game

Dick was a marvellous candidate to interview, now living alone in a modest cottage he built for himself and his family in the mid 1950s.

He loaned me some of his ‘football treasurers’ which included photographs, football records, letters and invitations which we shall scan and add to our digital collection.

I set up our digital recording equipment in his back room and as I asked him questions he gave an amazing account of his life, as a child born in Kensington, Sydney, only 300m from South Sydney’s home ground, his early working experience, a detailed record of his time in WWII, his football and how he moved into working with his brother as builders.

Unfortunately I failed to gain a photograph of Dick, although we do have a number of him when he played.

We will load the interview on our website in the podcast section and hope to have it available for listening in the very near future.”

The photograph we have posted here is from 1990 when the league invited all known members of the 1949 NSW team that played the VFL at the SCG to attend a function at the ground prior to another game against the VFL rep team.  Dick is at the bottom right.