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:

INSURANCE POLICY
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]

– Birchgrove Oval

The earliest game the Balmain Club participated in was a scratch match with teams chosen by the captain and vice captain on Church-hill, Balmain  The game was witness by a large crowd “who thoroughly enjoyed it” [1]

The first Balmain club was formed on Wednesday 9 May 1888 at a meeting held at Dick’s Hotel in Beattie Street Balmain.  Further meetings were held to appoint a committee and set the rules.[2]

Then on 30 June they played their first match against the “2nd Sydney (club) team” at Moore Park which they won eight goals to nil.  [then behinds were not counted in the team’s total score and goals were worth only one point]

The following year the secretary, Bill Fordham advertised a practice match on St Thomas’Ground, Darling Road West on Saturday 4 May but little more was heard of the club.

A Balmain club became part of the resurrected NSW Football League in 1903 and participated until 1909, they were nicknamed ‘The Seaguls’.  It was during this period that they and the Australian Football League, regularly used Birchgrove Oval for matches however whether by design or not, the game failed to be part of the game’s venues after Balmain fell over in 1910. [3]

It would appear that Australian Football has never been played on that ground in an official capacity since 1909, despite the resurrection of the club.

[1] Referee Newspaper, 14 June 1888, page 6
[2] Balmain Observer & Western Subs Advertiser, 26 May 1888, p.5
[3] Referee Newspaper, 13 March 1910 page 11

– 1888 Sydney University Football Club

 

Professor W H Warren and Engineering students in the 1890s

The following was taken from an article written in the Sydney Mail in April, 1888.  It briefly describes the Sydney University Australian Football Club which unfortunately, only survived for two seasons.

The University only had a limited number of students at the time but increased significantly after John Henry Challis bequeathed a sum of £200,000 in 1889 and seven new professorships were created.

Be that as it may, the 1888 annual meeting of the University Football Club, playing under Australian rules, was held on Monday night, 16 April 1888 at Miithorp’s Hotel. (Milthorp’s Hotel was on the corner of York and King Streets, Sydney) Mr. F. Challands occupied the chair.

Quoting from the annual report which stated “that the club was only formed on July 7, 1887, late last year, when other clubs were closing the season.

The club could not claim to have done much more than make a start. Three matches were played, but, as the number of members was small, it had to depend in a degree on tho assistance given by the Sydney, East Sydney, Waratah and West Sydney clubs. Members should go into regular practice in order that they might be prepared to accept an invitation from tho Melbourne University this season.”

A further report on the meeting continued: “The balance sheet was of a satisfactory nature. The report and balance-sheet were adopted. Letters were received from his Excellency the Governor and Dr. Brownless according their patronage to the club. Tho following office-bearers were elected : Patron, his Excellency the Governor; president, the Chancellor (Sir William Manning) ; vice-presidents, Dr. Maclaurin and Dr. Brownless ; hon. secretary, Mr. M. M. Ryan; assistant hon. secretary, Mr. H. Davis; hon. treasurer, Mr. F. E. Wood: committee, Messrs. R. Kidston, W.J.W. Richardson, Cock, Waters, and T. Challands ; auditors, Messrs. J. P. Leahy and Fitzsimons; delegate to . the association, Mr. W. J. W. Richardson. ”

Ref. Sydney Mail and New South Wales Advertiser (NSW : 1871 – 1912), Saturday 21 April 1888, page 865

St George FC History Released

2013 David Green smallDavid Green, (pictured) a former St George player who was runner-up in the 1964 Phelan Medal, has written a trilogy on the history of the St George Australian Football Club.

He has spent years researching his subject and interviewed hundreds of former players and officials, not only from St George but other clubs as well as league officials, some dating back to times in WWII.

These three books, each of which are dedicated to a period from the club’s official 1929 beginnings in the senior division, are printed in an A4 format with sensational hard glossy cover and back.

STG books 2 STG books 3
STG books 1

For a real footy fan they are a must for their library.  The information they contain is interesting and at times reveals part of history of the game, not only for the club, but also the NSW Football League, unknown before today.

Each are about 50mm thick and contain about 700 pages or so of text and images, 2100 pages in all.  Should you purchase a set you will be absorbed with the information they contain.

To obtain your suite, call David on 07 33950784 or email him at degreen@bigpond.net.au, he will advise you of the cost and the best way to go about placing your order.

Now I can tell you that because of the size and content of these books he only had a limited number printed.  Most of these are already gone so if you are keen, be early to get your copies.  They come recommended.

Washout Games

cloud with rain thumbnailIn a not so organised act in July 1930, league officials called all games off on a particular Saturday with almost no notice to players and fans.

At Trumper Park, the reserve grade (only two games per day then) were ready to take to the field when they were told that the games would not be played. This was the first time in 20 years that such a decision had been made.

Worst still, this was in the days of admission charges at Sydney games, and quite a number of supporters had paid their entry fee which of course they demanded back.

Also at Trumper Park, a North Shore official put on a real turn against the decision asking “if the League considered his club a team of sugar babies!!”

Normally they had a wet weather sub-committee in place for such occasions but because none had been appointed that season, the decision was left to both the league secretary and treasurer.

The secretary, Alex McWhinney (pictured), said the grounds were in a “frightful condition and totally unsuitable for football with sheets of water over both (and the only venues of) Erskineville Oval and Trumper Park.”A. McWhinney thumbnail

What did stump club officials was the fact that following the abandonment of the game, both Sydney and North Shore clubs had their players participate in a scratch match on the ground with the umpires providing their services free of charge.

Of course now the postponement of games due to wet weather is common throughout NSW and Queensland in all sports, not just Australian Football.

Players Strike!

1930 East v Sydney at Trumper Park smallIn late July 1929, a number of the Eastern Suburbs Football Club players refused to take their place in the team at Erskineville Oval in a match against South Sydney.

The game was originally scheduled for Trumper Park but the South Sydney club thought they could secure a bigger gate if the game was moved to Erskineville.

At that stage, South Sydney was sitting in second place with five wins and three losses, while Eastern Suburbs was in fifth spot with four wins and four losses. East had won their first round encounter against the Rabbits and naturally enough, were reluctant to give their opponents any perceived advantage in the match.

South Sydney put the proposal to change the venue to a meeting of the League on July 22 which voted 9-2 in favour.

On the day, only seven from East’s eighteen took the field, the remainder of the team was made up of reserve grade players, all of whom had backed-up.

Two of East’s stars, Stan Milton (pictured), after whom the Sydney Football Goalkicking Award is named and Fred Davies, who later went on to 1930 - Stan Milton smallcaptain Fitzroy, were among those who stood out.

With a scheduled 3.00pm start, it was not until 15 minutes before that it was certain that East would field a team. Sam Organ, Kean, Sanders, Hyland, Stoppelbein, Nicholas and Lindsay Kelton were the only senior players who made up the first grade team that day.

It turns out that the decision not to play was not without warning.  It had been made in the week prior to the match and this decision was conveyed to the League Secretary by the president and secretary of the club. It stated that their team would not take the field against South Sydney unless the game was played at the originally scheduled venue of Trumper Park.

In anticipation of no game the League had made arrangements for patrons to be reimbursed their entry fee.

The decision by the players was not a popular one with the public and League officials besieged with complaints and seeking information as to what action could be taken against the recalcitrant players.

At a subsequent meeting of the League, Eastern Suburbs FC officials said they had arranged a meeting with all their players over the matter. It was pointed out however, that the club had fulfilled its obligation and did field a team in the match.

The League however refused to select any of the subject Eastern Suburbs players to play for NSW against the visiting Perth FC team the following week.

At their club meeting an amicable agreement had been arrived at and a guarantee given that no further trouble would be found from these players.

This result was placed before a League meeting where the offending players were pardoned after they had expressed regret for their action and had promised not to offend in a like manner again.

Whether as a result of this decision or not, Arch Kerr, a former League Secretary, submitted his resignation at that meeting from all positions on the League, accusing those in charge of the league of “apathy and mismanagement”.

It was later ascertained that Kerr’s resignation was due to the parlous financial position the League had found itself in.  At the meeting it was revealed that the League was one hundred and sixty pounds ($11,860 in today’s money) in debt with the incumbent secretary informing the league that he had been unable to convene a quorum of the management committee for over a month.

And What of 1926?

Australian Rules TitleAll keen judges of the Australian game were satisfied with the initial success of district club football introduced in 1926. It was said that much doubt had disappeared from the minds of those who were inclined to be somewhat sceptical at the close of the 1925 season; Then, Football was like other forms of sport: Out of season, out of mind.

Failure of the District Scheme? Why, who would hear of that when talking of the Australian Game? The feature of it being the national game of Australia, played in every State to an over whelming majority of supporters would let the season itself tell its tale.

It was with some misgiving on the part of many club delegates that district football was not expected to succeed and that the dissolution of four successful clubs (Paddington, East Sydney, Railway and Balmain) of the previous season would make for the betterment of the game.

On the other hand, it was said “never in the history of the Australian game in N.S.W. had the prospects been brighter than in 1926.” The introduction of the district scheme had infused new life and vigour into the various clubs comprising the league. And when the season commenced “the game was the thing, and there is and was nothing like it in all the world.”

And so went the rhetoric as the 1926 season began.  Change is sometimes hard to accept and adopt to.

Fortunately it turned out a splendid success, though the amalgamation of Paddington and East Sydney players of previous seasons initially looked to many to be a case of trying to mix oil and water. However contrary to expectation, they were well led which helped them unite, proving a very happy family finally carrying off the season’s premiership.

One of the greatest successes for the year was the formation of the Western Suburbs Club and this happened only weeks before the season’s start. The Railways club was disbanded but their nucleus, combined with a number of fine players of East Sydney’s 1925 team formed the Western Suburbs Club. In fact they succeeded in getting together an 18 which worthily filled the position of runner-up.

By round 5, Wests were undefeated and under ideal conditions at Erskineville Oval, attracted a crowd of 3000 to watch them defeat leading club Newtown. This was a record gate for a club game in Sydney and with its fast and furious play justified the attendance of such a large crowd.

There were also new grounds in the competition, for both matches and training. Games were played at North Sydney, Chatswood, Marrickville, Erskineville and Hampden (Trumper Park) Ovals.

While the clubs used the following grounds for training: Newtown – Erskineville Oval, Western Suburbs – Pratten Park, Sydney – Sydney Sports Ground, Eastern Suburbs – Hampden Oval, North Sydney (North Shore) – St Leonards Park and South Sydney – YMCA Ground (formerly the Australian Football Ground) at Alexandria or North Botany (Mascot).  The South Sydney coach boasted 72 at training on one occasion.

The ultimate success of the 1926 season put the League in a satisfactory enough financial position and supplemented with the holding of regular meetings during the summer months, ensured a record kick off for the following year. Though, some said, there was still much to be done. One of the principal matters concerning officials was the appointment of a paid secretary and organiser, some suggesting that “the work entailed in the position of secretary of the league was far too great to expect from one acting in a honorary capacity.” The appointment never came.

Ahhh – the struggle

StruggleThis story might bring a picture of wonderment to present day followers of the game.

Supporting, playing or being involved in football in years gone by was always a battle, ironically though, publicity in the major Sydney newspapers was never a stranger to Australian Football however on many occasions it was written with a negative slant. Maybe that helped sell more papers; you see it was always seen by some for many, many years as a them (Melbourne) and us (Sydney) jealousy thing and this attitude which at times permeates the game in NSW still remains.

Such is the case in the following article published in in 1962 in the Sydney Sun, an afternoon newspaper published in Sydney:

Peaceful and dull

One of the imponderables of Sydney sport is the tenuous hold of Australian Rules the winter pride and joy in Melbourne, Adelaide, Perth and Hobart.

 

A Sunday afternoon visit to Picken Oval, one of the Australian Rules centres, brings home the code’s shoe-string existence.

 

Picken Oval, on the north bank of Cook’s River at Croydon Park, is the home-ground of Western Suburbs club.

 

Entrance is by a bridge across a stormwater channel. Beside the bridge opportunity is provided for Croydon Park Bowling Club members to have a grandstand view of the football. You don’t blame them if they don’t look up from their own more engrossing play.

 

There is no pavilion at Picken Oval. Perhaps 50 cars will be parked around one section of the playing area: a small group of spectators stand near the tin huts which serve as dressing sheds.

 

There is nobody else to cheer and little reason why anyone should.

The Western Suburbs Club was one in Sydney having a go.  They had secured (then, a relatively new) ground at Croydon Park.  A ground where they would eventually build a licensed club, the first representing the game in the state and a club that put their hand in their pocket and supported many of the poorer clubs in the competition and the league itself.  Little do the contemporaries of the game in Sydney realise and appreciate the contribution that club made to the game.

The bridge referred to in the article was the manner of entry from Brighton Avenue, long since closed off and the bowling club is that which overlooks the ground and now occupied by the Korean Social Club.

Time changes everything.  The ground and its surrounds have changed and so to the manner in which the club is operated.

And in the Beginning….

1888 Footballer 2 smallAustralian football has been played competitively in Sydney since 1880, save for the period between 1895-1903.

It has had its ups and downs in all of that period;  successes and failures and of course some were minor catastrophes for the code here.  There are too many to list at this juncture but it makes for good copy in future postings on the website.

And yet with this pessimistic opening to this story there were often glimpses of hope, just like the feelings of a league official in 1908 when he wrote:

“There is no smooth path for workers in the cause in Sydney; It is filled with rocks thorns and interminable bush, which have to be cut away by real hard graft and whole-hearted enthusiasm. There is a light shining through the bush, however,   and that is the increased attendance at matches.

True, there has not been any charge for admission at most of the games; still, one could not help being struck with the sangfroid of hundreds while standing round the boundary in drenching rain watching the semi-final,   East Sydney v. Redfern. It said much for their enthusiasm and love of the pastime. The final last Saturday attracted a large crowd to Erskineville Oval, where a charge was made for admission, the pavilion being crowded with ladies.

It was a very pleasing sight, and gladdening to the heart of the enthusiast.

If an enclosed ground can be secured next season, revenue will come in, ladies will be able to attend matches, and an increased inducement given to many young fellows to don a jersey. An official ground as the headquartcrs of the game in Sydney is badly needed, and must be obtained somehow.

Perhaps that prince of organisers, Mr. J. J. Virgo, may do something in this connection for his club and incidentally for the League and the game generally. Should he set the machinery in motion, success is almost assured for he is Napoleonic in his ideas regarding that small word, ‘impossible.’ ”

Well the league did purchase a ground;  an old racecourse which was located on the north-west corner of Botany and Gardeners Roads, Mascot, now overtaken by factories.  After spending thousands of dollars on this project an over enthusiastic administration saw it swallowed up in debt as the first world war began.Australian Football Ground  Click the image to show where it was located.

One of the major problems with the advancement of football in Sydney was the lack of enclosed grounds, where an admission fee could be charged.  Normally there was at least one ground where a fee could be applied but the remaining games were played on open parks like Birchgrove Oval, Rushcutters Bay Park, Alexandria Oval and Moore Park.  Yes hundreds, if not thousands, watched the games in those early days but without money, and the main source was from gate takings, the exercise was futile and it did not get any better as time went on.

At one stage in the 1920s, League Secretary, Jim Phelan, advocated a reduction in teams which would then lower expenses and give the league full control over the two grounds over which they, for the most part, had control, Erskineville Oval and Trumper Park.

This attitude, of course, was a nonsense.  Sydney was expanding and yet the league did nothing to facilitate new clubs in the developing areas.  For many decades their focus was on established and populated areas such as Newtown, East Sydney, South Sydney and Sydney itself.  All of these clubs have since disappeared.

Even in 1963 when a successful effort was made to establish a club at Parramatta, there were no real concessions.  They were given lip service until a year or two later when coerced into amalgamating with the Liverpool/Bankstown club, which itself was a combination of two sides in a burgeoning Sydney.  They formed the Southern Districts Club, now, they too are long since gone.

Its all well and good to preach “what if” now but even if a little foresight could have been applied then, some planning some forecasting, football in Sydney may well have developed differently.

Notes
[i]   Up to about 1980, grounds used by the league were managed and operated by the league.  They took the gate receipts and paid the bills relating to the ground.
[ii]   The Erskineville Oval referred to in this article is the old Erskineville Oval, situated about 100m west of the present ground with an east-west orientation.
[iii]  The ground at Moore Park is still used for Australian football and now the home of the Moore Park Tigers junior football club.

Rosebery Football Club

Between 1923 – 1953, what we would know as a second division, The Metropolitan Australian National Football Association, operated in Sydney.

We have written before about this competition before, however in the past few days, documents have come to light which shed more details on the Association but more particularly on one of the participants, the Rosebery Football Club.

Rosebery is a southern suburb of Sydney, near Mascot, and land was first released there in 1912 on which it was intended to build a ‘model suburb’.

Initially the vast majority of the houses were built of that dark brick so common of the houses of the day.

Many dwellings were constructed between 1912-20 in the numerous streets which make up the suburb and most of the children would have attended the Gardeners Road Public School which is located on the corner of Gardeners and Botany Roads, Rosebery.  At one stage around that period the school population boasted 1800 students.

Rupert Browne, a teacher and sports master at the school from 1911-50, promoted Australian football and was responsible for many young men taking on the game and playing for clubs throughout Sydney.

Besides junior teams, the Rosebery Football Club fielded an A grade in the Metropolitan Association for most of its existence, apart from WWII when manpower was scarce.

Rosebery A Grade Premiers 1928 small1937 Rosebery Football Club - 1st Grade small 1939 Rosebery Football Club - 1st Grade thumbnail

 

We now have several images of the club’s premiership teams from the 1920s and 1930s.

Jack Hayes, a former junior of the club, who went on to play with Footscray and later coached St George, coached the club’s premiership sides of 1937 & 39.  For those who remember, the familiar faces of long term NSWAFL Secretary, Ken Ferguson and South Sydney official, Alby Young, appear in the 1928 photograph.

In the material we have been given are the 1946 and 1947 annual reports which give a glimpse of football of that level in those days.  You can peruse these documents by clicking either of the years.

They make for a very interesting read, particularly an expense item in 1946 for ‘sherry’ which was often given to players during the breaks on a cold day.