– 1938 – A Year to Remember
in Sydney Football

St George – in yellow & black, v South Sydney
in 1938

A number of interesting events occurred in 1938.

Because of a good financial season in 1937, the league voted ten pounds ($860.00 in today’s money) to each of the six Sydney clubs before the commencement of the competition.

A Team At Wollongong?
Early in the year, the Metropolitan Aust National Football Association (second division) refused an application by a group from Wollongong to compete in the second division competition citing the lack of a home ground.  The applicants were encouraged to form a local competition rather than enter one team in the Sydney League.  Nothing came of it.

Sunday football was a big talking point in the league and in fact in all codes of football.  For the Australian Game the decided lack of grounds where a gate could be charged was the issue.

Basically there were six first grade clubs and two grounds where the league could control the attendance gate:  Erskineville Oval and Trumper Park.  They wanted an additional ground or alternatively to use one of the Saturday grounds again on a Sunday.

Kensington Oval at Kingsford was the third alternative but only honest people paid so the league was flat out earning fifteen shillings a game.

Traditionalists in the league however soundly defeated the Sunday proposal but it was only a matter of time before Sunday games successfully became part of the league’s calendar.

North Sydney Oval
After a lapse of  ten years, North Shore again played on the small North Sydney Oval,  a ground noted for its particularly hard surface.  There, an estimated crowd of 4,000 witnessed South Sydney defeat North 14-15 to 9-11.  The first semi-final again between North Shore and South Sydney was played there on September 3.

Jubilee Oval, Kogarah
In another first, St George played their first match on Jubilee Oval, Kogarah, now home to St George Rugby League Club on Monday 13 June also before of 4,000 spectators.  Here too a semi-final was played on 3 September ironically between the same teams participated in that initial game:  St George and Newtown.

These were the first occasions, certainly in more recent years, that any finals match was played away from the then league headquarters of Erskineville Oval.

In a very controversial incident at Kensington Oval, central umpire Bill Hunkin reported two players AND the timekeepers in the game between South Sydney and St George on 2 July.

It was alleged that the timekeepers failed to record time-on whilst the umpire attended to a fight and in the meantime rang the bell for full time just as a South Sydney player kicked for goal.  The goal, which would have won the game for Souths was disallowed.

A subsequent hearing found the timekeepers had erred, they had stopped the game 1 minute early, the goal was allowed and the game was awarded to South Sydney.

In the same year South Sydney altered their jumper design from a green jumper with a very wide horizontal bar across the centre to one of green with a red V.

Four time Phelan Medalist, Jack Williamson, registered 100 games for the Eastern Suburbs Club in early May.  He was reported in 1938 for abusive language but must have beat the charge because he won his fourth Phelan in that year.

Police Intervention
In late August a local police inspector pulled the captains of Newtown and South Sydney Clubs, as well as the umpires aside before the commencement of their game at Erskineville Oval warning them against any repeat of the violent play that dominated the last time they met.  He warned them and the umpires that if a repetition of the previous week’s violent play between the two occurred again the police would enter the ground and arrest any offender.  He said “if the league official (umpire) did not intend to stop that sort of play, the police would.”

There were a few occasions when players lost their tempers but no reports.

During the latter part of the season NSW were defeated by East Fremantle on the RAS Showground in front of a crowd of 6,000 while the state team performed poorly at the National Amateur Football Carnival in Launceston where they were defeated by South Australia and Victoria.  They managed a win in the last game against Canberra.

An interstate Railways Carnival was played on Erskineville Oval.  NSW, Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania competed.  The interstate teams arrived in Sydney by train as did the country representatives in the NSW team.  The carnival was won by Victoria.

Prime Minister Bounces the Ball

How often do you get the Prime Minister bouncing the ball to start a match – IN SYDNEY?

Well it happened in 1933 when the Prime Minister, Joe Lyons was the country’s leader.  Lyons was from Northern Tasmania and trained as a school teacher.  He played both cricket and football before entering the Tasmanian State Parliament.  Originally a Labor man, he was Premier of Tasmania between 1923-28.Hotel Morris - Pitt Street

In 1933 the Australian National Football Council, since usurped by the AFL, conducted their triennial national carnival at the Sydney Cricket Ground.  The NSW side comprised several players from Broken Hill, many of whom reported back to their league following the carnival that they were not treated well.  The eight players from Broken Hill were housed in the Hotel Morris in Pitt Street while those players in the NSW team from Sydney resided at their normal homes.  The Queensland and Canberra teams were also domiciled at the hotel.

Incidentally, the Hotel Morris is still there, at the Railway Square end but now caters mostly for backpackers.

Lyons wasn’t the main act in the opening of the Carnival.  Australia’s first locally born Governor General, Isaac Isaacs, did the honours in the middle of the ground surrounded by a number of other dignitaries, see image.

However, like the 1914 Carnival in Sydney it was not a success.  It lost over £1,000 which equates to $96,500 in today’s terms.

1932 NSW v VFL @ SCG PM bounces ball - Truth 12-6-1932 - ALyons however was talked into bouncing the ball in the opening game between NSW and Victoria and we have been able to obtain a photograph of the event with him in his suit and tie.  Its not in best of condition nevertheless, it captures the moment the prime minister of the time got himself involved in our game – literally.

New South Wales had a reasonably successful carnival despite being trounced in the first match against the VFL.  Having said that the draw for the series was contrived so that the locals were not that hard pressed in most of their games.  They played all but South Australia and finished in fourth place.  The only real standout for them was the naming of local star, Jimmy Stiff, as the carnival’s best player.

NSW results:

Date NSW G P T Opposition G P T Margin
2 August 14 18 102 VFL 23 17 155 53
4 August 19 22 136 Queensland 6 15 51 85
7 August 16 14 110 Canberra 12 10 82 28
10 August 20 12 132 Tasmania 15 17 107 25
12 August 16 18 114 West Aust 17 22 124 10




1970 Football Record thumbnailIts 46 years since a triumphant Newtown won the flag in Sydney – their last.  And looking back makes you realise how old we are getting.

We have selected a page from the then popular Football Record which highlights an article on the proposed sale of Picken Oval by its owner.

Wests had use of the ground for almost 20 years before ‘an incident’ occurred between the licensed club and a member of the owner’s family.  This resulted in the owner banning use of the ground by the club.

This event took Wests for a spin.  They could not longer train nor play on the ground, in fact the league also lost use of the ground which was a great blow to the game in Sydney.

It might be said that at the time the Wests licensed club were negotiating with the owner to purchase the land, of course this all fell through.

Wests were then forced to look for an alternate venue which included Bankstown’s Jensen Oval and Mac Uni’s Roger Sheeran Oval, Henson Park before they settled on the disused brickpit which became Wagener Oval, Ashbury.  The title of the oval was named after a former umpire and president of Wests in their halcyon days, Bill Wagener.

The owner then began talks with developers with one proposal to build a super mall containing Coles and other variety stores on the parcel of land.  Following urging of local residents, many of whom were Wests supporters, the local council took the matter to the Land and Environment Court which disallowed any development and decreed that the site be maintained as open space/recreational.

So while the land never did end up in the hands of Wests, the club was granted use of the as their home ground.

The page also provides advertisements, one from Allen Sigsworth, a player with the Newtown Club who later went on to become an umpire and Jim Mitchell who conducted a sports store in Crofts Avenue Hurstville.  Jim was a former player with St George and most if not all clubs in Sydney did their business with Jim.

It provides the names and contact numbers of the Sydney club secretaries, some of whom have passed but a number are still with us and at least two, John Armstrong and George McGifford are members of the Football History Society.

The photograph shows Newtown’s captain and coach, David Sykes (also a member), accepting the trophy after winning the 1970 premiership.  League president, Bill Hart is on his right along with a delightful young lady who also managed to get into view.  She would be well in her fifties by now!

Enjoy the read, just click the image above.

Movement in the Seventies

The development and expansion of NSW football took place mostly in the 1970s really makes you ask why?

The last major addition to Sydney football was in 1948 when Western Suburbs and Balmain re-emerged and Sydney University were formed.

But in the seventies not only did new clubs appear in Sydney, including Manly, St Ives, Sutherland, Blacktown, Mac Uni, Bankstown Sports, Campbelltown, Pennant Hills etc. but new leagues developed on the South Coast, the Illawarra and Central Coast  all spawning new teams.

One reason offered for the expansion of the game was that the baby boomers began moving out to the suburbs and regional areas.

City clubs like Sydney Naval, South Sydney and later Newtown felt that exit and went out of business.  These were inner city clubs that excelled during the first half of the last century but struggled when the youth was no longer there to take over.

The East Sydney Club, formerly Eastern Suburbs, emerged out of an amalgamation of Paddington and East Sydney Clubs in 1926.  They withstood the exodus for most of the century however they began to rely heavily on interstate players and players from out of their area.  They kept a junior division but it struggled to sustain the re-supply of players needed at senior club level.  Eventually they combined with the University of NSW in 2000 to form a new club, UNSW-ES.

This was the first time their officials saw the need to merge whilst Sydney (Naval) on the other hand had combined with the reserve grade Public Service Club in 1923 and not that much later with Balmain in 1926.  On both occasions they stuck with their given name.  They did however toy with the idea of changing the title to Glebe in about 1930, shortly after shifting their home ground to Wentworth Park, but, they maintained the title, Sydney, until 1944 when the naval influence in the club resolved to alter it to Sydney Naval.

Clubs have come and gone;  the present Blacktown club for example is the third to assume that name.

While Newtown faded off to oblivion there did appear to be a whisker of light with the emergence of a new Newtown junior club some years ago. The aging South Sydney faithful may hold out a glimmer of hope that one day the Randwick Saints might work their way to the purpose built Australian football ground at Kensington Oval.  But, like Trumper Park, the grandstand there has been demolished.

Some of Season 1960

Threepence smallHopefully by the end of today we will have posted all of the Sydney Football Records we have from 1927 and now including seasons 1982-3.

Some information from 1960 in particular is very riveting.  Amongst them are those of the Australian National Football Council Section 2 Championships played at Trumper Park in Sydney over a period of seven days.

With the passage of time and the constant change of administrators at the NSW Football League, this is one series that has been forgotten.

The combatants were: NSW, VFA, Queensland and “Canberra“ the latter playing under that title until midway through the 1970s. Here are the results:







25 June NSW 14-24 (108) QLD 13-19 (107)
26 June VFA 17-31 (133) Canberra 3-11 (29)
29 June NSW 13-13 (92) Canberra 13-12 (90)
29 June VFA 22-20 (152) QLD 3-7 (25)
2 July Canberra 16-16 (112) QLD 13-10 (88)
3 July VFA 23-24 (162) NSW 8-9 (57)


As well, there were some extraordinary lead-up games, particularly the games played during the week.

Before the VFA v Canberra match, Sydney University, who were not competing in the Sydney league that year, 13-11 (99) d Combined Newcastle 6-5 (41).

In the match Canberra v Qld, the curtain raiser was East Side v West Side while on the following day, which turned out to be the final in the game VFA v NSW, the Navy 9-16 (70) d Army 4-9 (33).

Frank DixonA very interesting aspect to the 1960 season which a few readers may remember, was the opening of the Frank Dixon (pictured) Stand at Trumper Park. It replaced a dilapidated timber stand which was built early in the first decade of last century and stood almost on the corner of Glenmore Road and Hampton Street.

Frank was a very charismatic character and a long time player and supporter of the game in Sydney.

While he probably deserves a page on his own (which we will work on) Frank was born and raised in Doncaster Avenue, Kingsford.  After attending St Mary’s Cathedral High School, he played rugby league as a youth then switched to Australian Football in 1926 turning out with with the Daceyville Waratahs Junior club, winning the best and fairest in his first year.

He later played with South Sydney and coached them to the 1934 & 35 premierships as well as runner-up in 1936 & 37.

He represented NSW on nine occasions from 1935-37 and at one stage was a player-coach of the state team.

Frank enlisted for the Second World War where he was wounded at El Alamein, later became a proud ‘Rat of Tobruk’.

Upon return he was elected senior vice president of the NSW Football League and subsequently appointed non-playing state coach from 1947-1952.

He was involved in politics and for a number of years a Labor alderman for the ward of Fitzroy in the City of Sydney Council.  He was deputy Lord Mayor of Sydney between 1960-62.

The new stand was opened on 25 June by Sydney Lord Mayor Harry Jensen and named after this legend of the game in Sydney.

The new stand, since now remodelled if not almost destroyed, “will seat 1500 people and has first class amenities, including tiled bath and shower rooms and dance hall and refreshment room.”


Jim Phelan 1920“NEVER in the history of the Australian game in N.S.W. have the prospects been brighter than at present. The introduction of the district scheme has infused new life and vigor into the various clubs comprising the League, and the coming season promises to be particularly brilliant and busy.”

So said a news report from 1926.

This year was a particular watershed in Sydney football, as were a number of other years, that heralded change.

*   The Railway club morphs into Western Suburbs.
*   Balmain amalgamates with Sydney FC, to become ‘Sydney FC’  (???)
*   Paddington amalgamates with East Sydney to become Eastern Suburbs FC
*   North Shore FC changes their colours to red and black.

During the leadup, the drum had been beating for some time in Sydney football to again adopt the ‘District’ System.

District football meant that a player could only play for the club within whose district he resided and if he moved and wanted a transfer to a new club he would have to prove residency for at least three months.

District club were also responsible for school and junior football within their area.

This method and manner of regulation all sounds good but proved in future years a joke as clubs continually and openly cheated the system.

In July 1925 a committee was appointed by the League to investigate the District Scheme. One of its eventual recommendations was that the competition be reduced to five senior clubs. Opponents of the District Scheme wanted it maintained at its level of eight and possibly more.

Again Jim Phelan (pictured) again led the push, this time as the outgoing honorary League secretary (general manager), suggesting that the number of clubs too be reduced from eight to five. This time he gave as one of his reasons: “that with the depleted finances of 1924 to retain more than two revenue producing grounds, Erskineville and Hampton (Trumper Park) Ovals”.

This was not the first time the League had embarked down the District football trail. Much trumpeted by Jim Phelan, after whom the Phelan Medal is named, the District Scheme was adopted in 1913 which saw the disbanding of the YMCA and Railway Clubs to make way for the new plan. WWI put a stop to these re-arrangements when the League was forced to take any club who wanted to play. Subsequently Railway re-entered, later a police team played as did one representing the public service.

District football had been introduced in other states as it had in cricket and Rugby League in Sydney.

Phelan though had strange ideas: he wanted Paddington and East Sydney to unite to form Eastern Suburbs and Railway and Balmain to join and form the Western Suburbs Club. Not finished, he also wanted Sydney and North Sydney (North Shore) Clubs to amalgamate and form a ‘Northern Suburbs Club’ with Newtown (his side) to remain as it was and South Sydney to establish their headquarters at the former league owned ground at Rosebery.

His motion failed so he resigned.

The League eventually decided on a “revolutionary measure which, we believe, is going to be the greatest stimulus the game, has received in this State.”

The committee’s report said that the proposed districts be North Sydney, South Sydney, Eastern Suburbs and Central (Sydney-Balmain-Glebe). Provision was also to be made for the two districts of Western Suburbs and St. George, which would be regarded as unallotted territory, and “if and when they show they have the necessary organization they will be admitted as district clubs.”

Late 1925, while the vote was recorded at 9-3 in favour of the change, not all were happy. Walter Thompson, secretary of the Railway Club wrote a scathing letter to the Evening News suggesting that justice was denied them. His was one club to be abolished.

The 1926 makeup of the league became: Eastern Suburbs, Newtown, North Shore, South Sydney, Sydney and Western Suburbs Clubs.

The Australasian Football Council executive has decided to vote £300 ($23,000 today) to New South Wales and £250 to Queensland for propaganda purposes. The money to be spent in encouraging the game in the schools, and among junior players.

They also submitted a proposal to the various State Leagues for the appointment of a secretary-organiser in NSW for a term of three years at a salary of £400 ($30,666 today), per year. The cost of such to be borne by the following State Leagues on the basis of: Victoria £200; South Australia £120, Western Australia, £110; and Tasmania, £20 The South Australian League had already given unanimous approval to the proposal. It never got off the ground.

However 1926 did introduce a big change in Sydney football, and change is always so hard to implement and accept.

It did lay the foundation for the introduction of St George, which had already fielded a team in the reserve grade in 1924 but failed to materialise the following season. It wasn’t until 1929 that they came into the competition in first grade.

1963 Sydney Grand Final

1963 Wests Coach, Neil Wright smallThe story of the Sydney 1963 grand final is worth telling.

This was the time of only one division in Sydney with three grades, first, reserves and under 19.

Like all competitions you had the winners and the losers, the well run clubs and those, for whatever reason, that struggled.

The league had just come through a rather tumultuous period.  Just previous to this the fulltime secretary had been suspended, the treasurer had resigned, the books were in an absolute mess and then the stand-in permanent secretary got his marching orders resulting in court action.  The league began the season £500 in the red ($13,500 in today’s money).

Ern McFarlane, that “hail fellow, well met” long term Newtown official and player, who didn’t mind a drink, had taken the reigns in 1961 and was in the chair during all of this upheaval.

Besides this the league underwent some change, but not enough;  The had tried a 16 aside competition which was continually denounced until they returned to the status quo.

And then there was the obvious disparity in the standard of the competition and while two divisions were discussed, it never happened with the next year resulting in the amalgamation of some clubs.  That too eventually failed.

It was a time when the University club was coming out of its recession and UNSW was just about to emerge as their own entity so if the league had bitten the bullet, maybe Sydney football could have been different rather than waiting until the early 1970s and the introduction of a second division.

A former Western Suburbs then Bankstown ruckman, Rhys Giddey, who was a member of the league’s administration, took over the fulltime secretary’s position working out of what could only be described as a very disorganised brick building at Trumper Park – since demolished.

1963 Balmain v Parramatta thumbnailHe soon moved the offices to a ‘suite’ (room) at 307 Sussex Street in the city.

Action image shows Balmain’s captain-coach, Ray Rocher marking in front of a Parramatta opponent in a match during the season.  Click to enlarge.

The final four was a reasonably close finish.  Wests, well recognized as the money club following its successful venture to a licensed club, finished on top with 56 points, then came North Shore on 48, Sydney Naval on 46 and Newtown on 44.

Wests scored an easy win over North Shore in the second semi to move into the grand final while Newtown on the other hand battled their way from fourth with a first semi win, then a preliminary final victory over Norths to reach the decider.

The scene was set and a fine day brought out a big crowd at Trumper Park, allegedly eclipsing any that had previously attended an Australian football game at the ground, and were in for a treat.

Never one to let an opportunity pass, league secretary, Giddey told the press that the crowd totalled 11,377 who paid £2,235 though the gate.  It was later revealed that Rhys could be a bit loose with the truth freely admitting to his over zealous statement in the years that followed.

Unfortunately for Wests they had their strapping 1.94cm ruckman coach, former VFA representative player, Neil Wright in hospital with hepatitus A.  Wright had played a big part in the Magpies success and was one of their best in the second semi.  He had coached country club Finley the year before.

Newtown had as their captain and coach, the big policeman in Ellis Noack, a current member of the History Society.

As was the norm for Sydney grand finals it started with a fight, but it never really ended there, the conflict continued throughout the game.  The main target of Newtown’s attack was Western Suburbs fullback, Ray Sharrock, a wonderful player from the RAAF who had won the Phelan Medal in the same year.  In one incident, Sharrock had cleared the ball downfield when a Newtown ruckman ran 20 metres to strike him from behind, knocking Sharrock to the ground, unconscious.

On two occasions, spectators twice fired beer cans onto the field which stopped play for some time.  Not long after that a Wests player heavily dumped the opposition player who had attacked Sharrock and so it was on again.1963 Ray Sharrock small

Newtown’s Gordon Hancock and John Griffiths from Wests were reported during the game for fighting.

At the first break Newtown led 4-5 to 2-2 increasing their lead to 7-9 to 4-4 by half time.  An upset was on the cards.

But Newtown could not sustain their opponents third term onslaught;  at one stage Wests hit the front but Newtown countered to hold a nine point lead at the final change.

Early in the last quarter Western Suburbs piled on five quick goals and it was only for the sheer talent and determination of Sharrock at fullback that kept Newtown regaining the lead.  His finger tip marking was a sight to see.

By this time secretary Giddey had called the police who came en-mass lining the ground as well as the players race.  Giddey himself came inside the fence line waiting for the bell to ring thinking his presence could contain any further violence.  Giddey was a big man.

Wests won the game by 10 points 14-14 (98) to 12-16 (88).  As soon as the match finished so too did the violence.  The win gave Wests their second flag since their re-entry into the competition in 1948.


Threepence smallThis week we updated the 1960 Sydney Football Records Collection online and found them very interesting reading.

This now completes the full quota of Football Records published in that year.  To view, click here.

Unique to this season was the posting of more than one Record per round. Then, the league printed a certain number of Football Records for each particular match which included the team lists of only those competing teams. So in effect, each game received a different Record.

More interestingly is the posting of the full publication of all the Records from the Australian National Football Council Section 2 Championships played at Trumper Park in Sydney over a period of seven days.

With the passage of time and the constant change of administrators at the NSW Football League, this is one series that has been forgotten.

The combatants were: NSW, VFA, Queensland and Canberra, the latter played under that title until midway through the 1970s. Here are the results:


25 June NSW 14-24 (108) QLD 13-19 (107)
26 June VFA 17-31 (133) Canberra 3-11 (29)
29 June NSW 13-13 (92) Canberra 13-12 (90)
29 June VFA 22-20 (152) QLD 3-7 (25)
2 July Canberra 16-16 (112) QLD 13-10 (88)
3 July VFA 23-24 (162) NSW 8-9 (57)


As well, there were some extraordinary lead-up games, particularly the games played during the week.

Before the VFA v Canberra match, Sydney University, who were not competing in the Sydney league that year, 13-11 (99) d Combined Newcastle 6-5 (41).

Frank Dixon - NSW AFL Vice President, State Coach & Captain. Capt Coach Sth Sydney FCIn the match Canberra v Qld, the curtain raiser was East Side v West Side while on the following day, which turned out to be the final in the game VFA v NSW, the Navy 9-16 (70) d Army 4-9 (33).

A very interesting aspect to the 1960 season which a few readers may remember, was the opening of the Frank Dixon (pictured) Stand at Trumper Park. It replaced a dilapidated timber grandstand which was built early in the first decade of last century and stood almost on the corner of Glenmore Road and Hampton Street.  At its best it held 150 people with the change rooms at the top of the stairs, which proved a real problem with players, dodging the females with whirling umbrellas while running to their cold showers after the game.

The new stand was opened on 25 June by Sydney Lord Mayor Harry Jensen and named after a legend of the game in Sydney.  Frank Dixon was a former deputy Lord Mayor of Sydney.

This new stand, since remodelled if not almost destroyed, will seat 1500 people and has first class amenities, including tiled bath and shower rooms and dance hall and refreshment room.

A Testing Time

1956 Alf Snow 001In the early 1960s, Sydney, and for that matter, NSW football went through some very dramatic administrative issues.

We have mentioned this before but it is worthwhile recording the actual events, so far as we can ascertain. After all, the major players at that time are no longer with us so we have to rely on historical documentation, one thing Sydney football is not known for.

1959 was the last season that long serving league secretary, Ken Ferguson held the position in an honorary capacity. Ken was an employee of the NSW Railway and with 24 years continuous service for the league, decided not to recontest the position. He was 55 and thinking of the need to consolidate his superannuation and other government entitlements.

The then president of the NSWAFL, Alf Snow (pictured top) said of Ken “In this state the name Ken Ferguson is synonymous with Aussie Rules . It is difficult to estimate the value of Ken’s work for our game. In my opinion the greatest single factor in keeping the game of Australian football going during the dark days of 1941-42 was the enthusiasm and work which he put into the task.”

Ken’s retirement came at a time when the league was moving into the appointment of a permanent secretary (general manager) with offices at Trumper Park, Paddington. Ken declined the role but with his shorthand and typing skills, he remained on in the minor position as Minute Secretary.

So as the league moved into a new period it did so with a brand new secretary, Jack Holman, who was almost an unknown in Sydney football. Also new was the shipping executive president, Wilf Holmes, from Western Australia.

Besides this the league adopted a new management system where all power and authority was vested in the office bearers and an elected board of management.

Some on the Board had served in previous administrative positions with the league while others were new to the job. They met every Monday Night during the season.

Prior to this club delegates held sway on major decisions of the league. This system, adopted in many leagues and associations throughout the country, does not always produce a fair and balanced view on issues because of possible club bias.

The other former sub-committee which was morphed into the management was that of league finance committee. This was one group which did have some power.

So the league sailed into 1960 with virtually a new team and new structure.

It appears though that the treasurer was not keeping up his job and the finances became a mess. It was recorded that for half of 1961 “receipts had not been written up and bank deposit slips did 1969 Hart, Felstead, Ferguson & Hayes thumbnailnot show particulars of deposits.” After the league treasurer resigned, his replacement was scathing in his report on the league’s administration.

The clubs were part funding the fulltime secretary’s salary of almost $29,000 (in today’s money) along with the Australian Football Council. The latter though stopped payment when the state of the league’s finances were revealed. This resulted in the suspension of  the secretary. In August 1961 Joe Boulus was appointed temporary league secretary, on a salary of $650.00 (in today’s money) per week, plus expenses. This continued until one week after the grand final. By November his salary had dropped to $277.00 a week. Some in the league thought the organisation did not need a fulltime employee and were not in favourinf the continuance of the position.

Ern McFarlane, for years a Newtown FC stalwart who replaced Wilf Holmes after only one year at the helm said of season 1961 that it was “the most turbulent and troublesome in the history of the NSW League.”

However, like many disasters, “from chaos comes order.” But it took its time.

From 1956 certainly through to the mid 1960s the league consistently recorded deficits. The period of 1960-62 was particularly challenging and one would imagine any normal business in a similar situation would have been declared insolvent. 1960 – £473, ($13,1107 today) 1961 – £619 ($16,782), 1962 – £543 ( $14,768).

By 1966 Ferguson had retired from his clerical position with the Railway and was appointed to the post of fulltime secretary of the league. He was honest, meticulous with an eye for detail. Although aging, the very experienced Ferguson held his own at the league and the game again began to move through another era.

The days of deficits were over. The league had the financial support of the Australian National Football Council and the Western Suburbs Licensed Club who in particular, poured thousands into supporting the game and its administration in Sydney.

The last picture is a unique combination of Sydney heavyweights from the 1950-60s.  From left, Syd Felstead, long term St George president and league vice president, Bill Hart, league president, the grey haired Ken Ferguson and on the right is Eastern Suburbs Club legend, Roy Hayes.



NSW Rail Map 2 smallIn the first decade of the last century, country areas in the state, particularly the Riverina, put pressure on the NSW Football League to take representative teams to their areas to help promote the game.

It would appear that the league had to fund all or part of such tours , other than where arrangements were fashioned with local clubs or associations.  In this case however the cost of taking the Sydney team to Hay, Narrandera and Coolamon was shared equally three ways at eleven pounds ($1,508.00 in today’ s money) each.  It is unknown how the subsequent deviation to Wagga was paid for.

Nevertheless, representative games are expensive and this was at a time when the league recorded a deficit of four hundred pounds (calculated at $54,857.00 in day’ s terms) and yet still played nine representative games in 1907.

We have written before about similar excursions in that period and are still amazed at how players got the time off work to make trips of this nature.  This particular trip was for a weeks duration in July 1907 during which they played four games .  At the same time, a NSW representative team was visiting Brisbane to participate in a representative match against Queensland.  Naturally enough play in Sydney for that round was suspended.

This leads us to speculation that the best representative team did not make the trip and in any case, four of those chosen failed to make the journey.  Some research in other such circumstances suggest that players were asked to put their names forward regarding their availability, rather than being selected on merit.

The team was announced two days before the team left Sydney and so it would have been a case of a last minute scramble to secure additional players at a time when telephones were almost non-existent.  So it is fair to say that many of those who went would have just made up the numbers.

A group of 20 players together with the manager, Bill Prince, took the 755 rail kilometre trip, probably travelling second class, from Sydney to Hay, leaving on Sunday Evening, July 7.  They would have arrived at their destination by mid Monday afternoon.  This rail trip would have taken at least 10 hours travelling via Goulburn, Junee and Narrandera.  Hay football small

In this first game which was played on Tuesday 9 July at Hay, the local businesses closed their premises in order to attract the largest crowd possible to the Park Oval. Manager, Bill Prince, aged 35, played in the first game before a crowd of 900, each paying six pence (now, $3.00) entry;  the gate was later declared at fifteen pounds (now $2,057.00).  Hay won the encounter 5-11 (41) to 2-10 (22).  Afterwards the team was treated to local hospitality at Tattersall’ s Hotel, incidentally, the same venue where a cordial welcome was thrust upon the visitors on their first night in town.

The following day, Wednesday, it was off on a 172km journey east to Narrandera by the early mail train.  The players complained of being stiff and sore as they failed to keep pace with the locals who fielded the best side possible.  The Sydney team’ s performance was described as poor and were badly beaten 10-19 (79) to 2-1 (13).

But after the game they were again feted by the locals which didn’ t add to their condition particularly when the next day they again travelled but this time only 61km to Coolamon where they played a further match.  This time the visitors showed a bit more promise and were able to get over the relatively inexperienced Coolamon side 5-6 (36) to 3-9 (27) at the Recreation Ground.  A social followed in the evening in honour of the Sydney team.

They must have all been very thankful at the rest the team got on the Friday but the following day they had to back up against a very experienced Wagga combination.

Regular football was played in Wagga in 1907 between the established clubs:  Lake, Newtown, Oldtown and Federals.  They too chose a solid combination to match their Sydney opponents.

All the work the Sydneysiders had undertaken during the previous few days however took its toll and a number of players were unable to take the field.  Inconceivably, it was first suggested that replacements would be sent from Sydney but in the end the team was supplemented with players from Narrandera (3), Coolamon (1) and Ganmain (1).

Before a crowd of 350 this replenished side put up a better showing than they did against Narrandera and at the Wagga Cricket Ground were beaten 10-27 (87) to 5-5 (35).

In the eyes of the locals, the results of the tour did little to enhance the standing of the game in Sydney, given that it was only four years since its resurrection.  [Australian Football had folded in Sydney in 1895 only to be re-established by a number of enthusiasts eight years later].

So much did it not impress the locals that the Hay newspaper labelled the tour a joke following their dismal display in the four match tour.

Regardless of this, the football officials in Wagga put on another function that evening where the Sydney boys again indulged in night time pleasure.

The team made their way back to Sydney the following day by train arriving Sunday Evening.

(With thanks to Rail.net for the map of NSW Railways)