The Australian Football Ground

An image of where the Australian Football Ground was locatedAustralian Football Ground

Some time ago we wrote about a ground in Sydney that was owned by the NSW Australian Football League.

It was situated on the north west corner of Gardeners and Botany Roads and was part of the Cooper Estate. (Daniel Cooper was a wealthy land owner, merchant, philanthropist and politician who owned 566.5 hectares land in the suburbs of Waterloo, Alexandria, Redfern and Rosebery.  This was commonly referred to as the Cooper Estate).

The particular parcel of land was initially sand dunes and swamp and in mid 1894 was leased on which was constructed the first Rosebery Racecourse.  We have very recently obtained an 1885 map of the Alexandria Municipality on right, showing the position of the ground in red outline.

After several deaths from the fall of jockeys whilst racing on the track it was not too many years later the NSW Gaming Act was amended to proscribe horse racing on any track less than 6 furlongs (1200 metres) and so arrangements were made for the racecourse to be relocated to an area in Gardeners Road, Mascot (now Eastlakes). 

The former course was used for a variety of activities before being ‘purchased’ by the NSW Australian Football League at a reported price of one hundred and eighty pounds ($360) per acre (one acre = .4046 hectares).  The site would go on to become a very valuable piece of land.

More research has revealed greater details of the property and by chance an initial map of the land an exact location of the ground itself,.

It is recognized that the events of WWI put paid to any committed ownership of the ground by the league and as Jim Phelan (of Phelan Medal fame) wrote in 1938:

On August 4, when all the state teams were assembled at the Australian Football Ground for the purpose of distance contests at the carnival games, the news was flashed by cable that England had declared war against Germany.  Fate had stepped in and dealt a cruel blow.  Had England’s declaration of war been made a few weeks earlier or later, all might have been well as regards the continuity of ownership of the Australian Football Ground by the NSW Football League.

We really cannot confirm that WWl caused the actual demise of the ground, more so it was bad management and the spending of money on the ground that the league simply did not have.

So much for the maligned future and occupation of Australian football in Sydney.

As we gain more information we will post a further report and eventually release a definitive account of the ground itself in an appropriate publication.



Robertson Oval, Wagga

This Sunday (8 March) the GWS Giants will play reigning premier Richmond in a March Community Cup match at Robertson Oval, Wagga. The oval has a rich history of hosting international cricket and rugby league matches but it is as an Australian football ground that it is best known. It is the home of the Wagga Tigers and hosts the Farrer League grand final each year. Over the years various matches involving VFL/AFL clubs have been played at the venue as well as local representative games and the Carroll Cup schoolboys’ competition.

Football History Society vice-president Dr Rod Gillett sets out the ten most significant facts about the history of Robertson Oval below:

1. Robertson Oval is the premier cricket and Australian Football venue in Wagga. The enclosed ground is located in the Bolton Park sporting complex where it was previously known as #1 Oval. A grass embankment runs around three-quarters of the oval with a 350-seat grandstand and social club on western side of the ground. The ground has a capacity of 12,000.

2. The ground has a rich sporting history having also hosted international cricket and international rugby league matches. The crowd record is 11,000 which attended the rugby league international between France and the Riverina in 1960 – won by the French 25-14.

3. Cricket goes all the way back to 1878 when a Wagga Wagga team comprised of 22 players played an Australian XI that was preparing for the tour of England. Australia was led by Dave Gregory and included the Bannerman brothers, wicket-keeper J.M. Blackham, and W.L. Murdoch who made 93 runs. The visitors won by an innings and 117 runs.

4. It became an Australian Football ground 1911 when the Newtown club (Wagga team) made the ground its home-base. Federals (formed in 1887) were renamed Wagga in 1928 and began playing home games at the ground. They became known as the Tigers in 1949 when they acquired guernseys from VFL club Richmond.

5. The ground was named after prominent Wagga businessman Cameron McLean Robertson who as the president of the Community Advancement Fund donated funds to Council for redevelopment of the ground. He was the father-in-law of ex-Tigers player and football benefactor John Braid. It was named Robertson Oval in 1963.

6. Two Wagga Tigers players were named in the NSW Greatest Team: ex-Sydney Swans captain and 1995 Brownlow medallist Paul Kelly and former St Kilda champion full-forward Bill Mohr who topped the VFL goal-kicking with 101 goals in 1936. Terry Daniher, who was also named in the team, coached Wagga Tigers to five premierships in six seasons in the 1990s after finishing his illustrious career with Essendon.

7. Twenty players from Wagga Tigers are on the list of NSW’s 500 Greatest Players including Harry Lampe (South Melbourne), John Pitura (South Melbourne-Richmond), Paul Hawke (Sydney Swans-Collingwood), Neville Miller (South Melbourne), Brad Seymour (Sydney Swans), Matt Suckling (Hawthorn-Western Bulldogs), and Kim Kershaw (South Melbourne-Hawthorn).

8. Previous matches involving VFL teams played at Robertson Oval included a combined Wagga team v Hawthorn in 1952 and an Albury & District (forerunner to the Farrer League) representative team took on North Melbourne in 1954.

9. The Farrer League plays it grand finals at Robertson Oval and the final of the Carroll Cup for the secondary schoolboys’ competition is also played under lights at the ground and attracts crowds of up to 1500 spectators.

10. Robertson Oval was revamped in 2012 to meet the requirements of the AFL for hosting matches. It involved extending the ground, a complete re-turf, upgraded change rooms and installation of lights. Two NAB Cup Challenge matches have subsequently been played at the venue, GWS Giants against St Kilda (2013) and North Melbourne and Collingwood (2016).

NSW Grounds Recorded

The Football History Society has further developed their database on grounds the game has used for either playing or training in NSW.

Some grounds have already been listed on this website, however the Society’s programmer has undertaken more work on the project which has revealed additional grounds and fields that have been utilised for Australian Football over the past 140 years.

It is still early days with this work and many grounds, whilst on the unpublished list, are yet to be added.  To provide involvement for the wider football community within the state, Society officials are keen to offer a facility on this site for local people within your area to add grounds and fields and/or amend the details that have already been listed.  This is another part of the project still under deliberation.

       John Addison

Society treasurer, John Addison said “there could be a story or background to a field or oval that we don’t know about and we are keen to add these details to the comments area on the particular ground.”

“Please, take the opportunity to check out what we do have and if you can add something, let us know.”

The grounds database can be viewed by clicking here.  However a working list of grounds, yet to be added to our online list can be viewed here.  As you can see we do not have full details of these and other grounds, so send us an email with any grounds that you may know of.

– Clubs In Sydney No More

Over the years there have been many, many clubs in a senior division that have come and gone.  As well, there probably have been junior clubs that have bitten the dust over the years but they are a lot harder to identify.  At least we have the media and to a certain extent old Football Records to secure our information from.

Here is a list we quickly put together of the clubs that we know of that no longer exist:
South Sydney, Sydney (Naval), West Sydney, Darlington, Glebe, East Hills, Rosebery, Lauriston Park, Newtown, Randwick, St Peters, Liverpool, Bankstown, Bankstown Sports, Carlton, Botany, Ashfield, Paddington, Eastern Suburbs, Railways, Tramways, Teachers College, Redfern, YMCA, Ashfield, Alexandria, St Ives, Salasians, Parramatta, Blacktown, RAAF, Illawarra, Hawkesbury Ag College, Mt Druitt, Penshurst, Combined Services, Ermington.

Some of these clubs were in the Metropolitan National Football Association (MANFA), some participated in the 1880s and in the early part of the last century.

Also, the grounds the game is and has been played on in Sydney;  there must be hundreds of them.

Grounds Used in NSW For Australian Football

Check this link out to see a list of those we know.  You might be able to fill in the gaps or add some more, let us know.

If you know of any more clubs or grounds that can be added to our list from right around NSW, please email us.

– Grounds in Sydney

An aerial image of Kensington Oval in 1943
An aerial image of Kensington Oval in 1943

You would be surprised at the list of different grounds that have been used in Sydney over the years.

Today we are used to say, Picken Oval, Olds Park and maybe Henson Park, but there have been many, many others.

One obscure ground is Kensington Oval which is located in the Eastern Suburbs of Sydney, between Kensington and Kingsford.  It is not longer used by the code.

It was constructed in 1928 from a sandy area on land which was also part of the catchment for the Botany Swamps which was used for Sydney’s water supply in the 19th century.

The ground came online in 1928 and in 1929 was one secured by the league as a venue for first grade matches at a lease fee of £60 ($4,500 today) per annum.  At the same time the league paid £500 for year for six years for the use of Erskineville Oval with £100 ($7,500) of that money to be used for improvements to the ground.  A challenge by Rugby Union pushed the fee for the use of Trumper Park from £100 in 1928 to £160 ($12,000) in 1929; and these when in the times when admission to the ground was one shilling ($3.75), grandstand one and six ($5.65) or patrons could purchase a season ticket for twelve shillings and sixpence ($47.00).

Chart of Sydney Ground Gate Takings 1930-50
Chart of Sydney Gate Takings 1930-50

Randwick Council built a grandstand for patrons but because the ground was not totally fenced, charging admission was a folly and most wrote off the use of the ground as a financial stream to the league.

South Sydney started training at the ground in 1928, previous to this they had trained at the now built on, Australian Football Ground which was on the corner of Botany and Gardeners Road, Alexandria.  Prior on Moore Park.

During the 1930s depression the out of work players and those on shift work volunteered their time to realign the ground and at the same time lengthen it.  A report from the Sydney Football Record in 1937 said

“There were scenes of great activity at Kensington Oval during the week.  A small army of workmen cut away the high ground outside certain portions of the fence to enable the extension of the playing area to comply with the measurements required by the code.

This, coupled with the fact that the ground has been newly top-dressed and harrowed will make the oval comparable with the best Australian Football Ground in the state.  By 8 May the full playing area will be ready to use.  No more will it be known as the despised ‘marble ring’ as the added length and wide pockets will give ample room to flank men thus opening up possibilities for more brilliant play.

The dimensions of the oval will be 140 yards x 150 yards, five yards less than the Sydney Cricket Ground and the major axis will run parallel to the grandstand, thus affording the spectators a better view.”

The ground fell out of permanent match use when the league introduced Sunday matches which made available Erskineville Oval or Trumper Park to be used on consecutive days over the weekend.

South Sydney initially had use of the top potion of the grandstand as a clubroom however it was soon taken over by the local council to use as a library repository.  Local junior rugby league began to use the ground for weekend matches and in 1974 South Sydney moved to Erskineville Oval as a training venue.

– Erskineville Oval – from the Old to the New

Jim Phelan, Newtown Official and NSWFL Secretary 1915-22
Jim Phelan Newtown Official and NSWFL Secretary 1915-22

In the latter part of his 79 years, Jim Phelan, largely regarded as the father of football in NSW, wrote articles for the local press and more particularly for the Sydney Football Record.

As far as the Record Editor was concerned, these were good to use as ‘fillers’;  something to fill a space when the normal correspondent had not submitted his literary obligation.

But to the reader all these years later, they provide a more personal explanation of what and when things took place in football.  Phelan quite often wrote about the old times in Sydney and while his passing years may have clouded his memory somewhat the essence of the facts were still there.

1933 Erskineville Oval
Players on the old ground.
You can see the trees from McDonald Park in the background

Hereunder is an article written by him not long before his death in 1939.  It talks about the reconstruction of the now not used Erskineville Oval, the scene of many great games and grand finals over the years.  The original ground, very much smaller than the present oval, ran east-west and was located more well to the west of the present ground.  In fact it took up an area where the public housing flats are now located in a section of land between Copeland and Ashmore Streets known as McDonaldtown Park and ran from Binning Street through to Mitchell Road.

In the reconstruction of the ground was very much under the eye of Phelan, who lived in the adjacent Binning Street and was an alderman on the then Erskineville Council.  A number of adjoined tenement houses in Swanson Street were demolished and new streets in Elliott and Fox Avenues were constructed together with quite a number of public housing units or flats.

The new ground was then built in a north-south profile as it now appears however because of its size the end boundaries were quite close the the adjacent streets.

The Alexandria-Erskineville Bowling Club was not built until 1956.

1890 Erskineville Oval 2 thumbnail
1890 Erskineville Oval (McDonaldtown Park)

2016 map Erskineville Oval thumbnail
2016 map
Erskineville Oval

Here is what Phelan wrote and remember it was written in 1939:

As the new oval progresses towards completion, numberless questions have been asked as to its future tenancy.  To one and all my answer has been that such is in the lap of the Gods.

The present day anxiety being evinced has been displaced the one time aversion and antipathy to Erskineville Oval.  One sees many changes in the relatively short space of 40 years.  Evolution is all around us working perhaps slowly, but nevertheless surely.  Such can be said of the game itself.

The 20 aside game of my day, and the concomitant little marks have improved, others in the mind of enthusiastic old timers, have declined and the day is not far distant when a halt will surely be called to the alternation of rules of the game.  So much, by the way.

By reason of the many changes in the administrative personnel of the NSW League since its inception in 1903, and the fact that early books and records are not in possession of present officials, a complete history of the league operations is well night impossible.  However, as one (and the only one) who can lay claim to have been present at every annual meeting of the League since its inception, I am confident that memory will serve me right in this effort to set forth details in connection with playing grounds and Erskineville Oval in particular.

Following the great success of the Fitzroy-Collingwood initial match on the Sydney Cricket Ground in 1903 the following clubs were formed:- Sydney, Paddington, East Sydney, Balmain, North Shore, West Sydney, Redfern, Newtown,  Ashfield, Y.M.C.A. and Alexandria.  As Rugby League was then non-existent the securing of playing grounds was simply a question of ability to pay for the use of them.

The formation of eleven clubs following the Fitzroy-Collingwood game is indicative of the enthusiasm aroused at the time.  The wisdom of accepting such a number of clubs was questioned at the time by some of the then League members.  Within a short space of time Ashfield and Alexandria clubs dropped out.  The remaining clubs, however, continued to exist for some years.

Since the inception of the League, premiership final games have been played on the following grounds:- 1903, 1904, 1908 and 1909, Sydney Cricket Ground No. 1; 1905 and 1915 Sydney Cricket Ground No. 2; 1906, 1916, 1917 and 1918 Agricultural Showground (now Fox Studios); 1907 Kensington Racecourse (now University of NSW), 1911, 1912 and 1913, Australian Football Ground, Alexandria; 1910, 1914, 1919 and from thence on, Erskineville Oval.

The foregoing supplies a most effective answer to those who continually assail me for my advocacy of Erskineville Oval, with the one plea “that the game generally, and the finals in particular should be played on a central ground, to wit the Sydney Cricket Ground, or the Agricultural Showground”.  In their ignorance, or antipathy to Erskineville Oval, they did not know, or if knowing would not admit the fact that central grounds had been tried and financial results were overwhelmingly in favour of Erskineville Oval.

While I have always thought, and expressed myself as occasion arouse, that false modesty is as bad an attribute as overweening vanity, I feel that it would not be desirable to set forth in this short article the various episodes that arose in connection with the retention of Erskineville Oval as the home ground for the game in Sydney.

The concern that was almost wholly mine, during the past 21 years is now being shared by others as the time approaches when “farewell” must be said to the ground that has served the League for a generation, and whose atmosphere is, on the whole, more congenial in a football sense than that of any other playing ground controlled by the League.

“Gone from the old home, gentlemen, moved up into the now,” will, I trust, be the greeting to patrons of the game in 1940.

With the changing nature of the area, the Newtown Club has been ressurected, albeit in a junior club, and a very successful one too, which plays out of Sydney Park, the old brick pit at St Peters.

It is interesting to note in the current day map, the change of the name of the Kurrajong Hotel to the Swanson Hotel.

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.

1922 Ground Problems

Ground thumbnailSearching through Sydney newspaper we came across the following article in a 1922 issue.

It had to do with the allocation of grounds and the author didn’t spare any ‘beg your pardons’ in his appraisal of the situation:

“There is one thing vexing the New South Wales League, that is, the question, are Australians foreigners? This Question is prompted by the grossly unfair treatment accorded the New South Wales League by the Marrickville, Hurstville and Ashfield Municipal Councils, who “dressed in a little brief of authority cut such fantastic tricks before high Heaven as make the angels weep”.

The cause of the kick is this: It is usual, prior to the opening of the Winter season for all Councils controlling grounds to advertise in the daily press calling tenders for the leasing of their grounds for Winter Sports.

The Australian Rules League of New South Wales tendered £150 for Marrickville Oval. The Rugby League’s tender for same was £135. The latter was accepted. Why in the name of heaven was £15 thus thrown away by the little Puddlington of Marrickville the ratepayers should want to know. Not only this, why should the Australians be boycotted when they were prepared to pay cash in advance? Will the other body do the same? What strings were pulled to influence the decision of the tender?   It is British fair play which we hear so much about, or are Hun methods still running the Marrickville Municipality?

At Hurstville something similar was enacted. The “Aussies” tendered £25 for Penshurst Park. The wise men of Hurstville evidently did not require money to put their streets and parks in order, the ratepayers can find the brass for those purposes. The Rugby League tender for exactly half that amount was accepted. It looks like more boodling, what! The City Council Tammany Ring was not a circumstance to it.

At Ashfield, tenders were called for Pratten Park. Australians bid £200, Rugby £155. Again Rugby scooped the pool, but under somewhat different circumstances.   The Ashfield Council in their wisdom decided that tenders were not high enough. Fresh tenders were invited. Australian League bid £250, but still Rugby secured the bacon. How do they do it? Surely there are enough fair-minded patriots and sports in these particular suburbs to see that justice is done. The Dinkum Aussie only asks a fair deal without fear or favour, not only for Australian football but for all and any other winter sport; and they protest against one body securing the whole of the playing spaces in and around Sydney to the detriment of all other sports. If such practices continue there is only one course  to pursue, for all the other sporting bodies to combine and secure grounds which they may share on an equitable basis.

At present the League, which happens for the moment to be top dog, secures all the bone, but may find that a united attack by the smaller tribe may deprive it of the spoil. Remember the adage of the dog and the shadow, where he tried to collar too much and lost all – moral, don’t be too greedy.”

All this came hot on the heels of the NSW Australian Football League successfully tendering for North Sydney Oval in 1921.

Their offer of five hundred pounds (an unbelievable $37,500 in today’s money) plus 20% of the gate for the winter lease of North Sydney Oval was accepted.  The offer tipped out the long term Rugby League tenants, North Sydney Rugby League club, who offered one hundred pounds plus 10% of the gate.  The AFL’s offer, considering the limited crowds the game attracted then, (but 1000 times more than now) could be viewed as quite farcical.

One of the great issues of the period was the number of enclosed grounds in Sydney, unlike Melbourne, there were not that many and it was an annual challenge between Rugby Union, Rugby League, Soccer and Australian Football as to who got what ground.  Of course Rugby League were successful in most although Australian Football only required three grounds per weekend.

In 1922 the Australian game only ended up with two enclosed grounds, Erskineville Oval and Trumper Park.  They had to play their other games on open parks like Alexandria Oval, Moore Park and North Sydney Oval No. 2, now St Leonards Park.  There was no football played on Sundays in those days.


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.

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.

[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.