The round 8 game AFL between Port Adelaide and the Gold Coast Suns is the first AFL/VFL game to be played in mainland China, but is it the first to be played in China itself?
Given that we have the Hong Kong Dragons which commenced in 1990, the Beijing Bombers which were started in 2004 together with the Shanghai Tigers and a team in the Pokfulam district of Hong Kong that was kicking around in 2014 playing as the Pokfulam Vikings, we have found evidence of another game way back in 1940 before Japan entered the war.
The article, which was published in the May 18 edition of the Sydney Football Record begins with the line: “Some day Australia may be playing Test football against China?
It goes on to report:
“Australian Naval Reservists recently staged an exhibition match on the No. 3 football ground at Causeway Bay, Hong and greatly impressed local sports enthusiasts.
A description of the match was given more than half a column on the main sports page of the South China Morning Post which describes “spectacular high marking and extra ordinary long drop kicks and punts” as features of the Australian Code.
Apparently the paper’s special sports writer ‘Spectator’ was assigned to cover the match. These are extracts from his story of it:
“The actual progress of play struck me as being twice as fast as the rugby union code, this was probably due to the fact that there are no scrums given for knock-ons or for forward passes.
High Marks Impress
Spectacular high marking was featured throughout and the ball did not have to be caught ‘dead’ for a mark to be given. On several occasions the ball was taken 10 ten and eleven feet off the ground with several hands reaching up…..
“Given a big ground and normal conditions, the Australian Rules game should prove popular with football followers and it would not come as a surprise to see the Chinese adopt this game, which is a combination of football, rugby and basketball.
“Drop-kicking and punts, some of which were between 40-60 yards occurred at many stages and after the second quarter, players were scoring goals fairly regularly….
“The main scoring tactic is the high mark and spectacular and very accurate punting from player to player, each in turn marking. This makes the pace very fast and the game thrilling.
“The ball is not allowed to be passed in the traditional rugby union manner, but is either fisted or struck with the palm. Carrying the ball, as in the case of a football goalkeeper, is not allowed and the ball must be bounced every ten yards or so…..”
[Back to the Football Record text:] If a scratch game by Naval Reservists could make this impression, to what raptures would a Hong Kong Crowd be moved by such Victorian League stars as Ron Todd, Jack Regan, Jack Muller, Jack Dyer, Dick Harris, Bert Mills, Dinny Ryan, Sel Murray, Frank Gill, Ken Baxter, Roy Fountain and a dozen other such exponents, who we see every Saturday on the grounds every Saturday during the winter.”
Times for the game in the mid 1890s were getting pretty hard because of a number of reasons.
By the end of 1894 the game would cease to be played in the state’s capital and Newcastle for a period of nine years however some were more optimistic as this report from the June edition from the Australian Town and Country Journal reports:
“Those who play the Australian game in Sydney are taking active steps to popularise their game here, but I am of opinion that the authorities will have an up-hill battle to win the fight. However, I am informed that some of the leading clubs are having their ranks filled by good players from the other colonies, and it may be that if the public have an opportunity of seeing tho game played as it should be played it may be accorded considerable support.
So many good members have recently joined the Redfern Club (later South Sydney), that it has been decided to form another club out of it, to be called the Darlington Club.
In spite of tho protest of the New South Wales Rugby Union, a match under these rules was played on tho Sydney Cricket Ground on Saturday, between the Redfern and East Sydney Clubs. The ground was very slippery, and consequently the exhibition was not as good as it otherwise would have been. The game, however, was very fast and open, and some of the players displayed considerable knowledge of the game.
The match resulted in a win for the Redfernites by 2 goals 5 behinds to 9 behinds. Teams representing the Sydney and West Sydney Clubs also played under these rules on Moore Park, the result being a win for tho former by 3 goals 3 behinds to 2 behinds.”
For the present, we are keeping on the northern districts or Newcastle area with this story.
In the late 1880s senior clubs from Newcastle and the Hunter competed with Sydne y teams for a premiership. In 1887 Northumberland won the title.
Northumberland was the name adopted by the team from West Maitland, here is a brief description from a 1887 newspaper of the day on their development and participation.
Firstly though we might say that the club continued quite successfully for a number of years but were last heard of in 1894. This was a period of deep depression for Australia but certainly did not hit other football codes and we can only suppose this might be one reason for their disappearance, or probably more succinctly there was no-one to take their place.
“In this issue we give the portraits of the crack northern team of New South Wales for the past season; The Northumberland Club was formed in 1883 by Mr. E. J. Young, who saw the club through its first difficulties, acting as honorary secretary for two seasons. This club was the first to adopt the Australian Rules in the northern district of New South Wales; and considerable difficulty was experienced in raising a team of twenty players, as the feeling against the Victorian, game (as it was then called) was rather bitter. During the first season of the club a series of scratch matches was indulged in; and it was thought at first that the club would have to disband, as there were no fields to conquer. However, early in the next season a match was arranged with the West Maitland Rugby team, which defeated the N.F.C. at its own game. Subsequently little difficulty was experienced in getting players together. The renowned Sydney Club visited Maitland, and gave quite an impetus to the game.
Many gentlemen who had at first held back came forward, and by their exertions as players and in other ways greatly helped to place the club in the proud position it now occupies in the north. About this time also a club was started in Newcastle; and, having some able exponents of the game who hailed from Victoria, such as Le Neveu, Murrell, Woodlands, and others, it also managed to defeat the pioneer club. Those reverses naturally gave additional interest to the game, more especially as the rivalry between Newcastle and Maitland in any kind of athletic exorcise is always very keen. Wallsend about this time made its debut; the matches between these three clubs being always close and exciting.
During 1885 and 1880 the Northumberlands, although they never went lower on the list than second for the northern premiership, could not manage to get to the top of the tree. First Newcastle and then Wallsend held the coveted position. During the season just over the Northumberland Club gained that place, and made a bid for the premiership of the colony, having won and lost a match with the renowned metropolitan premiers.
The following summary of the club’s doings for the Season compares favourably with the record of any club in the colony:
Among the office bearers who have stuck to the club since it was started may be mentioned the Rev. Canon Tyrrell, president; messrs; John Bourke and John Gillies, vice presidents ; and the popular and genial Mr. Harry Williams, who has been captain all through the club’s existence. Among the players of the 20 may be found some of the swiftest men in the north on the running track. Many of them are only just commencing to master the difficulties of a game where experience and skill are required to make a team excel. Most of the players are young, and will no doubt greatly improve as the seasons roll on. Consequently we may hear of the N.F.C. making a successful bid of the premiership of the colony in the time to come.”
Then A 1894 Report Shows:
“The Northumberland Club will open their campaign on Saturday, 5th May, at Wallsend, against the local twenty. The Norths this season are not as strong as of yore, but have a fair team, and possibly before the season closes they will beat more than will down them.
The Australian game of football is slowly but surely gaining a strong hold m the Northern district, more especially in the mining districts of Newcastle. There is an additional senior team in the field this year, to wit, the old Hamilton Club, who have returned to the fold, and no less than fourteen junior teams have entered for the junior badges.”
“The game in Sydney also appears to be again likely to thrive, some seven teams having decided to play this season, one of which is composed entirely of Victorian players employed at the firm of Pope and Matter’s foundry. The Norths have their hands pretty full to the date of the commencement of the premiership matches, as the following matches have been arranged :— May 5, Wallsend, at Wallsend ; May 12, Wallsend at Maitland; May 19, Hamilton, at Hamilton; May 24, Burwood, at Maitland ; May 26, Wallsend, at Newcastle; June 2, Merryland Fitz Roy [no idea where this is – ed.], at Maitland ; June 9, Hamilton, at Maitland ; June 16, Charlestown, at Maitland. All these matches should prove interesting and our town representatives should practice during the week and try and keep up their good position at the top of the list for season 1894.”
The following is an excerpt from the 12 April 1890 Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners Advocate.
Its a bit of a long read, but interesting read and it is fascinating to note the perceived strength of the game in and around Newcastle and the detail to which the newspaper goes to record the Association’s annual meeting. You have to ask yourself, “what happened to the next 110 years?”
“NORTHERN FOOTBALL ASSOCIATION
The second annual meeting of the above Association was held last night at the Centennial Hotel, there being present representatives from all the Northern clubs. Mr. William Jenkins, vice-president of the Association, occupied the chair, and having – declared the meeting open, Mr. H. Williiams, the secretary read, the report for the past year, which was as follows:”
Northern District Football Association
(Australian Rules). SECOND ANNUAL REPORT
“In presenting their second annual report, your committee have every reason to congratulate all footballers on the success which has attended the efforts of the Association in promoting the Australian game of football in the Northern district. The game being first started in the north by the formation of the Northumberland Club at Maitland five years ago, has rapidly spread all over the district, no less than seven new clubs having joined the Association last season there being now 14 subscribing clubs on the roll.
“The balance-sheet shows a small deficit, but your committee think, considering the very heavy undertakings of last season, that they may well congratulate themselves on the financial state of the Association.
“Early last season arrangements were made with the Fitzroy team, of Melbourne, to visit the Northern district to play a series of matches. The first match, played at Wallsend on the 24th May, was won by the Victorians by 10 goals 15 behinds to 5 goals 5 behinds (although behinds were shown in the score they were not counted).This game was witnessed by 8000 people.
The Wallsend representatives played up splendidly towards the finish, and considerable excitement and enthusiasm prevailed. The second match, played at Maitland, also resulted in a win for the Fitzroys. The Maitland men had the lead up to three-quarter time, the score then being Maitland three goals, Fitzroy two. On the following Tuesday a match was played against a team of Maitland juniors, and on the Thursday against the Newcastle District clubs; both matches resulting in the defeat of your representatives: The final match of. the tour against the combined Northern District – although resulting in a win for the Victorians, showed that the full strength of the .North is well able to cope with the strongest terms that can be sent here. Some splendid form was exhibited by players on both sides; the excitement amongst the spectators being exhibited by loud bursts of applause. The result of the match was six goals six behinds Fitzroy four goals eight behinds to the Northern District team. (It is interesting to note that two of the Fitzroy players were “deaf and dumb” and the tour of the region cost in the vicinity of £300 ($39,000 in today’s money – ed).
“The annual interprovincial match, played at Newcastle on the 14th July, was won by your representatives. “The match played against the Englishmen at Maitland, on the 14th August, resulted in an easy win for the North by nine goals to three. Footballers may well feel proud of this victory, as we were not represented by the best team in the North on this occasion, several prominent exponents of the game being unable to take part in the match ,through business engagements. In passing, it may be noted that this defeat of the English team by your representatives was equal to the defeat administered to the visitors by the crack Victorian teams; and this, after the experience they had undoubtedly gained at the Australian game during their Victorian and South Australian tour, speaks well for the improvement made by your representatives towards the close of the .season.
“It may also be noted with satisfaction that this defeat of the English team by your representatives was the only victory scored against them in N.S. Wales. “The sad accident which caused the death of Mr. R. L. Seddon, of the English team, was deeply regretted by every one. The kindly expressions of sympathy from fol lowers of all games of football in Australia, ten’ed to show the great popularity of the English captain in whatever part of the colonies he had visited. “The Wallsend Club were the successful competitors for the Black Diamond Cup, kindly presented by the Richmond Tobacco Company, of Newcastle, having gone through the season without sustaining defeat. This cup will be competed for again during the coming season, having to be won twice before becoming the absolute property of any club.
“For the Junior Cup, Our Boys, of West Maitland, were returned the winners, alter a series of most interesting matches. “Your committee would strongly urge upon their successors the advisability of continuing these Junior Cup contests.
“Mr. W. Jenkins, the late secretary of the Wallsend Club, having left the district, your committee cannot let this opportunity pass without expressing the deep regret they feel at his departure. Mr. Jenkins was an enthusiastic supporter of the Australian game, and during his short stay in the district did much to promote the welfare of the Association.
“The Northern Association was represented at the conference held in Melbourne in November last to consider and revise the rules by Mr. W. Marshall, of Sydney.
“During the coming season several important fixtures have already ‘been arranged. The Port Melbourne team (one of the best in Melbourne) will , visit the north on the 29th June and 2nd July. A team will also be sent to Victoria to play a series of four or five matches during July. The first match on the 13th July will be of an intercolonial nature, that day having been set apart for a representative match be tween the players of the two colonies. Satisfactory arrangements have been completed with the Victorian Association, and the Melbourne Cricket Club have most generously decided to hand over the whole of the proceeds from this match to the N.D.F.B.A., to wards defraying the expenses of the trip. Matches have also been arranged with the Fitzroy, St. Kilda, Port Melbourne, and probably Ballarat will be visited during the tour.
“In view of these important fixtures, your committee would impress upon all players the necessity of at once getting into practice, and improve themselves at the game, so that they may be able to cope successfully with the formidable opponents they will be called upon to meet during the coming season, and help to place New South Wales football in the same position that this colony occupies in other branches of sport. To achieve this, a certain amount of training will be necessary by those players who desire to be selected in the representative matches; and after arranging such important fixtures, it is to be hoped one and all will do their utmost, not alone to hold their own, but to score a majority of wins in the matches arranged against players of the other colonies.
“The election of office-bearers for the ensuing season will be held to-night, The following gentlemen held office last season, viz. :– Patron, Mr, J. C. Ellis; presidents, Rev. Canon Tyrrell, Mr. H. Rushton; vice presidents – Messrs. S. Keightley, J. Fletcher junr, John Gillies, W. Jenkins, F. W. Reay, R. F. Watson; hon. treasurer, Mr. John Murrell; hon. secretary, Mr. Harry Williams.” Mr. Murrell, the treasurer, read the balance-sheet, which was as follows :
North Districts Football Association – Financial Statement for 1888
Balance from 1887
Gates from Fitzroy FC matches
Fitzroy FC tour expenses
Gate – interprovincial match
Interprovincial match expenses
Share interprovincial match with NSWFA
Gate – Northern Dist FA v Englishmen
Expenses Englishmen’s match
Delegates fees (club affiliation)
Canon Tyrrell donation towards junior cup
Purchase Junior Cup
Donations towards Englishmens’match
Newcastle City Club
Treasurer’s expenses (telegrams etc.)
Secretary’s expenses (same)
Interest paid to bank
Against above debt balance there are promises:of donations towards loss on English team spec. Northumberland Club £3. 4s; Summerhill Club £1 12s; Our Boys Club £1; Hamilton Club £1.6s Total, £6.16. J. MURRELL hon: treas. March 13th, 1889. Audited and found correct, ALBERT ALLEN, JAMES CLAYTON.”
Mr. KEIGHTLEY, in moving the adoption of the above said that the number of clubs subscribing to the club is about thirteen, and that it redounds to the credit of those taking interest in the Association game. The speaker eulogised the great help which Mr. Jenkins had given to the different clubs playing under their rules, He (Mr. Jenkins) was a very enthusiastic member, and had done all in his power to make the game go ahead. Mr. Keightley also passed a few words of praise on Mr. Murrell, of the Newcastle City Club, for the vast interest he had taken in forwarding the interests of the Association. He thought that if all the clubs took the same interest in the game as Mr. Murrell, we would soon be able to beat all comers from other parts.
The Wallsend Club deserved great credit for the way in which they had played during the past season, and they well deserved the cup which they had so nobly won. However, he hoped that during the coming season our Newcastle Club would improve enough to wrest from them the cup which they so deservedly won. After passing a few more remarks, the speaker proposed “That the report and balance-sheet be adopted.” – This was carried unanimously. The election of officers then took place, and resulted as follows: – Patron, Mr. S. Keightley; presidents, Rev. Canon Tyrrell and Mr. H. Rushton; vice-presidents : Messrs. J. Fletcher, junr., R. F. Watson, J. Williams, J. Gillies, H. Berkeley, J. Murrell”
The SECRETARY read a letter from the Port Melbourne Football Club, in regard to their visit to New South Wales. He also read a letter from the agent of the Maori team of footballers, in regard to a visit to the Northern districts. It was decided to leave’ the arrangements in connection with these teams in the hands of the delegates of the Association. Thee SECRETARY announced that Mr. Keightley had promised five guineas towards purchasing a cup for junior matches. Mr. BERKELEY, on behalf of the proprietors of the Newcastle Morning Herald, said he would make up another five guineas, so as to make the cup a 10-guinea one. (Cheers.) It was decided that the title in regard to the cup, should be “The Junior ‘Challenge Cup.” A vote of thanks was passed to Mr. Keightleoy and Mr. Berkeley, for their hand some donations, which both gentlemen suitably acknowledged.
A long discussion ensued as to which clubs are to be styled “Juniors,” and it was eventually decided to leave the matter in the hands of the delegates. A vote of thanks was unanimously passed -to the Melbourne Cricket Club and the Victorian Football Association, for placing their ground at the free disposal of the Northern Football Association for their matches which take place in July.
Mr. WILLIAMS, the secretary, moved a vote of thanks to the press (specially coupled with the name of “Glenco”‘, the sporting representative of the .Newcastle Morning Herald), for the assistance he had rendered the Association, which was carried unanimously. The proceedings then terminated.
In April 1933 a report was made on the situation in the Central West Australian Rules Football Association.
Not many are aware that Australian Football was played in the area well before the 1982 establishment of the Central West Australian Football League.
The first Association was formed in 1929 with four teams: Parkes, Forbes, Tullamore and Gunningbland. The following year Tullamore dropped out on account of the great distance. The Wongalea Club took its place.
In 1931 Parkes and Forbes clubs were disbanded, because, they maintained, they had insufficient funds to continue.
In 1930 the Yarranvale Club was formed, but by 1932 they had difficulty in getting a full team. So that at the close of that year Gunningbland and Wongalea were the only teams affiliated with the Association.
Strange enough. You try and find Gunningbland and Wongalea on the map, let alone Yarranvale. Many of these places were districts or communities of which nothing remains. Some were also stations and the teams made up of workers and shearers.
The executive of the association took the opportunity of placing this information before “those interested in Australian’s own national game so that they may be encouraged to
organise and support the formation of teams in their own district.” (it didn’t happen)
As the season opened Parkes and Tullamore had joined the Association playing for the Provan Cup. Prior to this competition was for the (S.E.) Warran Cup.
Previous teams in the competition included Condobolin and Trundle in the association’s five year history.
In the 1920s a competition of sorts was also played in the area which included, amongst others, teams from Bogan Gate, Mercadool, Gunning Gap and Victoria Park.
Like those previously mentioned, games were played at these venues where, absolutely nothing exists!
The image shows the locality of the latter clubs apart from Gunningbland.
We have all heard of the umpire not hearing the siren but in 1939 a unique position arose in the Albury and District Football League Grand Final between Henty and Brocklesby played at Culcairn on 16 September of that year.
The two sides had been pretty even throughout the season with at least one win each in their contests. Henty went on to win the second semi final over Brocklesby by eight points. Brocklesby then won the preliminary and so the two faced off again in the season decider the following week.
When the final bell rang in the grand final Henty led by four points, but central Umpire Simpson (it was one umpire in those days) unable to hear the bell over the noise made by the excited crowd, allowed play to continue with Brocklesby player John Crooks, a farm labourer from Bulgandry, marking in the forward line. The bell was rung again and the crowd swarmed onto the field, congratulating the Henty players on their win, but the umpire allowed Crooks to take his kick.
In the meantime a remarkable scene followed with a Henty player, thinking the game was over ran off the field with the ball and it was only after a considerable delay before the it was returned and the game proceeded with.
It Is believed that the Brocklesby player Crooks was suffering from cramp at the time but during the absence of the ball from the ground his team mates were able to “get him right.” The ball was eventually handed to the umpire by Culcairn policeman, Constable Ossie Kedzlie. Crooks, realising that his side was depending upon blg shot for goal, took his time and landed a beautiful punt right through the middle, thus giving Brocklesby a lead of two points and the match, 14-10 to 13-14.
It was a disappointing end to a thrilling game; Henty had taken the lead after half-time, and although Brocklesby fought hard and at times were only a point in arrears, they were unable to get ahead until after the game had properly concluded.
Pandemonium reigned as Brocklesby players were carried shoulder high from the ground by their supporters and showered with congratulations. The Henty side immediately lodged a protest on the ground that the mark, or some say a free kick, was given after the sounding of the final bell.
This protest came before the Albury District Independent Tribunal on September 21. They summarily dismissed objection without giving the Henty delegates the opportunity of putting forward their case. The only evidence taken was that of the field umpire, who forwarded it by affidavit.
The Henty Club immediately approached a higher authority: the Murray Border Council Appeals Board which subsequently met at Rutherglen on Monday 2 October. After hearing the evidence from a total of ten witnesses, comprising players and spectators, who all were unanimous in declaring that the bell had been sounded and the umpire signalled the end of the game whilst the ball was in the air as it flew towards Crooks. Furthermore, no less than three Henty players who were in the vicinity at the time, swore that had the umpire not stopped play they would each have had an excellent chance of intercepting the ball before Crooks had marked it. In a report Umpire Simpson stated that Crooks marked the ball before he (the umpire) heard the final bell ring.
Henty’s case was conducted by their captain-coach, Jim Shanahan referring to the absolute reliability of the witnesses he had called and the weight their sworn word must impact on the matter.
The Appeals Board handed down its decision in favour of Henty, reversing the previous verdict of the tribunal and awarding the premiership to the losing club who promptly held a victory ball that night.
Brocklesby had already celebrated their victory with a banquet and were not represented at the meeting although an invitation had been extended for them to attend.
Because their delegates failed to appear, the meeting was held up for an hour and in a flurry a telephonic communication was held with a Brocklesby club official. It was understood that the evidence of the neutral “umpires” [unknown] played an important role in the Murray Border Council’s decision.
Following this, the Brocklesby club considered asking the District Councillor for the VCFL (Mr. C. H. Burt) to refer the matter to the executive of the Victorian Country Football League but in the meantime the premiership pennant and the two cups which were competed for during the season all had to be returned to Henty although records still show the Brocklesby won the premiership.
So after all that, where does that leave us?
Brocklesby merged with Burrumbuttock in 2006 while Henty remains a stand alone club.
The last football match of the 1941 season played on the Narandera Sportsground on Sunday 5 October, Sydney Club, St George played Narandera, before a large crowd of enthusiasts from Narandera, Leeton and districts. The Narandera side included six Leeton players and the captain of the local R.A.A.F. – Narandera team.
St. George team members, which finished fourth in the competition that year were accorded a civic reception on their arrival on the Saturday and were entertained at a euchre party end dance at night. In those days the club wore a black jumper with a yellow sash.
Splendld marking and passing were features of the play of the visitors, who were beaten by only one point. The final scores were: Narandera 11 goals 9 behinds (75 points). St. George, 10 goals 14 behlnds (74 points).
In the first quarter Narandera took and held the lead though only by one point when the quarter ended. The scores were, Narandera 2 goals 4 behinds; St. George 2 goals 3 behinds. Leo Foley (Narandera) was responsible for the three goals scored in the second quarter which, with one point, made the score 5 goals, 5 behinds. St. George add- ed one goal, and four behinds to their score In the second term to make their score 3 goals, 7 behinds. The goal was kicked by Fred Pendergast, vice-captain of St. George. The visitors were at their best in the third quarter when in quick succession they added 7 goals, six behinds. Narandera scored only one goal (Leo Foley) and one point (Bob Dryburgh) In this term.
The last quarter had the onlookers thrilled with some splendid play. Taking advantage of the wind, Narandera made a big effort and although many possible goals resulted in only points being scared, they added 5 goals and 3 behinds.
St. George played splendidly but could only score a single point in this quarter. Fred Hopley (Leeton), Bert Hutchinson and Foley were responsible for Narandera’s goals. Foley was the hero of the match as his last goal marked the victory for his team. The few minutes of play after this goal which gave Narandera a lead of one point, were fast and thrilling and both sides fought hard for victory. St. George was best represented by Fred Prendergast, Ken Derry, Bernie Slattery, Ivan Argus and Steve Duff. Goals for St. George were kicked by Slattery (4), Duff, Harry Mallett, L. Williamson and George Farrow. Narandera were best served by T. Davis, Jim Durnan, Leo Foley, Les Longmore, Fred Hopley. Charlie Weygood, and M. Hutchinson.
The St. George team were guests of the Leeton club on the following Monday morning where they were shown over the Irrigation Area. They returned to Sydney by train later in the day.
NOTE: The town of Naranderra was spelt Narandera in those days.
That’s what the president of the New South Wales Australian National Football League, Norman P Joseph, said in 1941 when there were moves to ban sport during WWII.
Horse racing was restricted with the military taking over many of the race courses, certainly in Sydney; and there were many more then, than there are today.
He made these remarks in the Sydney Football Record at the beginning of the 1941 season:
“Once again we start our season in the midst of a World War which is the cause of the greatest anxiety to all members of the sporting fraternity.
There is not one of us who has not some member of our family or near relative, serving with some branch of the forces.
A great deal has been said recently about the advisibility of carry on sport during war time. After earnest consideration by the NSW League it is considered by us that no good purpose can be served in eliminating our sport.
If it could be definitely proved that the war effort can be helped by curtailing our activities we should be one of the first to fall in line with the Government’s wishes.
Up to the present we cannot see how it would help by either curtailing or stopping football.
Whatever the outlook on this matter, it is certain that the reaction of the war demands some outlet for our feelings and we cannot see any better way than by the
continuation of such a healthy game as football. It not alone gives pleasure to onlookers and players, but helps largely in maintaining the physical standard of our youth.
We, therefore, embark on our 1941 season with every confidence that we will be able to maintain our usual programme.
A large influx of southern players will be of great assistance to the various clubs and should improve the standard of the game.
The League is fortunate in being in a financial position that has enabled us to secure the new oval at Erskineville (Erskineville Oval had been slightly relocated and rebuilt immediately prior to this statement)
The public will now be able to regularly attend a ground that is ideal for playing the National Code.
This alone should ensure us an increased support.
In addition we have secured for the season our old venues in Trumper Park and Sydney Cricket Ground No. 2.
Therefore, despite all the abnormal conditions brought about by the war, the public can look forward to a season of bring vigorous football of a higher standard, played under the most advantageous circumstances that we have ever had.”
The graph below shows the income in pounds from Sydney games from 1930-60. You can see how it jumped when Sunday football was introduced in 1943. The further increase relates to more clubs and games played during the 1950s.
Not many meeting minutes from various clubs around New South Wales exist or rather if they do we certainly do not have access to them.
One club we were fortunate enough to retrieve was the first minute book of the Newtown Football Club when they were formed in 1903.
For the most part these are pretty scant and probably poorly record the activities in the respective meetings but nevertheless they have been copied from the original book kept by Jim Phelan and handed down to various officials over the years. They came into our possession some years ago.
Nearly all the meetings were held at ‘Lilya’s Bank Hotel’ at Newtown.
George Lilya, a native of Sweden was the licensee of the hotel between 1900-09 and welcomed members of the new football club into his premises.
If you turn to page 139 in Miles Wilk’s book, Australian Football Clubs in NSW, you read about a player who played with the South Melbourne Club in 1935-36 who was recruited from the Parkes Rugby League Club.
You have to ask if there’s got to be more to it than that.
Well in 1934 a young Rugby League player from Parkes, New South Wales, took himself to Melbourne with the intention of trying out for the South Melbourne team. An ankle injury put paid to his chances so he returned to play the season out with the Parkes Rugby League Club.
His name was Jim Reid and back with the Blacks where he had played at either fullback or in the centres for the previous two years. In 1934 Reid played against the visiting Balmain team so at 19 he was pretty well entrenched in the club.
However come the following year Reid again made the trip to Melbourne to try out with South.
Now I guess you have to ask yourself why would this young man persist in his attempt to break into the VFL ranks when coming from a Rugby League background?
His mother and father were both from Western Australia. Unusual at the time but by 1930 found them in William Street East Sydney operating a newsagency. In fact just near the real estate premises of a former president of the NSW League, William Butler.
This was a strange move for someone who had been a railway worker then to run a newsagency or paper shop as it was called in those days, then later to manage brewery owned country pubs, and all this on the other side of the country.
Well, not that much later from his newsagency position, Jim’s father took over the license of a hotel at a Lake Cargelligo, NSW and of course brought his 17 year old son with him. Then by the early 1930s the family was in Parkes and dad the licensee of the Royal Hotel.
This is interesting because although a 1935 Melbourne newspaper article, supposedly written by Jim Reid the footballer, says his family left Perth or Western Australia to settle in Adelaide for a period of time then onto Parkes, there is no mention of his time in Sydney.
His father also named Jim, has an interesting history. He was born in South Australia in 1884 and his footballer son said that his father had played for both Port Adelaide and ‘Fremantle’, facts we were unable to verify but we did find his father had served in WWI.
Young Jim also said he played on the wing with the South Australian Schoolboys team in the national carnival held in Melbourne in 1924; this would have made him 11. Well that year the carnival was played in Sydney and no trace can be found of him ever representing South Australia in a schoolboys carnival. We also checked the 1926 South Australian Schoolboys team that did play in Melbourne to no avail.
Regardless, Jim was also good at cricket both as a wicket keeper and batsman and said he played in several representative teams.
It became obvious that this young fellow was a talented sportsman and in 1935 the Sporting Globe said of him: “Jim Reid, the South Melbourne wing player has burst onto League football with a bang and surprised all the critics. Formerly a Rugby player from Parkes, N.S.W. he felt that he would like to play the Australian game … Gordon Rattray, a former Fitzroy captain “bracketed him with Austin Roberston as the best man afield against Hawthorn”. Another 1935 Sporting Globe article said “this season finds him more than holding his own with the best flanks in the game.”
His speed on the ground was quite often quoted. He played on the wing with South and at one stage was said the be the fastest man in the game. He is pictured here in the 1936 South Melbourne team at far right in the back row. We thanks the State Library of Victoria for use of the image.
At the end of the 1935 season Reid said because he had no work he was returning to play Rugby and was sure he would be picked up by one of the Sydney clubs. He also suggested he could quite easily claim a spot in the Australian side which was set to tour the UK. He told the press he was offered the job as coach of the Parkes Rugby League team at £4 ($370 today) a week and this was 12 months after the club said they had received 100 applications for the position.
While newspaper articles carried the story, it was probably only a ruse to find him a job. It worked, and he was quickly offered three positions – and this was deep in the time of the 1930s depression. He took a job as a driver of an ice wagon.
In 1936 he again turned out for South playing seventeen of their twenty one games. It was in this year, for the second successive season they were runner-up to Collingwood for the flag.
By this time his parents had moved from the Club House Hotel at Eugowra to another brewery pub, the Federal at Wallendbeen (near Harden). His father by now was in his early fifties and a move back to Perth was on the drawing board. He purchased or got himself a job in a newsagency in the Western Australian capital.
Young Jim also decided to make the move west and joined his family at the Agett Street Claremont address. At 23 he had played 35 games for South Melbourne.
He signed with the Claremont Club and applied for a clearance. Although he had completed the then compulsory 3 month residential qualification and said he had told at least three officials from the South Melbourne Club of his intention, his clearance was refused.
Following repeated requests South finally cleared Reid, with conditions. Reid lived up to his reputation as a “speed merchant” helping Claremont to three successive premierships in 1938-40. He missed selection in the 1939 team because of injury.
Reid was the club’s best and fairest in 1939-40 and also vice-captain of the team in 1940. He represented Western Australia in the 1937 Carnival.
By 1941 WWII was well and truly underway and he enlisted in the army. By this time too he was married. Reid Remained in the services until his discharge in October 1945.
At 32 he made a comeback for Claremont whilst still in the army. He was keen to get back in the saddle but his club were not what they were before the war. He saw the season out and managed a handful of games the following year after which he retired. He was made a life member of Claremont in 1946.
In 1948 he played with Boulder in the Goldfields League. Used as a goalsneak he booted 52 goals in seven games. He returned to Perth where he became football coach at his local police boys club and was noted about the same time hitting a quick century for the Claremont Cricket Club.