Mick Grace smallNSW normally participates in one or two interstate games a year.  This then placates the representative faction so domestic football can continue.

However in 1910, the NSW Football League played an incredible eleven representative games over a six week period which restricted their home and away games and pushed the finals deep into September.

On three occasions during the season, the league had to field two representative teams on the same day just to fulfill their obligations.

It was no secret that the NSW Football League were poor managers of their finances and continually finished their seasons in the red.  The main reason for this was that many games were played on Moore Park, which was and still is an open and unfenced arena near Sydney central.  They might well have attracted 2-3,000 spectators to these free games but it didn’t reflect in the finances of the league when they were the ones who manned and took the gate.

Fortunately the league entered the 1910 season with a very rare surplus of one hundred and twenty three pounds ($246.00), thanks to a round robin series between South Melbourne, Geelong, Collingwood Clubs plus the NSW League state team in Sydney the previous year.  The then VFL clubs made no claim on the gate and left the entire amount with the league.

Queensland games were one source of continuing wastage.  Games would attract a poor crowd when they played in Sydney and conversely a big-hearted NSW would not make a full claim on the gate at their Brisbane matches.  In 1910, NSW played Queensland twice, once in Brisbane and an additional match in Sydney. In the middle of all these games, Queensland too played Riverina in Sydney, but were easily outclassed.



NSW Team

Local Team Score





Erskineville Oval


12-7 (7(9)


Nth Adelaide FC

18-12 (120)




9-15 (69)



5-7 (37)


Erskineville Oval


6-6 (42)


Nth Adelaide Fc

10-14 (74)


Erskineville Oval

Comb Metro

9-11 (65)


Nth Broken Hill FC

9-8 (62)


Erskineville Oval


19-12 (128)


Geelong FC

16-12 (108)


Erskineville Oval


11-3 (69)


Geelong FC

16-12 (108)


Erskineville Oval


6-8 (44)


Fitzroy FC

6-17 (53)


Erskineville Oval


6-11 (47


Fitzroy FC

9-14 (68)


Erskineville Oval


10-14 (74)



5-11 (41)


Erskineville Oval

Comb Metro

13-21 (99)



8-4 (52)


Erskineville Oval

Comb Metro

14-22 (106)



4-11 (35)

In this year the NSW League employed the services of Mick Grace as coach.  He was a very well known VFL footballer who had played with Fitzroy, Carlton and also St Kilda, the latter in a captain-coach capacity.

Grace lived in Sydney for almost two years, coaching NSW.  In 1911 he coached the state at the National Carnival ion Adelaide, but when he took ill, Grace returned to Melbourne where he died a year later from tuberculosis at the age of 37.  Although he was in the employ of the league, it is unknown who actually paid his salary but considering the league finished 1910 with a debt of one hundred and sixty six pounds ($332.00), the revenue stream of which included all the rep games, most h & a and finals – some of which attracted crowds in their thousands, it is difficult to say that they did not.

The acquisition of Erskineville Oval in 1910 was a real bonus for the league.  For the most part, it was the only ground where a gate could be charged with the then three remaining weekly fixtures played at different venues on the expansive Moore Park.

The league put up one hundred pounds ($200) to the trustees of Erskineville Park as rent in advance for the facility. (In that era, the old Erskineville Oval was located more west of the present site, about where the Department of Housing flats are situated with an east-west configuration.)

First Junior Interstate Game for NSW

1908 FootballerDuring the early period of the twentieth century, in particular pre-WWI, limited junior football was played of a weekend in Sydney although it was played in some schools.

The weekend junior football competition was called the Young Australian Football Association and was separately administered to the league. Up to 1909 this consisted of one age group but an attempt was made in this year to have a new Under 17 grade as well as the Under 20s. Unfortunately, the former could not attract enough teams and were combined with the Under 20 competition.

So in 1909 the Young Australian competition was made up of YMCA, Newtown, Marrickville, Ryde, Drummoyne, Sydney, Balmain and Paddington.

Early in the season a letter was received from the Queensland Young Australian League suggesting that the two play a representative game.

Officials in Sydney thought this a good idea and asked that such a match be scheduled as a curtain raiser to a match between South Melbourne FC and a Combined Sydney side on Saturday, August 7 at Erskineville Oval.

A team comprising of Phelan, Watson, Allman, Kerwin and Marshall (Paddington), Stevens, Ratcliffe, Cole (Drummoyne), McLaren and Kinninment (Balmain), Page and Mack (Sydney), Provan and Blackburn (Newtown), Mitchell and Gil Priestley (YMCA), Billington (Ryde) Reid (Marrickville) was selected.

NSW won the game 15-14 (104) to Queensland’s 4-7 (31).  Goalkickers for NSW were: Ratcliffe 5, Marshall 4, Blackburn, Allman, Page, Kerwin, McLaren and Kinninmont 1 each.

Because a further representative game was planned a few days later between NSW and Geelong, it was decided to keep the Queensland boys in Sydney to play an additional match against their nemesis.

This game was also played at Erskineville Oval however unlike the South Melb Fc game, this one was before a poor mid week crowd.  NSW juniors failed to live up to their previous week’s form and were surprisingly beaten by Queensland, 5-4 (34) to 4-5 (29). The game was a tight low scoring encounter played in blustery conditions.  Goalkickers for NSW were: Ashton, Trivett, Barnes and McDonald 1 each.  Best included Trivett, Barnes, Ashton, Lyons, McDonald, Mahoney, Muir and Chapman.

The NSW team which was made up with: Mahoney, Gray, McDonald (Paddington), McDonald, Chapman (Paddington II), Pierrie (Sydney), Delaney, Creighton (Balmain), Trivett, Barnes (Ryde), Matthews, Lynch (Marrickville), Muir (Drummoyne), Ashton, Debron, Barry (Newtown), Searle (unknown).

It would appear that selectors chose a second eighteen to play Queensland.  None of those selected participated in the first game.

NSW and Queensland have gone to play many, many junior matches since.

1908 Australian Football National Carnival

1908 Carnival Sourvenir ProgrammeIn 1908 NSW competed in an All-States Football Carnival in Melbourne which celebrated 50 years since the birth of the game.

Each state was permitted to include a maximum of 25 players which was quite a number in those days considering teams were only permitted 18 on-field players with no reserves or interchange.

The NSW contingent comprised players from Sydney, two from the Wagga district, one from Hay and eight from Broken Hill.

These eight were: A T Conlin, Ethelbert (Bert) Renfrey (picutured, and you can read about him by clicking herea very interesting character), G Colley, RRenfrey Bert - 1908 Scott, Jack Hunter, Bennet Eric Gluyas, Robert Rahilly, and A Millhouse – [details of their given names would be appreciated if known].

Football was a very serious business in Broken Hill in 1908, so a comprehensive agreement was drawn up between the Barrier Ranges Football Association and each player which they were required to sign.

Some of the articles in the agreement included:

  1. That each player must return to Broken Hill within a month of departure, all expenses over 19 days would be borne by the players;
  2. They would be under the control of a manager appointed by the football association (J M Ford) and were to be of good conduct.
  3. Whilst in Adelaide (they travelled by train to Adelaide, then train to Melbourne) they were to remain with the group.
  4. Whilst in Melbourne they were under the charge of the NSW team manager.
  5. They must attend all functions with the team.
  6. They must meet with the managers of the touring party when instructed.
  7. The Barrier Rangers had full power to report any of the players for a breach of conduct.
  8. The Manager was empowered to suspend or disqualify any of the players.

Particular offences were considered as:

  • * Being absent without leave.
  • * Irregularity of hours, insobriety, any action which would prejudice fitness.
  • * Any action which would bring discredit on the team.
  • * Refusal to carry out any reasonable instruction.
  • * That they must appear in the uniform hats supplied for the tour (each player was issued with a straw hat).  These hats had a light blue ribbon with an embroided       waratah.

We have no evidence that others, particularly those from Sydney, had to sign such an agreement.  We can only speculate that the boys from Broken Hill must have been a wild bunch!

The team stayed at the Prince of Wales Hotel, St Kilda.  They trained at the St Kilda Cricket Ground under the direction of former St Kilda player, E L (Curly) Jones.  The captain was Ralph Robertson and manager, E W Butler, both from the East Sydney club.


NSW Score


Opposition Score


NSW 8-14 (62)


New Zealand 9-9 (63)


NSW 4-11 (35)


Tasmania 8-14 (62)


NSW 12-3 (75)


Western Aust 17-12 (124)


NSW 13-15 (93)


Queensland 8-11 (59)


1908 Ralph Robertson 1The coaching of Jones, although appreciated, was not considered beneficial, particularly in the loss to New Zealand.  This was in the days when, apart from the very major clubs, captains ran the teams and did the coaching.  Such was the case in Sydney.
(image shows NSW captain, Ralph Robertson)

The carnival was quite a significant milestone in the recognition and evolution of Australian Football in the newly federated country, despite recording a significant loss on the series.  H C A Harrison, acknowledged as the Father of the Game and author of the first rules, was in attendance where he made many speeches and gave several interviews, a number of which reflected on the very beginnings of the game.

Ironically enough, our research has revealed that Bert Watts, a former captain of the Paddington Club who also performed that role when he returned to Sydney from a military posting on Thursday Island, was a member of the Queensland team.

Watts will figure prominently in the book the Society is publishing on the Impact WWI had on Australian Football in Sydney.

Details of NSW’s participation in the 1908 carnival are currently being loaded into the website’s database.  Click here to view the games. (use the date option, 1908, for best results).

Victoria won the championship and each of their players was presented with a silk pennant and gold medal.  We wonder where any of these items are now?

Norwood FC 1908 Visit to Sydney

1908-05-20 SMH P.12 printed smallLeading up to 1911, Australian football in Sydney was played on a number of grounds, unfortunately most were arenas which were not enclosed and accordingly football suffered from two major issues.

These were:

  1. Crowds continued to encroach on grounds during play and in some circumstances this caused games to be called off.  In fact this was not just common to Australian football.  Other codes suffered the same fate and this was a time in Sydney where there were a limited number of fenced grounds.
  2. No admission could be charged at grounds and with this the major source of revenue for the league (the league took the gate) the NSWAFL continually finished their season well  in debt.

Some of the grounds used in this early period in Sydney football included: Moore Park (opposite the Bat & Ball Hotel), Redfern Park (now known as Redfern Oval), Birchgrove Oval, Hampden Oval (Trumper Park – then unenclosed) and many others.

Nothing highlights the then growing problem of grounds better than a letter published in the Sydney Morning Herald in May 1908 prior to a visit by South Australia’s leading football club, Norwood who were fresh from a victory over VFL premiers, Carlton in Melbourne.

At that early stage and prior to the visit, Norwood were scheduled to play their games as curtain raisers to major Rugby Union matches, at the SCG.

We have republished the letter which expresses a degree of concern that the SA premier club, which travelled “1000 miles – at their own expense” should be relegated to the inferior position of the early game before another code.

Nevertheless, the two Saturdays of 13 & 20 June, Norwood played at the SCG,were in fact played before major Rugby Union fixtures.  We have since1908-05-13 Referee Newspaper, Wed P.9 printed smaller discovered that the Metropolitan Rugby Union, who had the winter lease of the SCG, offered the league use of the ground for the two dates but were over ruled by the SCG Trust who did not want to miss the opportunity of a major Rugby match at the ground where the rental was calculated on a percentage of the gate takings.  It is obvious that that Rugby matches drew a far greater crowd than a Norwood game could attract.

The third of the 1908 Norwood FC contests was played at the SCG on Wednesday 17 May as the major contest for the day with a Public Schools v Catholic Schools as the early game.  The attendance was described as ‘scanty’ which indicates a poor turnout for this midweek encounter.

Norwood left behind a shield valued at £40 ($80) for the Sydney premiers in the Sydney competition when they departed.  We wrote about it a few weeks ago and it is still on display at the league rooms at Moore Park.  The Reserve Bank has calculated this amount in today’s terms, with inflation, at $5,163.03

The question of grounds and particularly enclosed ones at the time, is a very interesting subject and should we get time may well be the subject of either a chapter in this year’s Society Journal or other publication.

The Norwood Shield

Norwood Shield smallIn 1908 South Australian premier club, Norwood, took a tour of the eastern states;  Included, were three games in Sydney.

The contingent included 23 players and two officials.  Several of these were also interstate cricketers and coupled with the group were a number of supporters, swelling their number to over forty.

The first game against NSW was played on the Sydney Cricket Ground and attracted a crowd of 7,000 but the locals failed to come up to their reputation and were easily defeated 13.9 to 2.6.

The second game took place mid week but again, NSW were no match and went down 12.14 to 7.9.  Then, the following Saturday, Norwood again far outclassed NSW in a 12.12 to 6.8 victory.  The South Australian club remained in Sydney for over a week.

So taken were they with the hospitality and drive to continue against great odds of getting the game introduced into Sydney that they donated an ornate sheild, which they wanted used as a premiership trophy.  It was subsequently called the Norwood Shield and as was then the practice, the team that won the trophy on three occasions, got to keep it.  Initially this was presented to the premier club, along with the contemporary trophy, the Rawson Cup.

The shield cost forty pounds, which in today’s money can be compared then to five and a half weeks wages for a carpenter.  It took some years before the Norwood Shield was eventually claimed permanently by the Paddington Club.

One hundred and seven years later, this trophy is still in the hands of  NSW football.  It is one of only two precious historical items on display at the AFL(NSW/ACT) Offices at Moore Park.  The shield has limited provision for the inscription of the winning clubs’ names but in its design, as you can see on the photograph, it has bulbs in the Norwood club colours along with an image of the Norwood Town Hall etched in metal .

Norwood Football Club left all gate receipts to the league in Sydney and made no claim for their trip expenses.  Despite this, the NSW Football 1908 Norwood FC capt Roy Hill smallLeague continued to live beyond its means when they declared a debt of one hundred and seventy four pounds for the 1908 season.  This was considerably down on the four hundred pound debt the previous year.  Debt was a condition that continually plagued the league for many, many years.  They needed better financial control but it did not come.

On the occasion of this 1909 annual general meeting though, a number of attendees put their hands in their pocket and raised sufficient funds to reduce the debt to sixty five pounds – still, when compared to today’s money, it relates to an amazing amount reaching well into the thousands of dollars.

The existence of the Norwood Shield though provides two very interesting questions:  The club must have travelled with the shield when they visited Sydney all those years ago with the intention of making the presentation and more particularly, where has it been for the past 100 years?

Image on the right is Roy Hill, Norwood FC’s captain in the Sydney tour.

Rep Games Galore

Following the fateful 14 years of football in Sydney between 1880-94, the game went through an hiatus then revised in 1903 with 11 senior teams.  This then began a period of intense representative football for players in the NSW capital.

Our senior researchers have begun investigating and documenting particulars from those representative games early in the twentieth century mainly to transpose the information into the representative team programme which is now accessible through this site.

By 1906 the number of 1st grade teams had consolidated to eight clubs with a further four teams making up the reserve grade.  This was a competition separate from the senior division in that they had an unconnected administration conducting their affairs.  They were called the Sydney Australian Football Association  Not all of the teams in the Association had teams in the top division.

Then there was a group called the Young Australian Association which catered for under age players.  Their number comprised teams representing Petersham, Balmain, Maristonians, Eastern Suburbs, Newtown, Kegworth, North Sydney, Redfern, O.B.I., Stott & Hoare, Sydney & Drummoyne.

At the same time a healthy schools competition was in operation in Sydney with two divisions.  We have attached a draw of one round of this weekly competition.1906-06-29 SMH P.11 small

In 1906 NSW played games against Queensland, North Adelaide and Carlton football clubs, as well, they sent a Combined Sydney team to the Riverina and Newcastle.

The following year NSW played Port Adelaide FC before a crowd of 2000 at the SCG before sending 18 players – with no officials, to Queensland where they played interstate games at Brisbane and another at Ipswitch.  The captain and fullback, James H Matthews, also seconded as team manager.

The same weekend a Combined Sydney team was sent to the Riverina where they played games at Hay, Narrandera, Coolamon and Wagga, again with the bear minimum of players.

Two interesting issues have come out of the research.  One is that no reserve players were taken, nor could they be replaced if injured.  And if a player was was injured on the trip the side would be supplemented with a local player.

The other is the amount of unrecorded matches played by either NSW or Combined Sydney.  In almost each year, certainly in the first decade of the last century, one or more representative game is being uncovered.  These then require further research to identify the players, umpires, scores and other details of the games.

The question then arises how were these games funded and more particularly, how were the players able to take so long off work for these inter and intra-state trips?  For instance the Queensland tour went from Saturday to the following Wednesday while the Riverina trip took a whole week.  Understandably, the NSW Football League made another loss that season.

Our main photograph shows George Howatson, a Victorian and former NSW player, who attended Sydney University then went on to become president of the Sydney Australian Football Association and later grazier at Booligal, north of Hay, NSW.


1924 NSW State Team Hobart smallWe have a number of images in our repository, of which quite a considerable amount are displayed on our website.

Additionally we have pages of names which we have to add or fix up and while it is on the drawing board, we just haven’t had time to get round to it, but we will.

Recently we were sent a fantastic photograph by Sean Cowan in Western Australia.  It is of the 1924 NSW State team taken at North Hobart Oval, Tasmania during the All-States Carnival in August.

We have the names of the players in another studio photograph so can transpose those onto this pic., again, when time permits.

The captain of the team was A. Ellis.  Yes, thats all we have, A. Ellis.  We know he was from the Newtown club and that he captained that club in the same year, but that is it.  We have since found that his name was Bert, Albert.

Immediately behind Ellis is Byran Rush who was vice captain.  Bryan played with North Shore and formerly had two seasons with Collingwood before moving to Sydney.  He was 31 when this photograph was taken.

The side only won a single game from five in the carnival and that was against Queensland in the opening match.  They really were not competitive against the other states.

NSW played the VFL on three occasions that year and apart from the game in Hobart, their Sydney and Melbourne matches were reasonably close.  However this was probably on weekends where the VFL had other representative teams in different parts of the country playing representative games.


1939 NSW v ACT in Canberra smallAnother NSW state photograph has been located.

This came as a result of the Newtown FC reunion two weeks ago when former members of the club brought along photos and other memorabilia reflecting the club’s past.

The photograph, donated by Joe Franklin, was processed this week and although it was recognized as an early image of the NSW team, with the players all appearing to be decked out in the familiar light blue and black, incidentally Australian football is only one of two sports in the state which have a similar colour styled uniform, the year and venue were unknown.

Luckily a number of faces in the team were recognizable which narrowed down the search to either prior to or early in WWII.  In fact after a short time, officials limited the photo to one of about six interstate games.

With a process of further elimination and research, the image has been identified as the NSW team which played Canberra at Manuka Oval in the ACT on 24 June 1939.

The team comprised:

Jack Guthrie (NS) capt, Ned Blacklock (Sydney), Henry Crane (St George), Athol McPhee (Eastern Subs), Jack (Bomber) Browne (St George), Jim (Bub) Phelan (South Sydney), Doug Edgeworth (Eastern Subs), Jack Davies (Sydney), Bert Aitken (Newtown), Dave Blacklock (Sydney), Fred Pendergast (St George), Joe Franklin (Newtown), Jim Allen (Newtown), Fred Eyre (Sydney), C Coupe (South Sydney), Micky Stiff (South Sydney), Jack Williamson (Eastern Subs), Hec Starr (South Sydney), Gordon Bennett (South Sydney)  Those highlighted have been identified.

Canberra 14.10 (94) d NSW 10.15 (75)Goals for NSW: Phelan 3, Crane 2, Edgeworth 2, Stiff, E Blacklock & Aitken 1 each.  Best: Blacklock, Stiff, Starr, Guthrie, Coupe, Williamson, Browne.

Any information that can be of assistance with other players in this photograph would be appreciated as would any further images of past players or team in the state.

– 1884 NSW Football Tour of Queensland

1900 Edward C Weller smallJust four years after the game was introduced into Sydney, the NSW Football Association took the bold step of an 18 day tour of Queensland.  Was it a success?

Sydney officials pondered over their decision but because their northern neighbours offered to pay all expenses, which was normal for the time, and rugby had already had a foot in the door, they agreed.

The offer was an attractive one and the contingent was made up of twenty five players and “one visitor.”

Australian football in Sydney commenced in 1880 with the formation of the Association, not that much later Sydney and East Sydney clubs were founded.  By 1884 four clubs were competing but this was in the face of rugby which by this stage had fifty odd clubs spread across NSW.

Of the four clubs, three were senior clubs and it was from these that the representative team was mostly chosen.  George Crisp, recognized as the founder of the game in Sydney, was appointed captain.

Queenlanders’ attitude towards football was a generic one.  It appeared most clubs played football under both Australian and Rugby rules, although the early preference seemed to be towards the Australian.

The NSW contingent was comprised of: Edward Weller (Manager – pictured), R B Sibley, William Butler, J Fitzpatrick, George O’Neill, William Goer, Charles Dew, Robert Grainger, Arthur McHarg, Samuel W Kirke, James B Tooher, Harry T Williams, Walter C Marshall, George A Crisp, James M Conroy, Robert Buchan, Henry Wren, Charles Hardie, Claude Fletcher, Hugh A Munro, W H Parkinson, J McGuigan, George Jones, Michael Sullivan, George Bailey and William Battye.

Wren and Hardie were selected from Wagga.  It must have been a fair effort for all of these men to make the trip which covered a period of 18 days.  This was when a six day working week was the norm. No question.  As to how they managed to be away for this period of time is baffling, given there was no annual leave.  Several players chosen did not make the trip and were replaced.

Because the northern rail line had not been connected, travel to Brisbane was by way of steamer in which the contingent travelled ‘saloon’ class.

They were met upon their arrival by a considerable number of the local football fraternity and quickly whisked away to their place of residence where a marvellous period of hospitality began.

Their first game was against Queensland.  Like Sydney, the number of players Queensland could select from was limited and several who claimed a rugby background were included.  NSW won the encounter.

In all they played seven matches:

1884 Qld i-state game roster smallNote: Behinds were recorded in scores but not counted in the total. Goals had the value of 1 point.

To play the Combined Darling Downs game, the team left Brisbane on the 6:00am Monday train for the 132km trip to Toowoomba.  The government set aside a special carriage for the team in their six hour journey.  A very large crowd met them at the station when the train arrived a little late.

Newspaper Notice of closure of shops

Again, the level of hospitality shown the visiting group was astounding.  That given in Brisbane was extra ordinary, but in Toowoomba, and later Ipswich, a half holiday was declared in honour of the visit.  They stayed at another Phillips Hotel, in fact, one of the largest in the district, where a special luncheon was provided and presided over by the Mayor and speaker in the Queensland Legislative Assembly, Hon. William H Groom.  And all this was just prior to a match against the combined Darling Downs side which was played on the Aubigny Cricket Club Ground.

The NSW team had their photo taken by local photographer, Mr Roggenkamp at the residence of the Hon. Mr James Taylor, located almost opposite the ground. Heaven knows where a copy of the photo might be.

The team was defeated in their final game against Queensland, 3.7 to 2.9 but they were not without their chances.  The crowd estimated at 2000 burst into thunderous applause at the conclusion of the game and the Queensland captain Kelly was chaired from the ground.

Then on Monday 1 September, a ball was given in the team’s honour.  It was held at the Albert Hall with merriment continuing until 4:00am.
1884 Cricket Game by NSW Fball team small
The following day they played a game of social cricket against the Trimble Bros. Reading Club in Brisbane.  In the evening, the team was afforded a dinner hosted by Mr H W Sizer of the Globe Hotel.  The team left by steamer the next day.

Then upon their return to Sydney an official reception was extended to them at the Cambridge Club Hotel in Oxford Street.  There, George Crisp spoke in glowing terms of the hospitality the team received in Queensland.