An Interesting Find

Arthur BridgewaterThe Society has so much material to go through sometime just the look of what is there gets quite daunting.

Going through some of the paperwork we came across the 1957 Annual Report of the NSW Australian National Football Union.

This was seen as the over riding body for junior football in NSW, or so it saw itself as such although it was manned by Sydney people and only had Sydney junior football bodies affiliated.  The term ‘NSW’ was a misnomer.

It is quite an elaborate report and provides details of all the junior teams from 1953-57.

Written by the secretary Arthur Bridgewater (pictured), the report at times should be viewed with a certain degree of scepticism because Arthur, whilst a hard worker with “the code at heart” tended to embellish the facts in these reports.  However, having said that, this account of the year provides a pretty good overview of junior football in Sydney at the time.  Shaky but growing.

It praises the St George Junior Association as well as the Southern Districts Association.  It even gives Newcastle and Wollongong areas a tick.

Of course the St George Association has been the benchmark in junior Australian Football in Sydney for many, many years and it is to the credit of those people who have assumed roles in its various clubs, of which six remain, that they continue with such energy and commitment.

You can read the report by clicking here.

Finals Venue

Writing icon smallerMany always have suggestions how this or that should be done and the same is with the administration in football.

Delving through old documents and papers we came across the following letter.  The bracketed comments are ours, as a way of explanation:

Dear ‘Follower,’ [Follower was the pseudonym used by the journalist who wrote for the particular newspaper]” Everyone interested in Australian Football will endorse your remarks in last week’s ‘Arrow,’ with regard to the matter of fixing the semi-finals and final of the League premiership, to be played at Erskineville Oval.

No-one who has followed the matches played on Moore Park during the present season will have failed to recognise the great interest taken in the various matches played on the Y.M.C.A. ground.

The average attendance this season [at Sydney games] can be fairly estimated at about 3000, all of whom have become intensely interested in the progress of the game. It is quite safe to say that this number will be considerably increased with the advent of the semi-finals and final. Since the re-introduction of the Australian game into this State [in 1903], and especially during the present reason, there has been a growing feeling in favour of the game, and a great deal of enthusiasm shown by the players and public. The only fault one has to find just now is with the governing body.  For some time past the League seems to have played itself out. Year after year the League has lamentably failed to seize the opportunities’ that have presented themselves until at last it has come to be recognised as a body helpless to advance the interests of Australian football. Something will have to be done before the next season comes round to put things on a better footing, and inspire confidence in the players and public.

With regard to the semi-finals, I am voicing the unanimous opinion of the thousands who attend the [Sydney] matches, that a grave mistake will be made if the League insists on playing these matches at Erskineville, and keen disappointment will be felt by those who desire to witness them. Far better to play the two semi  finals on September 5, and engage the Agricultural Ground [former Sydney showground, Moore Park] for the final on the 12th. It will be a great mistake to delay these matches too far into the cricket season. The League should rise to the occasion, and wind up with a brilliant finish-which will augur well  for a good start for 1909.-I am, &c, AUSTRALIAN ALL THE TIME

So you see we all have our opinions.  It is a pity though that those in charge in the early days did not make the decisions which would have capitalised on the growth and popularity of the game in Sydney.

YES, WHAT’S IN A NAME?

NSW Football LeagueFootball in NSW or more particularly, Sydney, has undergone scores of changes over the years.  Different name, different administration but in the end, its all just football.  Much like government departments when a new party gets into power or a new bureaucrat takes over, “Change the name, it will produce a better result.

Here the changes over the years:

 

PERIOD

NAME
1880-1994 New South Wales Football Association
1903-25 New South Wales Football League
1926-73 New South Wales Australian National Football League
1974-79 New South Wales Australian Football League
1980-86 NSWAFL (Sydney Football League)
1987-90 NSWAFL (NSW State Football League)
1991-98 NSWAFL (Sydney Football League)
1999- AFL (NSW-ACT)  – AFL Sydney

 

What does it really mean and did these changes produce a better result?

Well when football was resurrected in 1903 after an eight year hiatus, it was a good thing.  Apart from a road bump in 1915 when the game nearly again fell over, the next change was in 1926.  This year brought with it other changes:

East Sydney FC combined with the Paddington FC to form a brand new, Eastern Suburbs Australian Football Club. With the reintroduction of District Football, where the name of a club had to represent an electoral district, the Railway Club disappeared, oddly so too did Balmain.  The North Shore and the Eastern Suburbs Clubs somehow both slid under the radar with this district business.  The north side club changed their name from ˜North Sydney” back to North Shore.  A further change was the introduction of the Western Suburbs Club into the competition.

NSWANFLIn the opinion of officials, adding of the word ˜National” to the the league’s title gave it and the game more of an Australian embracing influence.  So yes, here too, the change in the name did coincide with other changes to the competition.  In response, the attendance figures increased in the 1926 season.

But by now other competitions throughout NSW began to question the value of affiliation with the NSW Body.

These leagues included those in the Riverina, Broken Hill as well as an on-again, off-again competition in Newcastle.  There were no others. The Victorian Country Football League (VCFL) was formed in 1927 and by 1933 all the leagues in the Riverina, led by Digger Carroll, had gone over to the VCFL, leaving the NSWANFL as an almost solitary beacon for Australian football within the state.

Really, the NSWANFL could offer very little to other leagues.  Unlike the major associations in the rest of Australia and certainly footballing centres in country Victoria and southern NSW, attendances in Sydney, by comparison were very meagre resulting in little money coming into the system.  Just as importantly the NSWANFL were saddled with a poor profile which in turn did not attract skilled and solid leadership.

So, incorporated in  all the responsibilities of a state sporting body, the same group had to conduct a football competition in Sydney on a shoestring budget, all run by volunteers.

NSWAFLThrough to 1974 then without any fanfare, the word ˜National”  was removed from the title .  There was no significant changes to the competition, nor the game in general in that period.  It was, and had been for decades, the poor relation in Sydney sport and yet it continued to survive.

1979 saw the emergence of a reform group who rolled the incumbent and long term NSWAFL president, Bill Hart, the previous December.

The motivation to this was the perceived backing from influential elements in the VFL who promised funding for an experienced football administrator to run Sydney football and the NSWAFL, subject to support on a national level, for interstate VFL games to be played in Sydney of a Sunday.

The revitalised Sydney league was initially all spirited, enthusiastic and gung-ho.  A new man from Melbourne was appointed as the General Manager, the league’s offices at 64 Regent Street Chippendale were sold off and the administration moved to nearby premises at the Scan.BMPNewtown Rules Club in Cleveland Street, Redfern.

Eventually the independent Board was replaced by a board of club directors a move which would produce cronyism and ‘caucusing’ where the strong got stronger and the other clubs just rolled along.  Football in Sydney now primarily  promoted Sydney and the NSWAFL was put on the back burner as other sub-state bodies grew in stature and did their own thing.

NSW State FLBy 1987 there was yet a further change.  Sydney and the NSWAFL were broke and badly in debt.  An independent group managing the affairs of the NSWAFL told the Sydney clubs to sink or swim.  Either agree to a change in the administration or go out of business.  Really, there was no alternative.  That initial energy for change and a more ‘Sydney’ influence had well dissipated.

There was a big transformation in Sydney Football – there had to be – with three divisions again established, most of the sub groups abolished and the NSWAFL was back in charge.  The Sydney component became known as the NSW State Football League with a long term view of incorporating clubs from around the state.  Thankfully it did not happen but gradually the league moved into a position of financial stability.

In 1991 the NSW State Football League designation was abolished to revert to the Sydney Football League with the administration marginally re-arranged, but not much else took place.

Then in 1998 following yet another report on the state of health of football in NSW, a further change saw the introduction of the AFL(NSW-ACT).  This produced a few on-field alterations to Sydney footy like 16 aside etc. yes a major move but again, little else came about in the structure and framework of the actual competition.

AFL Sydney had now assumed full control of the Sydney league with full funding from the major AFL body in Melbourne.  They also funded football development throughout the state but unlike the Sydney open age football, most of the leagues in NSW were left to finance their own activities.

The major change came in 2009 when under the then Sydney Football Operations Manager, Garry Burkinshaw, divisionalisation took place.  This was the biggest adjustment to Sydney football since 1948 when Balmain, Western Suburbs (both for the second time) and Sydney University were introduced to the competition or perhaps it was 1926 changes?

Eastern Suburbs FC big 1946 win in the Riverina – more

footscray jumper small‘What, might you ask was the Eastern Suburbs Club, the tri-colours or the Bulldogs, doing in 1946?

Strange, because I just happen to have some information which might be of interest.

The Eastern Suburbs Club received an invitation to visit Narandera to play a series of matches over the June long weekend.  Wait, wait.  The spelling of Narandera?  Well, thats how it was spelt in the official reports.  Not only that, that’s how the title of the newspaper we read, the ‘Narandera Argus and Riverina Advertiser’ spelt their name – why then the change?

The team left from platform 3 at Sydney’s Central Station on the 11:00pm Riverina Mail on the Friday Night, travelling 584 kilometres to  Narandera by train.  They arrived at their destination about 12 noon on the Saturday where they were greeted at a civic reception at the Town Hall hosted by the mayor, Alderman W J Gammage.  Also present was the president of the South West League, W H Logan and Ald T Gordon, president of the Narandera Imperials Football Club.

Following the reception the group proceeded to the Memorial Gardens where Mr Les Horton, President of the Eastern Suburbs Club, placed a wreath in memory of the fallen

That afternoon, East met a strong South West District Representative Team and after a splendid game emerged victors, 8-10 (58) to 6-14 (50).  They were the first visiting team to defeat the League since 1907!

The locals were very pleased with the football and were loud in their praise of the game which was followed by dinner at the Star Hotel and a dance plus euchre at the Railway Institute.  Some of the players attended the local greyhound meeting while others visited the Soldiers’ Club and these were the days before poker machines and licensed clubs.

The following morning the team visited several places of interest which were arranged by the local officials.  All of the touring side were very complimentary about the hospitality showed by the Narandera people.

Then Easts backed up on the Sunday, after you can imagine what was a heavy Saturday Night for some, and they repeated their performance this time against the Narandera Team itself at the Sports Ground winning 9-14 (68) to 5-10 (40).  It was in this game that Easts introduced a number of their junior players giving them a taste of senior football.

Easts outstanding players in the two games were captain-coach, Jim McCallum, Doug Edgeworth, Vic McGuinnes, Arthur Kemp, Fred Edwards and a young Frank Horton.

The gate receipts for both matches totalled an incredible two hundred pounds, “easily,” the locals said “the best football figures here for many a day.  A further report said that “last weekend was reminiscent of the halcyon days of football in this district and the £200 gate receipts for the two matches indicated that the Australian code had lost none of its popularity.  When it is taken into consideration that the League could not charter special trains to bring the people to Narrandera, the attendance of so many people was really remarkable.”

The contingent left Narrandera at 9:00am on the Monday Morning, “all very happy and cheerful after one of the most pleasant and successful trips ever experienced by any club.” Some players remained behind to compete in the local league’s long weekend knock-out competition.

Easts were knocked off in the 1946 preliminary final by St George and this was only a few years before the club went through a wonderful period of premierships in the 1950s.  Narrandera on the other hand were defeated by Ganmain in the SWDFL grand final by 22 points.

St GEORGE ALL-AGE

The A grade in Sydney’s Metropolitan Football Association folded around 1954 and all that was left for new clubs was the NSW Football League – first grade.

Any new clubs like Liverpool and Bankstown of the 1950s then were thrust into a competition playing against well drilled and talented players.

Sydney University dropped out of the Sydney competition in 1958 and did not return to competitive football, and then it was to the Sydney Reserve Grade competition, until 1961.  There was a suggestion that during this time some at the University did attempt to conduct an All-Age competition but as yet we have not been able to verify this.

Whether or not the void for open age football at a non-league standard during this period was recognized, there was strong enough move in the St George area in the mid 1960s to form the St George AFL or as it was more colloquially known: St George All-Age competition.

Of the six or seven sides that competed during it’s existence most were from junior clubs within the St George District: Como/Janalli, Boystown, Penshurst, Heathcote were four such teams.

In 1967 a team from Wollongong competed and then a year later a mostly navy side from Nowra played in the competition.

A “well known” football Sydney football identity of the time, Peter Crosland, was the secretary of the association and as an adjunct to the competition he edited and published a weekly football programme which was given the title, The Recorder.

This was an eight page journal which contained some club notes, lists of teams, club colours, a few officials and an editorial.

The History Society has managed to get hold of a number of copies of The Recorder and we have posted the edition of 16 June 1968 here for your information.

If there are any more in existence or copies of the league’s Football Record, we would be please to see them.

Click HERE to read the edition of The Recorder we referred to.