60 Years Ago Whitton Tigers Top the Ladder

Early Sixties image
of the Whitton Tigers

By Doctor Rodney Gillett
Vice President of the NSW Australian Football Society Inc

Whitton Tigers topped the South West League ladder in 1960 but unfortunately missed out on playing in the grand final.

The match day programs for 1960 have been donated to the History Society and can now be accessed by members and friends (click) here, with hundreds more to comes shortly.

Whitton, is a small town in the MIA, just 25 kms from Leeton on the Irrigation Way. The major crop in the district is rice with the name of the local pub appropriately named: The Rice Bowl Hotel.

The town was established in 1881 when the south-west railway line was built from Junee to Griffith, and then on to Hay in 1882. It was named after the NSW Railways Chief Engineer, John Whitton.

The Whitton Football Club was established in 1892 and played scratch matches against district teams. The Reds, as they were known in the early years, started playing in district competitions just prior to World War I.

After winning the MIA Football league premiership in 1928, Whitton entered the South West competition the following year but could manage only two wins, finishing last. They returned to the Leeton district competition winning premierships in 1932, 1939 and 1946.

Whitton again returned to the South West league for the 1947 season and despite finishing second on the ladder after the home-and-away games did not make the grand final. The next year, now known as the Tigers, they did make the grand final but went down to Narrandera in a hard-fought game by 14 points.

The one that really got away was the 1951 grand final against Ganmain, “Just as Whitton seemed certain to win, Ganmain got the ball down to their forwards, Gumbleton collected it to get it through the tall posts as the siren sounded the end of an epic game” (Narrandera Argus, 21 September 1951). Final scores: 7-7 (49) to 5-14 (44).

There was another grand final appearance the following season but old rivals Griffith proved too strong.

After finishing on top of the ladder in 1960 it seemed as if the Tigers time had come. Whitton led Narrandera at half-time of the second semi, 8-2 to 4-8, but were kept score-less in the third quarter as the Imperials kick five goals to run out winners by 31 points. The following week Whitton were bundled out of the premiership race by Turvey Park, who in turn, were well beaten by Narrandera in the grand final.

Most of the Whitton players were sons of farmers, skipper Bernie “Rusty” Kelly and his brother Graham “Red” Kelly were off a wheat and sheep property, the Williams brothers Ian and Delwyn worked on the family orchard, while most of the others were from rice-growing families including twin brothers Edwin “Bruiser” and George Williams.

Whitton continued on the South West League until 1978. After round one of the 1979 season a player shortage forced the club to transfer to the Central Riverina League where it could compete against similar sized towns.

Former player and club president Alan Lenton recalls, “Our coach Tom Doolan was transferred to Albury in his work as a school teacher and star player Gary Tagliabue went to uni in Wagga so he transferred to The Rock. I’d have preferred to stay in the South West (League) but the players wanted to go to the CRL”

“We were fortunate to have local Jim Geltch, a Gammage medalist, agree to take on the coaching job. He did it for nothing. He just asked that the coaching fee be put into new sheds, which we did”.

The Tigers made the finals but went down to Barellan in the preliminary as they did again the next season.

Following the redistribution of the clubs in the Riverina into a two-tiered competition in 1982 by the VCFL, the Whitton Tigers were placed in the Riverina District league, which eventually became the Farrer League in 1984 fielding two divisions.

At long last Whitton enjoyed premiership success under former Bushpigs star Jamie “Fozzie” Robinson in 1985 followed by two more, in 1986 under Bruce Harrison, and in 1987 with club stalwart Errol Boots at the helm.

However, changing demographics in the district saw Whitton in 1992 merge with reformed Yanco, that had previously played in the Barellan League. Finally, Whitton bowed to the inevitable and buried the hatchet with long-time fierce rivals Leeton to become the Leeton-Whitton Crows.

The combined team finally won a premiership in the Riverina Football League in 2017.

 

Riverina’s Mr Football – Bert Schmidt MBE

By Dr Rodney Gillett

“Wherever you are listening to this game don’t tune out this is one of the best games of football I’ve ever seen!” exclaimed 2WG Farrer League football commentator Bert Schmidt at a Culcairn v The Rock Yerong Creek game circa 1964.

“I couldn’t always go to away games so I used to listen to Bert’s call of The Rock’s games on the local radio” recalls former long-time Riverina Australian Football player and leading official Greg Verdon. “He knew all the player’s names and he used to call the games with great clarity and accuracy”, he added.

Bert called the Farrer League match-of-the-day for just on twenty years starting in 1958 and continuing until 1978. He never missed a game according to Cr Yvonne Braid who spent her working life at radio station 2WG in Wagga.

That was the “hay-day” of the league when it stretched from Temora in the north down to Holbrook in the south and west to Lockhart and was based on country clubs rather than clubs in Wagga.

He used to call games from the back of a truck or farm ute backed up to the fence at most grounds from a portable table and chair with the landline connected to the phone in the club secretary’s office or a neighbouring house. The only grounds with press boxes were at Wagga’s Robertson Oval and the Yerong Creek Recreation Ground where the grand final was played.

“Bert was always immaculately dressed in a three-piece suit or woollen cardigan and he always carried an umbrella” recalls Cr Braid. “He was always fully prepared”.

“He was a perfect gentleman”, she added.

Bert Schmidt’s active role in football was not just confined to broadcasting he also produced the weekly football match programs for the South West and Farrer Leagues, served on the Wagga promotions committee, provided hospitality to the Melbourne umpires for the finals, and his lasting legacy, founding the licensed Riverina Australian Football Club.

“The Rules Club was his love child” Cr Braid told me.

Bert Schmidt was the instigator of a licensed club for Australian Football in Wagga. The main purpose was to provide a headquarters for the code in the region and to generate funds to promote the game, particularly at the junior and school level. The club’s ground Maher Oval has hosted AFL practice matches, interstate fixtures and local representative games; it is still Turvey Park’s home ground is used for Farrer League finals and junior fixtures.

He was the inaugural chairman of the club in 1973 after doing all the hard yards to get it up and going. He stayed on the board until 1978. After initially struggling in the early years of its existence the club has now prospered mainly as a result of its location in the southern suburbs of Wagga. Meanwhile, the downtown Wagga Leagues Club shuts its doors in 2004.

Bert identified the need for match day programs for the two major leagues in the Riverina  and subsequently developed and produced The Aussie Ruler (later called the South-Wester) for the South West District Football League and The Crier for the Farrer Football League from 1961.

He funded the project and recouped costs through advertising. He initially wrote the editorials for both: always positive, constructive and based on facts and his deep and intimate knowledge of the game, its officials, players, and supporters in the area.

The distribution of the programs for match day in the region involved an intricate network of trains, taxi trucks, delivery vans, and was sometimes even carried by the umpires driven to games in taxis.

When the program production was taken over by Gary Allen in 1983 he paid tribute to Bert Schmidt for his work over twenty-one years in the first edition for the season:

“Producing a programme nowadays still requires much hard work hut the problems with starting from scratch would have been countless. But thanks, to his dedication and love for the game, he stuck to the task. Bert had to give up most of his holidays, year in and year out, to keep in touch with his advertisers at the start of each season. (Riverina Australian Football Record, 10 April 1983).

Bert Schmidt was also a member of the Wagga Australian Rules Promotions Committee  that was formed in 1968 “ to promote and foster the Australian Football code in Wagga and surrounding districts and to extend Australian Football into all primary and secondary schools” (Wagga Daily Advertiser, 13 February, 1968).

The promotions committee was initially very successful in getting the game going in all primary schools. They arranged for 16 sets of jumpers, 24 footballs and 15 sets of goalposts as well as suitable playing areas for the primary schools in their first year.

The establishment of football in the high schools proved more challenging as rugby league was firmly entrenched largely as a result of schoolteachers coming from the Sydney. Also the Catholic secondary schools were reticent despite the assistance on offer.

Bert, who was the driving force behind the schools’ push, came up with the idea of naming the cup after the Catholic Bishop for the Diocese of Wagga Wagga, Most Reverend Francis Carroll, who was a Carroll from Ganmain. “Father Frank” had played football for both Ganmain as a youth and for Griffith when he served as priest at the Sacred Heart Church.

With the Bishop’s “blessing” the Carroll Cup for open age schoolboy football commenced in 1969 along with the Robb Cup (named after highly successful Riverina coach Tim Robb) for Year 9 and below.

The Carroll Cup is now firmly established as the premier secondary schools’ competition in Wagga and attracts strong media interest and crowds of up to 2,000 at the final played under lights at Robertson Oval.

Bert did not play footy; but after returning from military service in Japan with the British Commonwealth Occupational Force and as a Lieutenant in the Australian Army Ordinance Unit in the Korean War in 1952-53 he gravitated to the Wagga Tigers football club which was closest to his work place at the council-owned Wagga Gas Centre in Bayliss St.

Wagga Tiger’s club legend Doug Priest recalls going to games out-of-town on the team bus in the mid-50s with his father Merv, who was the coach, and Bert leading the sing-along playing on the ukulele on the trip home.

He had a marvellous party trick – he could scull a beer while standing on his head!

Bert Schmidt was highly respected throughout the Riverina for his dedication and service to the game and he has been duly recognized by the Farrer League and the Victorian Country Football league (VCFL).

The reserve grade best and fairest in the Farrer League was named in his honour until the VCFL investigation in 1981 created the Riverina Football League and the Riverina District FL.

Upon the renaming of the RDFL as the Farrer Football League in 1985 the best player in the grand final was named the Schmidt-Nitschke medal in honour of Bert and his long-time friend prominent Wagga solicitor Galva Nitschke, who did so much legal work for football on an honorary basis. Bert and Galva were the duo who did all the work behind the scenes to establish the Rules Club.

He received the VCFL Recognition of Service award in 1973.

Bert Stanley Schmidt was awarded an MBE for military service in 1953.

“Bert got everyone involved. He didn’t leave anybody out”, recalls Cr Braid.

 

AKNOWLEDGEMENTS: Cr Yvonne Braid (Wagga City Council), Major-General (ret.) Brian Dawson (Australian War Memorial), Doug Priest (Wagga Tigers), Greg Verdon (ex MVAFA president), Garry Allen (former Riverina Australian Football Record publisher), and Allan Hull (2WG)

 

 

More Riverina Football Records

The Society has been fortunate in obtaining quite a number of historic Football Records from the Riverina, whether they were called ‘The Crier’, ‘Sou’Wester’, ‘Aussie Ruler’ or ‘Football Record’, there are hours of reading if you click here.

The latest copies, dating back to 1956, were supplied by Geoff Gambell and now bring the number of Football Records from the Riverina area to well over 100.

Many of those posted are Grand Final publications from various years with more copies in the pipe line to be added in coming months.

If you have access to any Football Records and would like to see them published on our site please email us at: History.nsw@afl.com.au

Also, in reading these documents, should you find any broken links, please let us know.

Annual General Meeting – changes afoot

The Society’s Annual General meeting will be held at the Magpie Sports Club on Tuesday (5 March) commencing at 1:00pm.

Ian Granland

Members have been circulated with details of the meeting and most recently a copy of the 2018 annual report has also been issued which should reach recipients by Monday.

Already there are changes proposed in the makeup of the committee with several nominations received so far. More on that score following the meeting.

The president, Ian Granland, has forecast the need for a succession plan for the Society. He said “the incumbents will not be there forever and time has come when the organisation should be fielding expressions of interest from members and others interested in the various roles.”

Tuesday’s meeting should see a start to this initiative.

Umpire Assaults

Umpires over the years have been the target of thugs, abuse and unnecessary violence.  While this might have occurred Australia wide, Sydney certainly did have its share of it.  Thankfully, certainly the violence towards umpires appears to have been relatively stamped out.

Possibly the most infamous attack was on central umpire, John Leber on the day after ANZAC Day in 1953 at Trumper Park.  The Sydney Morning Herald reported it on page 1 on 27 April as:

Spectator Knocks Out Football Match Umpire A spectator jumped the playing fence and knocked the central umpire, Jack Leber, unconscious during the Australian Rules foot-ball match between Eastern Suburbs and Newtown at Trumper Park yesterday. Then the spectator walked unhindered off the field and out of the ground. The man attacked Leber soon after a fight by players on both sides during the third quarter. All but six players were involved in the fight in the centre of the field. The fight lasted at least three minutes, with Leber, the two boundary umpires and both goal umpires trying to separate the players. From the second quarter many of Leber’s decisions had been hooted by the crowd of 4,000. During the third quarter spell when both teams were resting and Leber was standing with the boundary and goal umpires in the centre of the field, a coatless spectator jumped the fence. He walked over to Leber and knocked him down unconscious.
POLICE CALLED
St John Ambulance men treated Leber for several minutes before he recovered. A boundary umpire, Joe Armstrong, who is a leading central umpire, offered to take over the match, but Leber carried on after the game had been delayed about six minutes. The ground manager, Mr. Jack Ross, called the police, but the game was in progress when they arrived. After the match Leber collapsed in the dressing-rooms and had to receive first-aid treatment again. He nearly collapsed again under the shower. The president of the N.S.W. League, Mr Les Taylor, said the league would prosecute the attacker if sufficient information became available. After the match, which Eastern Suburbs won by 19-16 (130) to 6-10 (46), the opposing captains, Fred Pemberton (Eastern Suburbs) and Jack Armstrong (Newtown) were reported over the fighting incident.

Fortunately the offender was located and subsequently charged. (see article)

John Leber was a great guy.  Initially he played with Newtown before enlisting for WWII.  When stationed near Melbourne in the army, he wrote to the secretary of the Fitzroy Club and asked for a game.  They gave him a run in the seconds for a couple of weeks, but he didn’t set the world on fire.

He was also instrumental in setting up the Boystown Club near Engadine and was one who formed the Sutherland Club in the 1960s.

John worked for TAA (a National Airline of some note) and besides getting the company to annually advertise in the Sydney Football Record, he arranged for cut price travel for NSW interstate teams.

You can read other articles of Sydney umpire assaults here:

NSW Grounds Under New Management

The Society sees itself as a guardian of football activities that have happened in the past in New South Wales; this can be 140 years ago or yesterday.

Mandy Keevil

Committee member, Mandy Keevil, has taken on the role of registering all the grounds in NSW along with their details on the Society’s website.

Mandy is a former senior librarian at the Ashfield Council and her father played with the Newtown Football Club in the late 1940s. He also represented the state on a number of occasions.

The project Mandy has taken while at first sight may seem a tedoius one, however it is a task which will prove to be very important to the football community. Not only for present day supporters but in years to come when people ask the question where “xyz” club started and played their first game, Mandy’s research will throw a light on just where and when.

And her research doesn’t just cover Sydney. She already has a great repository of grounds that were either used for playing or training for the Australian game and is currently working through them to update their particulars and facilities together with an with an online map showing the location.

If you represent a club or have been involved with a club in New South Wales and want your ground included, please email the History Society here to give Mandy more information that she can work on.

Also former committee member, Bob Wilton has given us a call to alert us to an East Sydney Football Club Reunion. It will be held at Paddington RSL on Saturday 16 March 2019 commencing at 12 midday. Just turn up or you can contact the History Society for further details.

Vale Shirley McKernan

Just on 12 months ago we lost one of our committee members, Gus McKernan, now his wife, Shirley, has also passed.

Shirley McKernan

After Gus died we invited Shirley to join our committee, which she accepted and was a regular attendee at our weekly Tuesday working bees at our Magpie Sports rooms, Croydon Park.

Late last year she announced that she was undergoing tests and could not commit each week until the issue was solved.

The ‘issue’ turned out to be leukemia, the fast moving type. Shirley communicated regularly with the History Society Committee after doctors diagnosed her condition understanding that her life was very limited.

She passed away earlier this week and her funeral will be held at the Toongabbie Anglican Church, 46 Binalong Road, Pendle Hill at 10.30am this Friday (25 January) at 10:30am.

Society president, Ian Granland said Shirley’s passing was a tragedy and unfortunately adds to the numerous people on the Football History Society’s Committee who have died in the passed ten years.

Liverpool Football Club – 1957

An accidental scan of newspapers through TROVE, found an article from the Liverpool Football Club in 1957. In fact it is an abridged version of the club’s annual report and makes interesting (but lengthy) reading and identifies some fascinating historical facts concerning the club:

Liverpool Aussie Rules Football Club

OFFICERS’ ANNUAL REPORTS

Following are highlights from the reports presented by officers at the annual meeting of Liverpool Australian Football Club in its tenth annual report and financial statement of the ‘Liverpool Australian National Football Club’:

I am deeply conscious of the privilege, and when you have examined it in detail I feel sure you will agree that it reflects considerable credit upon all who made possible the successful passing of our seventh season in major football.

The season 1957 started off by many members spending their week-ends doing a grand job in painting our clubhouse, which was a great credit to them. To those members, on behalf of your Committee I convey many thanks for a job well done.

An asset to our Club was the purchase of a canteen shed, which proved worthy of the Ladies’ Committee. It is hoped the season 1958 will commence with everything the club desires.

Your delegates — J Wilkinson C. Gallagher and K. C. Wilcoxon, (a vice-president of the N.S.W. League) did a grand job throughout the 1957 season and off season. Your delegates attended every meeting — a 100 per cent record. Training — Season 1957 saw a great roll up at training and Jack Armstrong (coach) was in attendance at all times. The lighting was much better than 1956. Trainer W. Desmond did a grand job in looking after all players ; his services on and off the ground were above expectations and your committee and members convey many thanks. Donors. — To these gentlemen we extend our sincere thanks and appreciation for their continued support of the club funds.

First Grade. — This team, coached by Jack Armstrong, gave their best ever and were unlucky in not making the final four. Reserve Grade.— This young side, capably handled by their captain, V. Ansell, all played well throughout the season and managed to play themselves into the four This team is the first the Liverpool Club has had in the finals.

AWARDS TO LIVERPOOL
Liverpool once again won the Phelan Medal Trophy, Col Waller being the winner. Congratulations to Col on a wonderful achievement. This Trophy has been won by a player of the Liverpooi Club on four occasions. Another award was won by the Liverpool Club, “The Club Championship”. Many thanks must go to the junior organiser, Mr. C. Gallagher, his officials and the junior teams under his command, also the Reserve Grade for gaining our club many points which no doubt won this award.

PRESENTATION EVENING
The presentation evening was held again at Liverpool Golf Club, on September 13, 1957. It was a great success, many players, supporters and prominent personnel being present. TROPHY WINNERS AND DONORS First Grade: Best and fairest (Wilson Rogers Trophy), Col Waller: most consistent (C. Williamson), J. Sutherland; most improved (R. Caterson), K. Heales; best utility (R. Dunbier), J. Armstrong.

Reserve Grade: Best and Fairest (W. Bryce), V. Ansell; most consistent (S. Green), R. Wells; most Improved (W. G. Smith), K. Nolan; best utility (K. O’Brien), N. Bryce. The N. J. Mannlx Trophy Shield, for the best team in the Club, was won by the Reserve Grade. captained by Vern Ansell. This team improved to finish In third place in the competition.

The N. J. Mannlx Trophy for the best in attendance at training during 1957 season was by R. Butler, who missed only one night. D. McLeod’s Trophy for the most outstanding clubman for 1957 was won by R. West, who did a grand job in looking after the club’s finances.

Club Trophy — A trophy was presented to W. Desmond for the grand work he did in looking after the players on and off the field. Very nice wall pictures were presented to members of the Ladies’ Committee by President Ald. Leo Sullivan. Before concluding, I should like to pay tribute to our President, Mr. L. Sullivan, who continues to render sterling support. Finally. I desire to thank all those who have helped us in any way and I am thankful also for the co-operation I have received from all members and others, who made it possible to present the tenth annual report for your approval and if any item of service has been overlooked, it is regretted.
K. C. WILCOXON. Hon. Sec.

PRESIDENT’S ADDENDUM
In the foregoing pages, our Secretary has given us further proof of his efficiency as such, and on behalf of mine and the members I congratulate him on such a splendid effort. Our Liverpool .and Southern Districts Junior Association, under the direction of the organiser, Mr. C. Gallagher and his officials, did a grand job in 1957. I feel I must pay great tribute to Mr. R. West, Treasurer, for his fine financial statement, also the Ladies’ Social Committee on their fine effort. Rosedale Park proved a great success during our second year playing on it and 1958 will find it better than ever. I wish to bring under your notice the fine work of the Junior Association and both Grades did in winning for your Club “The Championship for all Clubs.” The 1958 season for us should be good and I feel with every confidence that Liverpool will continue to improve to bigger and better things.
L. SULLIVAN, President.

JUNIOR AND SCHOOL ASSOCIATION
During the past seasons the junior progress has been a steady climb. With the schools and the District Association there are over 700 boys playing Australian Football. The Association embraces the district from Bankstown, Villawood, Fairfield, Cabramatta, Liverpool and Campbelltown — an area of 30 square miles. An achievement for this Code was the introduction to Campbelltown, which proved a great success. We appreciate all the help received to foster our juniors. This year we had visits from Hawthorn Junior Club, Victoria and Windsor Club, Queensland, and we extend many, thanks those who looked after the visiting lads.
C. GALLAGHER, Junior Org.

TREASURER’S REPORT
It is with pleasure that I present the financial statement of the senior club for 1957 season. Progress financially and in all other aspects during the year has been most successful, and I would like to thank all club members and the committee for their co-operation during the season. The ladies of the Social Club must be congratulated on their untiring effort and also for an excellent financial statement.
R. WEST, Hon. Treasurer.”

Ref. Biz (Fairfield, NSW : 1928 – 1972), Wednesday 12 March 1958, page 31

Hello

1922 Jim Tarbolton thumbnailGreetings from the nerve centre.

We have been off the air for the past five days or so.  You probably didn’t notice because you were still getting and opening the website however we have had some preliminary work done shaping up to the refurbishment of the site which is coming up in the next few weeks or so.

While this work was being undertaken we could not post any stories or update the material but now we are back into it and we have some great stuff in store for you over the coming days.

On another issue we are currently compiling our annual journal as well as a newsletter both of which will be posted out to members.  Have you joined yet?

We have spoken to our treasurer, Gus, who is arranging more questions for his quiz of the week and these will be posted very soon.

If you or any of your friends or relatives have material which might interest the Society we urge you to send it to us.

Attached to this story is a photograph of Jim Tarbolton, a WWI digger, and former Gardeners Road (Sydney) pupil who went on to play with the Railway Club in the 1920s, represented NSW, then Fitzroy, and the VFL in 1923.

Images such as this are rare and we are indebted to Shirley Tarburton, one of his relatives, who sent this in.

Society Appeals For Funds

Website upgrade smallFollowing a recent analysis, the Committee has decided to upgrade the website.

The study was not so much negative but encouraged the re-arrangement of the site to make it more user friendly and easier to navigate.  The committee agrees that the site is a bit clunky and is due for an overhaul.

So quotes have been sought to present a new face for the site, unfortunately all are outside the Society’s ability to fund.  Nevertheless, they realise that the quotes, all of which were similar, would be reasonable for the job and realistic.

In order to meet the requirements the Society is reaching out to members and readers of the site who might like to contribute towards this upgrade.  They need around $4,500 which they will combine with their own funds to meet the costs.

Anyone who might like to assist can do so by:

Forwarding a cheque to the Society at the postal address of P O Box 98 Croydon Park NSW 2133

OR

Click here for bank deposit or internet banking transfer.