At one stage the New South Government Railways was the biggest employer in the Southern Hemisphere. The restructure of the railway system in the 1970s and 80s saw a severe reduction in staff and rail lines throughout the state. However early last century the railway staff contained a good deal of Australian Football players, particularly in Sydney and the Riverina.
Albert Nash, president of the NSW Football League 1904-12 presented a magnificent shield, subsequently named the “Nash Shield”, for competition between the respective interstate railway groups. These games were played in a carnival series, normally pre-season, at rotating state venues.
Considering the strength of the rail work force in Sydney, a ‘Railway’ club was established and competed in the Sydney League in 1912 and then again following end of WWI. In both situations, the support for ‘District’ football (not to include institutions or companies etc. in the competition) based on electoral boundaries, forced the cessation of the Railway Club in the major league. In Sydney after 1925 the Railway Club continued in the Metropolitan Australian National Football Association – MANFA or a second division, however it also introduced tramway employees into their number and the club changed their name toRailway-Tramways.
Here is an article from a Sydney 1920 newspaper written by the secretary of the Railway Club. It contains several names that readers could well relate to, given their descendants may have well continued in the game:
“RAILWAY SECRETARY WRITES.
Mr Walter Thompson, hon. secretary of the Railways F.C, sends along the following: History has repeated itself. Last year was our first in the League competition and after beating every team in turn we were, beaten in the semi-final by Newtown. This year we beat every team excepting Paddington, and yet we went down to Newtown again in the semi-final. I attribute Railway’s down fall to staleness, having started training early in March, and playing in the railway carnival at Adelaide in April, long before other clubs started training Railways were rather unfortunate in losing such sterling played as Ernie Huxley (last year’s captain), T. Foster, E. Lock, D. Wilson, G. Walsh and A. Portwine, who were not available owing to being transferred from Sydney. The club’s record is, played 13 matches, won 8, drew 1 and lost 4. They scored 114 goals to 78. The Railway Club intends to welcome the Sturt F.C. with a social, as they treated our team splendidly whilst in Adelaide. Praise must be given to the following players: Herb Tarbotton [who went on to play with Fitzroy], J. Smith, T. McLeod, Felix McCann, Vic Huxley (backs), L. Godfrey (the flier), A. Card (seldom ever beat), T. Toomey (centres), E. Jenkins (21 goals), H. Potts (20 goals), Jim Doolan (capt, 10 goals), P. Lee (12 goals), J. Hall (13 goals), H. Oakman, (7 goals), forwards. Special credit must be given the ruck men, Jack Cain (old pard), who has kicked 7 goals; Tom Oakman (the plodder), 7 goals; H. Burge (the iron man), 4 goals; and Clarrie Huxley (the rover), 8 goals. Railways will journey to Melbourne next April to take part in the interstate railway carnival against Victorian, South Australian and Tasmanian railways, when, with the inclusion of a few railway men from the Riverina districts we hope to bring back the magnificent Nash Shield. We are indebted to the following, enthusiasts for the able manner in which they carried out their duties: Messrs. J. Howland, timekeeper; Mills, goal umpire, W. Armstrong and J. Hall, boundary umpires; R. Simpson and O.Morris, stewards; A. Unger, trainer; J. Calman and R. Hill, assistant trainers; Jim Kealey and G. Mansfield, delegates to Second Grade; W. Quelch, assistant secretary: and E. Hickey, treasurer. Football followers will be pleased to hear that Herb Tarbotton was successfully operated on and will be about again in a few days.” (Arrow (Sydney, NSW : 1916 – 1933), Friday 23 September 1921, page 8)
*Players in the photo represent:
Fred Bradley (captaIn), J. Webb (vice-captain) , W. L and J. Mclnneney (2), T. Butler, J. Whitby, J. Houston, A. and L, Alberton, Vic Huxley, 0. Handcock, A. Orme, John Hartwlg, J. Brown, A. Travers, A. Borchers, Archie Hagley and Jack Clarke,