– Regent Street Gone

The League premises at 64 Regent Street, Chippendale

There would not be too many still involved in Sydney football who would remember the NSWAFL Headquarters at 64 Regent Street, Chippendale.

It was purchased by the League, with the help of loans from the Western Suburbs Licensed Club and a four thousand pounds advance from the Australian Football Council in 1964.

At the time it was a disused shop with residence above and part of a group of five similar adjoined buildings constructed in 1920.  All of these have recently been demolished to be replaced by a residential complex with most probably a series of commercial premises at street level.

The 1964 purchase by the league was a bold move by a body which had seen a series of homes since its disconnection from the NSW Sports Club in George Street, Sydney in about 1960.  The Sports Club had been the league’s home for almost 50 years and it too closed its doors recently.  They had use of a meeting room and minimal storage facilities.

The management committee of the league at the time were very proud of their new acquisition.  This committee was comprised of a number of men most of whom were also involved with various clubs Many of these put their hearts and soul into making something of this old building.

The League Headquarters in Regent Street at the time of purchase

It wasn’t long before a ground floor brick extension was added which took the boundary of the building back to the fence which borders the main Sydney rail line.  The front too had its timber and glass façade removed and replaced with brick surrounding an aluminium framed entry.

A most recent image of 64 Regent Street Chippendale (blue)

Initially it accommodated a fulltime secretary and typist and then over the years became a venue for all facets and committees of the league.

The building was lost to football when a coup in 1978 voted the long serving league president, Bill Hart out of office.  Eventually most of his loyal lieutenants followed and the replacement group forced the sale of the premises in 1981 for $77,500 with the league moving their offices to the Newtown Rules Club at the nearby 303 Cleveland Street, Redfern.  One of the reasons given for the sale was that the building was alive with white ants and yet it stood for another 36 years.  The electric sign you see in the top black and white image protruding over the footpath remained attached to the building for over 20 years after its sale.

Since 1981, the building has changed hands several times with the last sale in 2016 realising $1,300,000.00.

With its demolition goes part of football history in NSW.

– As It Was

1945 NSWANFL Annual Meeting with club delegatesAustralian football in Sydney has been with us since 1880, save an eight year period from 1895.

Compared with today, the code before WWII was never a big competition and in fact, for the most part, the period between the two wars comprised of only six clubs;  and many ask why that is.

There was during that time a second division or to give it its proper name, the Metropolitan Australian National Football Association.  This competition mainly had three grades: A grade or open age, B Grade which was under 18 and C grade which catered for boys under 16.  Other than that younger boys of high school age played the game at some Sydney schools.

The NSW Australian National Football League, as it was known in the early days had the responsibility for the ‘administration’ of the game in the state, apart from the Riverina which aligned itself with the Victorian Country Football League around 1928.

All the roles in Sydney football were elected positions and each senior club had two delegates who comprised league meetings and were able to vote on most items.  These meetings were held each month.  Life members could also vote so it was not unusual in the 40s -70s to see up to 50 people at these monthly meetings.

When the second division came into being in the early seventies they were allotted one vote each as were any country affiliated league and the NSW Junior Union, who was the body ostensibly set up to administer juniors within the state – another anomaly.

To be elected a club delegate to the league was a prized position within a club and many took their role very seriously.

Very early in the piece it was realised the club delegate method was too awkward and cumbersome and yet that is how many leagues throughout Australia conducted their business.

Slowly the league hived off various tasks and duties to sub committees, some of which were comprised of club delegates.  For the most part though, the league maintained its position with the president, secretary and treasurer as the mainstays within the organisation.  Sometimes one or two of the vice presidents might well find themselves involved.

These sub-committees comprised the Protests & Disputes Committee, Finance Committee, Permit and Match, Umpires’ Appointment Board and Selection Committee.

In 1960 a lot of this changed.  Out went the club delegate decision making system, although they still attended monthly meetings.  A committee of management was then introduced that met weekly, normally of a Monday night for most of the year.

From these, one would be appointed ground manager for each game.  In those days the league hired the grounds, manned the gate and took the proceeds from the gates.  This was where the majority of the income was derived to run the league.

The position of Secretary of the League (or general manager), only became fulltime in 1960 and that was with the financial assistance of the Australian National Football Council.

League Headquarters - 64 Regent Street Chippendale
League Headquarters
64 Regent Street Chippendale

It remained a one man show until 1965 when the league took up offices at 64 Regent Street Chippendale when a typist was employed to carry out that and other ancillary duties.

Gradually, with government and other assistance the staff was increased.  The club delegate system finished in 1986 when the governance of the league was removed from the hands of Sydney clubs and given over to an independent commission, although still elected by member clubs and leagues.

This method had its last days in 1998 when the administration of football in NSW was taken over and funded by the AFL.

Some of the leagues and associations within the state are still decided by the electoral system but this number is declining with the AFL almost now controlling the administration and development of the game through a bureaucracy of paid administrators and development staff.

Movements in the Society – more….

This article is providing some news on events and activities within the Society.

Magical Football Tour
Bus tour smallFollowing on from an early discussion the committee is closer to organising a magical mystery tour of Sydney football landmarks with an oral description on this bus guided trip.

The idea is to take members and those interested on a bus tour around Sydney where various football sights and attractions will be visited and a brief description given on their relation to the game.  It will take about four hours.

Some of the places identified are Trumper Park, Erskineville Oval, the site of the Australian Football Ground at Alexandria, Mascot Oval, three of the leagues offices at the Sydney Sports Club, 64 Regent Street Chippendale and the Newtown Rules Club.  The tour will also visit some old club watering holes and a few other mystery venues where football had an impact all those years ago.  If you are interested, let us know, click here.

More Football Records Online
Recently we have been loading more Sydney Football Records on our site.  Today we will load the two remaining missing years in the 1950 decade which will provide all the Football Records we have from 1927 (the initial year of the publication) to 1960.  You can access them by going to the Collections link on the front page of the website or by clicking here.  Included in the 1953 Football Records is the programme for the Intervarsity Carnival held in Sydney.

Just as interesting are the newly posted 1957 Football Records.  They too contain an Intervarsity Programme as well as a match programme for the Australian State Schools Carnival held in Melbourne.  Also old league and club minutes have and will continue to be added.

Should you have any minutes that relate to football in NSW or annual reports, please pass them on for scanning and adding to our collection.  We will post them online for all to see.

1978 Sydney Football Films
We have previously announced that we have digitised several 10 minute films of Sydney games taken in 1978.  These are still on sale and we are working on having a film day at the Wests Club, probably now after the season, where all the films will be shown and the digitised copies can be obtained at a special price.  These would make great presents for dad or an uncle etc. who played during that period.

Bunnings Bar-B-QueBunnings logo small
The committee will be hard at it at Bunnings Ashfield on Sunday (3 May) selling sausage sandwiches in an attempt to raise more funds for the projects the Society enters into.  Let us know if you can help out.  Any time between say 7am – 3pm.

Website Revamp
Out latest project is to give our website a facelift.  The current one has been with us now for four years and we feel it needs a bit of refurbishment.  We hope to have this done over the next few months.

Bertie Filgate
Braidwood Cenotaph thumbnailIf you go to our ANZAC profiles by clicking here or accessing them through the link on the front page of the website you will see an article about Bertie Filgate.  Killed moments after he left the boat and headed up the hills at Gallipoli he was a star player in Sydney over 100 years ago.

Although born in Victoria, his last employment was as a eucalyptus expert (work that one out) at Braidwood, NSW.  There, he is remembered on an honour board in the Anglican Church;  a trip through the town last week also found his name on the cenotaph in the main street of the village.  His story certainly is unusual.  Have you read it?


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:



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?


Bruce AndrewWe have come across a letter apparently written by the secretary of the NSW Australian National Football League Advisory Board in 1958 to the secretary of the Australian National Football Council (ANFC), Bruce Andrew (pictured).  Click here to read.

The NSW Australian National Football League Advisory Board was a group set up by the league, ostensibly to advise them on the direction they should take on various issues and other associated subjects.

Society president, Ian Granland, a former secretary of a Sydney club and later CEO of the NSW Football League said “When I first started going to league meetings in 1966, I saw the Advisory Board as a bunch of old blokes who formerly had an active interest in the game but were virtually put out to pasture on a committee which, from my understanding did not do much.”

“Some of its members were formerly on the league executive and they also managed to rope in businessmen from interstate who had an interest in the game but were not actively involved in Sydney.”

“I was only 17 when I attended these league meetings at their 64 Regent Street Chippendale rooms and at first I found it all quite daunting and at times, intimidating.  I knew of the Advisory Board but I really never saw that committee have any influence on the game.  They probably got free tickets to games and were invited to special events for their effort.  Other than that, I felt their contribution was negligible.”

These monthly meetings were for club delegates and in the old days it was some type of achievement to be elected one of the two club delegates where you got to represent and speak on behalf of the club.  In my case, there was no-one else!  Normally about 50 attended these meetings and at that stage of my path in football I just had to sit and learn.  The way in which football in Sydney is administered these days, such meetings do not occur.

The letter we have published is not signed but was probably written by the then secretary of the Advisory Board, Bill Wood who was the president of the Western Suburbs Club from their re-admission to the league in 1948 to 1953.

He is quite candid in his remarks to Andrew, a former premiership wingman from 1928, who held the quite unique distinction of being a vice president of Collingwood at a time he was playing.  He was ANFC secretary from 1950-76 and made several trips to Sydney in an effort to find a way to better promote the game.

Incidentally, it was Andrew who arranged for the ANFC to purchase land in Cairns in 1957 which would go on to become the multi million dollar complex, Cazaly Stadium.

However back to the letter.  In it Woods says how the game did not show any chance of progression or development in Sydney and cautioned Andrew from having the ANFC invest money into Sydney other than help with the appointment of a permanent fulltime secretary (general manager).  It must be said here that the ANFC did not have bundles of money, their access to money was restricted.  It was the major leagues in other major states that had or had access to finance.

What ‘football’ failed to do then was to get the Melbourne clubs, or VFL, to capitalise on the 1956 changes to the NSW Liquor Act which permitted the granting of an infinite number of liquor licenses to clubs, where they could install poker machines by investing in Sydney clubs to achieve this end.  For the first twenty years or so after that date, poker machines were virtually an untaxed source of insurmountable income; almost a license to print money, if the clubs were administered correctly.

Woods says in his communication what is still common in Sydney and for that matter in a number of leagues and clubs throughout Australia “…. and it generally falls to one or two officials in each to do most of the administration”  However he goes on to qualify his opinion in stating “I do not for one moment hold the view that the officials elected to the League over the years have been or are incompetent, but rather the opposite, the weakness being due to their inability to give sufficient time to carry out all the duties associated with their various offices.”

Football has changed in Sydney but probably needs more to increase its profile.

One subject the Society has been encouraged to pursue is to document exactly why Australian football failed to take on in Sydney and to some extent, Queensland.  But this is another story and one officials have in their diary to undertake, perhaps after the publication of the book on football in Sydney during WWI.

What Comes Around Goes Around

1973 John K Phillips 2Sydney football has had their share of thugs and imbeciles over the years who do the game and themselves no good.

We could list many players who suffered at the hands of the local tribunal – and also an onfield square-up over the years.

There was one or maybe two who received a lifetime ban from football for assaulting an umpire and another for kicking only to have the ban overturned in recognition of the visit to Australia by the Queen a few years later.  Of course these type of player/s had not changed their ways and it didn’t take long before they were again outed by the league.

The overturning of suspensions at the time of a Royal visit was not uncommon in a number of sports at the time.

One newspaper report from June 1972 took our eye regarding a Balmain player, John Phillips.

John had played his under age football with North Shore but transferred to Balmain when his family shifted their residence.

He was a handy player but, like many, became a victim of the demon drink.  His work as a NSW policeman was also effected because of his poor social habits.

On June 10, John was reported by central umpire, Chris Huon in the first grade game between North Shore and Balmain at North Sydney Oval, for striking.

At the subsequent tribunal hearing at Football House in Regent Street Chippendale, John was found guilty and given a four week suspension.Phillips small

As the group descended the narrow stairs in the building, he gave umpire Huon a mouthful which unfortunately for him was overheard by the tribunal, at the time headed by John Stewart, father of former History Society Secretary, Greg.

Phillips was called back before the Tribunal and suspended for the remainder of the season.  This time he kept his mouth shut as he and companions left the building.

Phillips later played at Griffith in the Riverina and then on the Central Coast.  He died some years ago at an early age.


19661966 could be judged as just another year in Sydney football.  The footy system went on as normal but we take a deeper look at the season which is just 48 years ago.

Wests won the flag before a crowd of 7,000 at Trumper Park, Sydney Naval’s Norm Tuxford took out the Phelan Medal, Don McKenna an army recruit from the St George club booted 71 goals to win the first grade Leading Goalking Award, the league returned a (never to be repeated) profit of $2,575 on the Football Record, Eastern Suburb’s Roy Hayes, was made life member of the league, a junior competition was started in the Balmain-Ryde area which included North Ryde, Ermington, Pennant Hills-Normanhurst as well as a Balmain junior club and long term league secretary, Ken Ferguson once again took the reigns at the league, this time in a fulltime capacity.

The league consolidated their newly acquired premises at 64 Regent Street Chippendale, (a photo of which now adorns the website front page in a rotating banner) and again recorded their recognition and appreciation for its purchase to the Western Suburbs Licensed Club.  Sydney Naval and Eastern Suburbs clubs, separately, had their applications for a licensed rejected by the Licensing Court.

A direct and live broadcast (albeit of the second half) by Channel 7 of the Western Suburbs v Sydney Naval game on June 4 game gave the code a lift while East’s captain-coach, Alan Gray was transferred to Wagga prior to the end of the season, upsetting the club’s plans for the finals  Souths had a foreign legion in the senior side which only contained three locals.

Junior players in the state’s Under 15 training squad included Jack Slade (Newtown), Phil Fenny (Wests), Paul Paitry (Easts), Chris Bucko and Paul McCook (St George) were some who would go on to play senior football in Sydney.  Peter Hastings, SC, QC, former Tribunal Chairman who now heads the NSW Crime Commission, was president and player of the Sydney University Club.

Forty-two year old, Jack Armstrong, The Black Fella, retired from umpiring.  Incidentally the Society is working on a story of this once legend of Sydney football which will be published soon.  Ellis Noack was captain-coach of the Southern Districts club.  St George moved to their new home on the site of a former quarry which became Olds Park.  In the rules of the game, the flick-pass was ditched.

History Society president, Ian Granland, began his long journey in football administration when elected secretary of the South Sydney club at age 17 and Vice President, Bill Carey, played his 100th consecutive first grade game for Balmain.

Former VFL umpire and Sydney Naval Coach, Bill Quinn, who went on to become a wonderful supporter of the Sydney Swans club, was appointed coach of the NSW Umpires Assn.  And who could not forget the appointment of Ray Catherall as Sydney Naval’s coach.  Ray, a restauranteur,  had Mother’s Cellar and Moby Dicks restaurants at Kings Cross in his stable.  He gained international notoriety by playing ‘soothing’ music to his players in the change rooms at half time breaks.  He only last one season at the club only to move on to coach Sydney University the following year.

However one of the biggest and least remembered events of the season was the umpiring furore at Trumper Park on July 10 when NSW played North Melbourne.

Our last featured photograph prompted a few memories when, in the days of one (central) umpire, the then Umpires’ Assn secretary and the 1965 Sydney grand final umpire, Len Palmer, was ‘unappointed’ from the game and replaced by VFL umpire, Stan Fisher.

We contacted the Ettalong based Palmer to get the real story.

KilligrewHe said he was at the ground and had begun to change into his umpiring attire when Kangaroo’s coach, the 168cm former St Kilda dynamo, Alan Killigrew (pictured) told officials that “he would not let his boys be umpired by someone from a football outpost like Sydney.”  When asked to be reasonable about the matter and that the 31 year old Palmer, who was after all,  was straight off the VFL Reserves Umpiring list in 1964 and quite competent of handling the match, but the volatile Killigrew refused and stood his ground.

Minutes before the start of the game, Sydney officials had no choice but to capitulate.

Palmer said he had been told before the match that a VFL umpire was at the ground but he did not know his identity.  North Melbourne had brought Fisher to Sydney for the game but there appeared to be no prior communication on the appointment between the two organising parties.

Fisher, who began his VFL umpiring career in 1963 and by then had umpired over 40 league games, was embarrassed about the controversy and suggested to Palmer that they eac do one half.  Palmer could see the problems this could cause and declined his offer.  He then sat on the sideline as the reserve umpire but joined in the after-match hospitality at the Wests Club.

NSW was soundly beaten 20.17 (137) to 7.11 (53).  And incidentally, several current members of the Society were in that NSW team including Brian Tyler, Denis Aitken and Peter Burgess.

As a show of their support for Palmer, the league had sent him to Canberra only weeks before to umpire the Queensland v ACT game at Manuka Oval.  He 1966 NSWANFL 1st Semi Final 1 smallalso umpired the 1966 Sydney Grand Final before he retired from umpiring due to his work in the TAB.

When asked if he had any regrets he said no, “Football gave me a great journey through life and I have made some wonderful friends.  I wouldn’t change a thing” he replied.

Our photograph shows Len Palmer taking the field for the 1966 Sydney Grand Final at Trumper Park.  Note the crowd.  The footballs the umpires had in their hands were used for bouncing and throw-in practice.  None was the match ball.