Football 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:
||New South Wales Football Association
||New South Wales Football League
||New South Wales Australian National Football League
||New South Wales Australian Football League
||NSWAFL (Sydney Football League)
||NSWAFL (NSW State Football League)
||NSWAFL (Sydney Football League)
||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.
In 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.
Through 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 Newtown 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.
By 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?