Tom Fitzmaurice – a real gun

Tom FitzmauriceIn 1921, one of the most talented footballers ever to play in Sydney was transferred in his job from Melbourne.

His name was Tom Fitzmaurice and he was a bank teller.

He stood 192cm and weighed in at 96kgs playing mainly in the ruck.

Tom was 19 when he first stripped for Essendon in 1918 and when he moved to Sydney he had already played 36 games with the Dons.

A giant of a man for those days, you know, one of those players who turns up announced and is “six foot four and fourteen stone”. He slotted perfectly into North Shore’s lineup in their first year back in the competition after a forced hibernation during WWI.  Fortuitously for North he was joined by quite a number of ex-VFL and Association players which turned the team into a formidable combination that year.

Tom captained the NSW team which played Victoria in the mud on the MCG on 6 August.  He was judged best player on the ground.

A Game in Albury
Upon their return trip the team stopped off at Albury to participate in a pre-arranged game against the Albury and Border Association, a precursor to the O & M League.

The match was played on a Wednesday before a crowd estimated at 500.  The NSW team towled up the locals 13-15 (93) to 7-10 (52).  They lifted their foot off the accelerator in the last term when they only kicked 3 points to Albury’s 4 goals.

Fitzmaurice was again named best on ground in this game which saw him kick 5 goals from centre half forward.  We mention this match because it is another that has never been recorded in the NSW representative list.  The details are being posted on our website under Historical Search. (just need a little more data on the players).

Such was his talent that when he returned to Melbourne in 1922 he went straight into the Essendon side as vice captain, then in 1925 he transferred to Geelong where he ran the Phoenix Hotel.  He played 49 games at Geelong coaching them in 1928 before moving to Yarraville in the VFA where he played under Charlie Milburn who would go on to play with Newtown in 1936.

Tom played there until 1932 when he was recruited by North Melbourne.  He took over as captain midway through 1933 then captain-coach of the club in 1934.  Of the eight games he is credited as coaching, they lost the lot.  Tom played 54 games for North and kicked a mammoth 196 goals but always had trouble with his knees.

Fitzmaurice was named in Essendon’s Team of the Century and inducted into the AFL’s Hall of Fame in 1996.

B & F During WWII

Bob Neate smallIn 1943 a slightly built, sandy headed young man signed up for the army in Melbourne in February.  He was Bob Neate and one of many to join the forces which would take most overseas during the conflict.

At the time Bob was a footballer with a suburban side, not particularly talented, but a real goer on the wing.  He weighed in just over 10 stone (70kg) and following enlistment, was sent to Sydney for training.  Most infantry training in those days was undertaken at Ingleburn.

Being a footy fanatic he went to his first game in Sydney at Trumper Park and asked for a game.  He signed with the Sydney Club, which later changed its name to Sydney Naval.  Fortunately for Bob he was posted closer to the city to undertake a course and was housed under the grandstand at Randwick Racecourse for a month or two.  This gave him easy access to the Paddington ground for training and playing.

Later however Neate was tansferred to a camp about 7km outside Bathurst which curtailed his sporting activities.  He began to play inter unit football but yearned to get back to Sydney to play for Sydney Naval.

He spoke to some club officials who said they would pay his return train fare of 19/11 (nineteen shillings and eleven pence – $2) if he could travel down from Bathurst to play.

Bob had to clear it with his commanding officer who said he would have to finish his duties on Friday afternoon and be back in camp by 8:00am on the Sunday following Saturday games and 8:00am on Mondays if the team played on Sundays.  If however, if he was was rostered for guard duty, he would have to remain in camp.

The soldiers’ accommodation at the Bathurst camp is described here:

The original barracks were made from galvanised iron and had no insulation. On sunny days they were extremely hot inside but freezing cold at night . The troops slept on palliasses which are hessian bags stuffed with fresh straw. During the cold winter months, the soldiers were issued with four grey blankets and slept in “long johns” under their  pyjamas along with any other clothing that did not restrict their breathing. However the army was not always so tough on its men “during the winter months they were allowed to sleep in till 6.30am instead of 6.00am!

So in the freezing cold Bob hitched a ride in an army truck from the camp to the railway station where he caught the 11:00pm train for Sydney arriving at 6:00am.  When the games were over Bob was straight down to Central where he caught the last mail train back to Bathurst arriving in the worst of the weather.  Fortunately there was always an army truck at the station which gave him a lift back, in the rear of the uncovered vehicle.

He had an aunt and uncle in North Sydney so would catch a further train over the bridge and have breakfast with them then find his way to one of the grounds, which in those days mainly consisted of Erskineville Oval and Trumper Park with Trumper Park again used of a Sunday where games attracted huge crowds.

He played in the club’s historic 1944 Grand Final win at Erskineville Oval when the team came from fourth place to steal the flag.  They won the 1944-09-23 - Football Record Articlefirst semi by a point over St George then in the preliminary it was a 17 year old naval rating, Jack Sheedy, who was the hero in the mud when he marked a greasy ball on the forward flank in the dying minutes of the game.  No-one gave him any chance but the very talented Western Australian who in 2001 was inducted into the AFL’s Hall of Fame, booted a goal with metres to clear to give his side a three point win and straight into the grand final.

Neate eventually did serve overseas but not before he won Sydney Naval’s 1944 Best & Fairest.  We have attached a copy from the Sydney Football Record of 23 September 1944 where it shows Neate’s achievement.

1945 Sydney Football Club - 1st Grade 2 smallA 1.5 hour oral interview conducted with Bob in 2005 about his time in Sydney is available at the State Library of NSW.  It is soon to be digitised and available for the public.

Upon his return to civilian life, Bob was recruited to Hawthorn where he played one game for Hawthorn in 1946.

The attached photo shows the Sydney Naval side of 1945 taken at Trumper Park with Bob Neate second from the left in the front row.