Early in the twentieth century football was different in Sydney.
By different we mean ‘isolated’. There were a number of locals playing but many came from interstate and this position was reasonably consistent right up until about the mid seventies where interstaters on many occasions out numbered local players. That is not to say that local juniors didn’t fill the ranks of most senior clubs, but for the most part, it was the imports, a lot of whom were in the military, who played senior football.
We have the research capacity to go back a long way and even in 1912, the North Shore club was unable to field a team in the first semi final because a number of its players went to Tasmania. The following year however, their captain Ralph Robertson, president Albert Kitt and others officials like Arthur Beedon and Harry Lowe got the side together.
The introduction of the ‘District’ scheme though had a big impact on the North Shore club.
Sydney’s ‘District’ scheme was based on that used in Adelaide. The metropolitan area was divided in such a manner, based on electoral boundaries and named after the particular district. This provided for ten clubs although in 1913 there was momentum for only seven: Paddington, Sydney, South Sydney, Newtown, East Sydney, Balmain and North Shore. Players who resided in a particular district had to play for that district club although there were some dispensations.
Because North Shore was not a recognized electoral district, the club had to change their name to North Sydney. The only concession was that the northern part of Sydney was not divided and the North Sydney club had claim to all players who resided in that area, not that there were many in those days.
The YMCA club which only a few years before had won the premiership, were out. Also not admitted was the Railway club. YMCA were offered a spot in reserve grade but declined.
Balmain struggled throughout the season finishing second last. They were one of two clubs without a reserve grade. The next year Balmain combined with Northern Districts, the reserve grade premiers, to form a club called Central Western. Northern Districts were a team based in the Ryde area.
World War 1 created havoc with all sport throughout the country, particularly Australian football in Sydney. With the departure of thousands of young men the ranks of football teams were depleted so much so that that the North Sydney Club had to retire from the competition.
Then it was the military that saved football. Many of these were based at and around Victoria Barracks so the near clubs, like Paddington and Sydney in particular benefited from their presence.