Times of the Past

Not so long ago, formal dinners and similar occasions, normally attended by only men, took the lead for the function protocol from their English counterparts.  They toasted the Queen and used other similar formalities in a by-gone era that we shall probably never see again.

While it is over 100 years ago, here is a 1910 report of a function in honour of the president of the NSWFL:


A dinner was tendered to Mr. Albert E.Nash, president of the New South Wales (Australian Rules) Football League, at the A.B.C. Cafe, Pitt-street, Sydney, on Saturday night. Mr. J. J. Virgo presided, and the various clubs were well represented, as well as the ? Young Australian Association.

Mr. Virgo [secretary of the Sydney YMCA] proposed the health of the guest, and expressed the feelings of the players and officers at the safe return of Mr. Nash from his tour of New Zealand – the chairman said that when the league was formed, seven years ago, Mr. Nash was one of the selected officers. Matches were played throughout 1903, and Mr. Nash became president of the league in 1904 and had held the position ever since, and that fact alone had meant a great deal to the game. Mr. H. Chesney Harte, in supporting the toast, said that both officers and players had missed Mr. Nash while in New Zealand, and had re-elected him to the office of president during his absence. Messrs. Jagelmann and Quinn also supported the toast.

Mr. Nash was presented with a case of silver-mounted pipes, and ‘No. 1′ of the New South Wales League ground tickets, as well as two ladies’ tickets.

Mr. Nash thanked those present for the presentations, and stated that without the cooperation of enthusiasts the game could not have been kept alive. If it ever did, its downfall would come from within. Though it was hard to get unanimity, the game was now on a solid footing in New South Wales. As president, he thanked the following gentlemen who had loyally supported his efforts:— Messrs. H. Chesney Harte. L. A. and Otto Ballhausen, W. Millard, E. Butler, W. Prince, W. Phelan, Bennett, Langley, Selle, J. O’Sleara, Quinn, and W. Little.

One of the most important situations the NSW League had to face was the obtaining of a suitable ground. They had the offer of nine acres at £200 an acre, or £1800 in all. This should be accepted, and it would be a distinct help. The game, as played, was improving the physique of the rising generations, and those at the head of the schools should not blindly trust to the future, but should take steps to make the lads physically capable of defending Australia.

Other toasts proposed were ‘Success to the League and Young Australian Association.’ ‘The Chairman.’ and the ‘Press.’ “

It was normal to make presentations of gifts to guests and prominent officials but to make one in such an elaborate manner to a president returning from an overseas trip seems to us to be quite extra-ordinary.  It just goes to show the prominence in which he was held.

Nash was an Englishman and found a relationship with Australian football in the mid 1890s when he came to Australia as the manager of Walker & Hall of Sheffield, makers of gold, silver and silver plate used in trophies and similar articles.  They had their offices at 420 George Street, Sydney.

He maintained his presidency of the league through the purchase of the former Rosebery Racecourse in Botany Road in 1911 to the league’s decline in 1915 when the ground was lost and he and the other directors resigned their positions on the league because of it. Albert E Nash was also president of the NSW Rowing Assn and was declared bankrupt in 1918.  In the court hearings of his case he implicated Mr Frank Tudor, a former Federal Government Minister and then leader of the Federal Labor Party alleging that he had given ‘presents’  to Mr Tudor at a private dinner in Sydney at which football matters were discussed.  Mr Tudor denied these allegations.

He was elected president of the Australian National Football Council in 1911, a post he held throughout WWI.

Nash was probably what you would call a good street smart operator but probably got carried away with his importance.  Having said that, from our research we agreed that he was good for football during that period.  He was a hands on president unlike his predecessor, John See the premier of NSW who was merely a titular head of the organisation, as were many presidents of the day, similar in many was to the role of present day patrons.  Following his resignation he never sought any further involvement in Australian football and his association with rowing also ceased after the court case.

He died in Chatswood in 1948 aged 83 and although a life member of the NSWAFL, he received next to no recognition of his achievements in the early days of the game in Sydney and Australia.

What Happened to It?

Australian Football GroundWe have written before about the grand ground that the NSW Football League owned between 1911-15 and recently more has come to light about the facility.  This article was published in a Sydney newspaper in April 1912:

“This will be a memorable week in the history of Australia’s national game in Sydney. Why? Because on Saturday next will be a celebration opening the new Australian Football Ground at Alexandria. And what a ground! My! I was astonished on visiting it last. Saturday to see the wonderful improvements carried out in just a few months.

Quite an army of men have been employed for the past nine months, and the work reflects the greatest credit on Messrs. Polin and Preshaw, the architects, and Mr. Tom Sheeley, who has had superintendence of the work. A beautifully turfed oval, with a playing space of 200 yards by 150 yards (the finest in Australasia). This is a big thing to say, but it is a fact. And the grandstand to seat 1500, with training rooms, officials rooms, bathrooms, 1 press accommodation, which is fitted up on the model of the latest modern improvements.1912-04-17 Sydney Sportsman p.2 - Ad for Ground Opening thumbnail

Those in control are to be congratulated on their business acumen and foresight, as they have looked years ahead, and when in the course of time they see crowds of seventy or eighty thousand assembled around the arena, then they will feel that their efforts have been rewarded.

The members tickets for the ground have been selling like hotcakes this month, and amongst the subscribers, who will have their names on the honour board, are the whole of the members of the Victorian and South Australian Leagues.

Mr. Albert E. Nash, one of the finest amateur sports in this city, has a scheme to propound within a few days which he expects will add 500 members to the ground list before the first day of May. The opening match on the ground next Saturday at 3 p.m., will be between the Premiers (East Sydney) and runners-up (Sydney) and from all accounts as grand a game as the final of last season may be expected.

The Botany trams will carry visitors to the gates, first, stop city side of Gardiner’s (sic) road, 2d (2c) fare from railway.”

We shall try to explain how the ground was lost to the code in our next aricle.

Additionally, an interesting slice of information from around the same period (1914) was the production by the South Sydney Club of a form of Football Record, providing the names and numbers of their players together with a score chart:

“South Sydney improved on their type-written dips of the previous week, giving the names and numbers of their players by having them printed, also having a scoring table attached. There were many encomiums passed on the innovation, which, it is to be hoped, will be taken up by all the other clubs. The hon. secretary, Mr, Hughes, and the members of the team are to be complimented on the business-like manner in which they conduct their affairs.”

The Mr Hughes referred to here is Cyril Hughes, an engineer/draughtsman, who was South Sydney’s secretary at the time.  He would later go on to serve in the army at Gallipoli and eventually survive the war only to be returned to the war site at Gallipoli where, as a Lieutenant Colonel, he and his staff mapped out the graves and dead.  They also planned and erected a monument to the slain.  Hughes was featured in Russell Crowe’s recent film, Water Diviner.