Finals Venue

Writing icon smallerMany always have suggestions how this or that should be done and the same is with the administration in football.

Delving through old documents and papers we came across the following letter.  The bracketed comments are ours, as a way of explanation:

Dear ‘Follower,’ [Follower was the pseudonym used by the journalist who wrote for the particular newspaper]” Everyone interested in Australian Football will endorse your remarks in last week’s ‘Arrow,’ with regard to the matter of fixing the semi-finals and final of the League premiership, to be played at Erskineville Oval.

No-one who has followed the matches played on Moore Park during the present season will have failed to recognise the great interest taken in the various matches played on the Y.M.C.A. ground.

The average attendance this season [at Sydney games] can be fairly estimated at about 3000, all of whom have become intensely interested in the progress of the game. It is quite safe to say that this number will be considerably increased with the advent of the semi-finals and final. Since the re-introduction of the Australian game into this State [in 1903], and especially during the present reason, there has been a growing feeling in favour of the game, and a great deal of enthusiasm shown by the players and public. The only fault one has to find just now is with the governing body.  For some time past the League seems to have played itself out. Year after year the League has lamentably failed to seize the opportunities’ that have presented themselves until at last it has come to be recognised as a body helpless to advance the interests of Australian football. Something will have to be done before the next season comes round to put things on a better footing, and inspire confidence in the players and public.

With regard to the semi-finals, I am voicing the unanimous opinion of the thousands who attend the [Sydney] matches, that a grave mistake will be made if the League insists on playing these matches at Erskineville, and keen disappointment will be felt by those who desire to witness them. Far better to play the two semi  finals on September 5, and engage the Agricultural Ground [former Sydney showground, Moore Park] for the final on the 12th. It will be a great mistake to delay these matches too far into the cricket season. The League should rise to the occasion, and wind up with a brilliant finish-which will augur well  for a good start for 1909.-I am, &c, AUSTRALIAN ALL THE TIME

So you see we all have our opinions.  It is a pity though that those in charge in the early days did not make the decisions which would have capitalised on the growth and popularity of the game in Sydney.

Jim Phelan’s Writings

Jim Phelan was one of the most influential and hard working honorary officials Sydney has seen.

A product of the Victorian Gold Mining boom, he learned his football around Ballarat and upon moving to Sydney played with the Waratah Club in 1888-9. He re-emerged in 1892 as Secretary and player of the East Sydney Club.

When the code was resurrected in Sydney in 1903, following an almost ten year hiatus, he became the inaugural secretary of the Newtown Club until the outbreak of World War I when, mainly due to financial and man-power reasons, the game in Sydney again almost came to a crashing halt.

Between 1914-25 Jim took on the position of honorary Secretary of the League (General Manager) and was a huge influence in it’s continuation, particularly during the first war.

It was also during this time that Jim wrote, on a casual basis, about football in Sydney  for The Arrow, one of the many Sporting Publications.  It is from his accurate and to the point reporting of the game, at a time of distress for Sydney football, that we are able to form a picture of how the game was played and organised during that period.  We shall present these at a later date.

Jim was made a life member of the NSW Football League, then, following his prolonged period as the NSW delegate to the Australian Football Council – a national body representing each state and territory (since absorbed by the AFL), he was bestowed with life membership to this organisation in 1924.

So much did the football people of Sydney respect the tenacity and ability of this determined confectionery salesman, that the title of the Best and Fairest Medal was altered during the mid 1930s to bear his name.

Fortunately, Jim also wrote about many of his experiences and past times which were published  in the Football Record of the day, some of which we have transcribed and are included here for you to read.
Click Here for Phelans writings