Australian Football and the Moon Landing

The moon landing 50 years ago did not go unnoticed by Australian Football Officials (it did not go unnoticed by anyone in the western world).

At a meeting of the Australian National Football Council (National Football League), since absorbed by the AFL, on 21 July, 1969 sent a telegram to the US President, Richard Nixon offering their congratulations.

Here is an article published in the Sydney Football Record on 27 July/3 August 1969

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Andrews” was Bruce Andrews, then secretary of the ANFC.

– Appeal For Clothing Coupons

Copy of coupons

 As the expression goes “things are crook in Talarook”.

Well they were in the Second World War when the Federal Government introduced food and clothing rationing for everyone, from the elderly to babies.  Such rationing regulations were gazetted on 14 May 1942. It was introduced to manage shortages and control civilian consumption. It aimed to curb inflation, reduce total consumer spending and limit impending shortages of essential goods.

Football Record acknowledgement

These rationing restrictions were not relaxed until a number of years after the war.  In the case of clothing it was June 1948 and tea in July 1950! [1]  This extended action after the war by the Labor Government proved very unpopular.

“What has all this to do with football you ask?”

In 1947 the NSW Football League played an incredible seven representative games and were also involved in an additional four during an All-States Carnival, played in Hobart.  The issue with this was the league did not have the capacity to purchase the necessary equipment, ie jumpers, short, socks, blazers etc., to outfit the team which travelled to Tasmania. (blazers may have been an over statement)

In one weekend in June, the League sent a representative team to play in Broken Hill while at the same time hosted a Canberra rep team in a match at Trumper Park.  In this game, the NSW AFL team wore Newtown’s red and white jumpers.

Such was the shortage, a plea went out for clothing coupons to the greater football population in Sydney which could be pooled to purchase the required gear.

Gradually people donated their coupons, a huge sacrifice from their family’s allocation and this was two years after the war had finished!  The League Secretary (General Manager), Ken Ferguson, himself donated 48 coupons and he was at the time, a person with a young family.  These donations were acknowledged in the Sydney Football Record – see attachments.

So when the time came, the NSW team to Hobart went smartly dressed and well decked out.

There was no mention of this in the league’s 1947 annual report with the only expenditure item listed was ‘Uniforms – eighteen pounds and sixpence’.  The league sold the ties and representative team photos.  They did receive a seven hundred and ninety pound allocation from the Australian National Football Council (the promoters of the carnival) and a refund of their players’ and officials fares, which by the way, was by train to Melbourne and boat to Tasmania.

[1] AWM – Website – Food and clothing rationing during the Second World War.

– What Could Have Been and What Didn’t Happen

The Sydney Football League, NSW AFL, AFL Sydney or whatever title you want to give it, and its had a number of changes over the years, has really made few ground break decisions in its 124 year history.

In many cases the officials who ruled the game simply missed the boat.

The licensing laws only permitted a certain number of licensed clubs to operate in NSW up until the mid 1950s and this number did not vary.

Following WWII, Frank Dixon, who captained and coached the South Sydney club in a very successful period in the 1930s was appointed vice president of the league.  He talked the executive into him approaching the then, Australian National Football Council (ANFC) for a loan of $10,000 to establish a licensed club in Sydney.

Dixon, a staunch Labor man who ended up Deputy Lord Mayor or Sydney City Council, travelled to Melbourne by train in 1949 to attend a ANFC Meeting.  Incidentally, on the train happened to be the prime minister, Ben Chifley.  Dixon returned with the guarantee of the $10,000 from the ANFC but a nervous executive in Sydney went cold on the idea and it never went ahead.

In 1948 three new clubs were admitted to the league, Western Suburbs, Balmain and Sydney University.  Wests were the only club to go on taste success.  They played off in successive grand finals of 1952-53 but had to wait until 1963 until they won a flag.  Neither Balmain nor Sydney University clubs could boast success until much, much later.

In the meantime a team from Illawarra joined the competition in 1949-50 but the travel and their lack of success accounted for their departure.

This was a time when six clubs dominated the competition, Eastern Suburbs, Sydney Naval, Newtown, St George, North Shore and Western Suburbs.  Liverpool joined the competition in 1954 after a couple of successful seasons in the Metropolitan Australian National Football Assn (MANFA – or really a Second Division, which folded in 1953).  It was a time when the league should have bitten the bullet and formed two divisions.  It didn’t.  Sydney was a growing city and the league should have capitalised on the popularity of the game during the war and immediately after.

This was particularly the case again in the early 1960s after Uni had dropped out in 1958 but replaced by new club, Bankstown.  Again they should have travelled down the two division track but failed to act.

In 1960 however they did introduce a dramatic change to Sydney football when they reduced the number of players on the field to 16.  This was thought to produce better football on the smaller Sydney grounds and perhaps encourage the formation of new clubs and reduce the instances of backing up to a minimal.

The purists were enraged with this change and by mid-season clubs forced the hand of the league executive to return to the traditional eighteen aside.

The basically unsuccessful club of Liverpool joined forces with the other battler, Bankstown in 1962 then two years later encouraged another new club, Parramatta to combine with them to form a new club: Southern Districts.  Initially this venture  produced a competitive club but eventually failed.  What it did do in particular was rob a team playing Australian Game from the then far western suburbs.  Parramatta then played out of Mona Park, Auburn.

It was around the same time that efforts were being encouraged to form a licensed club for Australian football in Sydney.  They had enough members, sufficient commitment and had identified premises at 224 Riley Street Surry Hills, a former hotel which was then trading as a private hotel (boarding house).

The prime mover in this action unfortunately died and so without a leader the whole issue fell flat.

Eastern Suburbs had a licensed club at Bondi Junction but as successful as it was could not maintain the repayments to a very expensive loan which funded the addition to the premises and the club fell by the wayside.  North Shore went all out to gain a license in the premises of Polonia Northside soccer club in Walker Street North Sydney. They were successful in this enterprise but unfortunately too this eventually failed.

St George made it to the licensing court but were refused their bid for a license at Olds Park on some technicality.

Despite all this, there has been some success in Sydney football and this was quite recently.

Garry Burkinshaw, the man in charge of Sydney footy between 2007-2014 soon realised there were problems when he took over the reigns.

He listened to the gripes, he looked how they do it in soccer and studied Sydney football.

Burkinshaw maintained that Sydney footy was not as tribal as it is interstate.  Players come to play their game and go.  They don’t stick around for the next game and they certainly don’t stay all day.

He decided the answer was divisionalisation where teams from various clubs of apparent equal strength would be best suited playing against each other.  So, apart from the Premier League competition, a reserve grade team which might have battled in the senior division was dropped to third or fourth division in the new setup.

He took advice from clubs and said there was no real opposition to the model.  He got members from each club in a room and put his proposition.  It took over three months in the planning and together with colleague, Bob Robinson, they introduced a competition which has, for the most part, been extremely successful.

There are more teams winning games and all but St George, Camden and Illawarra clubs, from twenty four participating in the Sydney league,  have participated in finals.

This new and novel competition has promoted success in other clubs too.  Penrith who were down to one team now boast three, North-West are fielding more sides along with Camden and there a four new clubs now participating in the competition. (this article was initially published in 2012)

This new system leaves it open for established teams to field more teams and enthuse new or junior clubs to field senior teams.  The way is open for the establishment of more clubs but most particularly, nearly all competitions in Sydney senior football are competitive.

The downside to divisionalisation is that clubs MUST be particularly organised.  Three teams could be playing at three different locations so all players and officials have had to commit themselves to turn up,  in all probability in these circumstances, there would be not players to back up in the event there is not a full team to take the field.  Each team must be a self contained unit: umpire (if required), goal umpire, runner, water boys, manager, runner etc.

At least one Sydney initiative has succeeded but apparently with those purists at it again is now up for change

 

 

– The Word ‘Rules’

The word ‘Rules’ has been associated with the title of the game of Australian Football for well over 100 years.

Many find this word not appropriate for the game which has proved to be the most popular in the Commonwealth and there were several attempts to have it deleted from its name, but this have proved difficult.

For many years the game was simply referred to as ‘football’ by the masses in the majority of states where it held sway however in more recent years soccer has put in a claim for the word.

In actual fact the word ‘football’ is a generic term and applies to a number of sports which boast using a ‘football’ as the centre of their play.  These include: Australian Football, Soccer, Rugby Union, Rugby League, Gridion, Gaelic Football and Canadian Football – which is very much a derivative of Gridiron.

Australian Football gained the tag, ‘Rules’ when in reporting of the game in the late 1800s there needed to be some differential between the codes.  It should be noted however, that it was initially called ‘Victorian Football.’   Rugby was simply referred to as such (Rugby League had yet then been created), Soccer was called ‘Association Football’ because it was played according to rules determined by the International Football Association Board.

So when referring to a game of Australian Football journalists simply said “….. a was game played according to ‘Australian Rules’ or “….. a game played on Saturday according to the Australian rules of football”.  And that’s how the ‘Rules tag stuck

There have been many attempts to remove the word.  In the early 1900s moves were made to eliminate the word then again in 1926, the NSWAFL President, J.F McNeil,  successfully moved to have the word eliminated from the title.  Little notice was taken on this new stance by the league because even when reporting on his motion, the Sydney Morning Herald published the article under the banner, “AUSTRALIAN RULES’ and over subsequent years really did not deviate from this manner.

In 1952, state delegates at the Australian National Football Council, state delegates expressed opposition to the term ‘rules’ being applied to Australian Football.  As a result it was decided to advise all affiliated bodies to refer to the game as ‘Australian Football.  The actual resolution had been carried at the Council’s 1950 meeting but not acted upon.

Then in 1958 it again raised its head at ANFC level and they began a national wide search for an alternative but their endeavours proved fruitless – see article.

 

 

 

 

Footy in the Depression

As the depression bit in the 1930s it had a defined impact on football in NSW.

Affiliation fees were reduced as were admission prices to grounds.

Sydneysiders were used to top class interstate teams and club sides coming to their town to play against a local representative outfit.  This was mostly used as a fillip for the game where promotion meant so much not only for its advancement in Sydney but also to its very existence.

The games attracted reasonable crowds which kept the turnstiles clicking. On a number of occasions, any profit after expenses, were left with the NSW Football League.

It is interesting to see the effect of the depression had on football in this table:

YEAR

REP GAMES

AT
HOME

AWAY

CARNIVAL

LEAGUE  ANNUAL
PROFIT/LOSS
*1926

4

3

1

No

+£314
1927

8

4

4

4

+£44
**1928

3

3

No

+£28
1929

5

4

1

No

-£200
1930

7

2

5

4

-£47
1931

1

1

No

-£14
1932

1

1

No

+£120
#1933

5

5

5

-£117
1934

3

1

2

No

-£54

 

*The VFL paid the entire expenses of the NSW team’s visit to Melbourne and allowed the NSWAFL to retain the entire gate receipts from the return match in Sydney.  This helped in the investment of  £125 for improvements at Erskineville Oval.  In the following year the league wrote off £100 which had been put aside for more work on the ground.

** This was after a £150 loan repayment to the VFL.

# Sydney hosted a national carnival at the SCG over 10 days.

In at least two of the seasons mentioned two respective  VFL clubs visited Sydney to play exhibition games.  After expenses were deducted the balance was left with the NSWAFL.

In the early 1920s one league treasurer bemoaned the fact that the league spent money it did not have, in anticipation of a good finals series or a representative game/s that would carry them through.  In those days the league operated and took the gate takings at club games which became the major source of income for the association for a number of years.

Regardless of finances, the game always went on, matches were always played.  In numerous seasons the league made a loss which can only be blamed on poor decision making.

In several of the 1920s seasons the league only got through with a loan from the VFL.  In late 1929 the league received a £200 ($15,000 in today’s money) bill from the Erskineville Park Trust – a substantial amount which it could not pay until the following April when Australian Football Council forwarded them some funds.

It makes you wonder where the game could be in Sydney had the right decision been made.

Some of Season 1960

Threepence smallHopefully by the end of today we will have posted all of the Sydney Football Records we have from 1927 and now including seasons 1982-3.

Some information from 1960 in particular is very riveting.  Amongst them are those of the Australian National Football Council Section 2 Championships played at Trumper Park in Sydney over a period of seven days.

With the passage of time and the constant change of administrators at the NSW Football League, this is one series that has been forgotten.

The combatants were: NSW, VFA, Queensland and “Canberra“ the latter playing under that title until midway through the 1970s. Here are the results:

 

DATE

WINNER

SCORE

LOSER

SCORE

25 June NSW 14-24 (108) QLD 13-19 (107)
26 June VFA 17-31 (133) Canberra 3-11 (29)
29 June NSW 13-13 (92) Canberra 13-12 (90)
29 June VFA 22-20 (152) QLD 3-7 (25)
2 July Canberra 16-16 (112) QLD 13-10 (88)
3 July VFA 23-24 (162) NSW 8-9 (57)

 

As well, there were some extraordinary lead-up games, particularly the games played during the week.

Before the VFA v Canberra match, Sydney University, who were not competing in the Sydney league that year, 13-11 (99) d Combined Newcastle 6-5 (41).

In the match Canberra v Qld, the curtain raiser was East Side v West Side while on the following day, which turned out to be the final in the game VFA v NSW, the Navy 9-16 (70) d Army 4-9 (33).

Frank DixonA very interesting aspect to the 1960 season which a few readers may remember, was the opening of the Frank Dixon (pictured) Stand at Trumper Park. It replaced a dilapidated timber stand which was built early in the first decade of last century and stood almost on the corner of Glenmore Road and Hampton Street.

Frank was a very charismatic character and a long time player and supporter of the game in Sydney.

While he probably deserves a page on his own (which we will work on) Frank was born and raised in Doncaster Avenue, Kingsford.  After attending St Mary’s Cathedral High School, he played rugby league as a youth then switched to Australian Football in 1926 turning out with with the Daceyville Waratahs Junior club, winning the best and fairest in his first year.

He later played with South Sydney and coached them to the 1934 & 35 premierships as well as runner-up in 1936 & 37.

He represented NSW on nine occasions from 1935-37 and at one stage was a player-coach of the state team.

Frank enlisted for the Second World War where he was wounded at El Alamein, later became a proud ‘Rat of Tobruk’.

Upon return he was elected senior vice president of the NSW Football League and subsequently appointed non-playing state coach from 1947-1952.

He was involved in politics and for a number of years a Labor alderman for the ward of Fitzroy in the City of Sydney Council.  He was deputy Lord Mayor of Sydney between 1960-62.

The new stand was opened on 25 June by Sydney Lord Mayor Harry Jensen and named after this legend of the game in Sydney.

The new stand, since now remodelled if not almost destroyed, “will seat 1500 people and has first class amenities, including tiled bath and shower rooms and dance hall and refreshment room.”

A Testing Time

1956 Alf Snow 001In the early 1960s, Sydney, and for that matter, NSW football went through some very dramatic administrative issues.

We have mentioned this before but it is worthwhile recording the actual events, so far as we can ascertain. After all, the major players at that time are no longer with us so we have to rely on historical documentation, one thing Sydney football is not known for.

1959 was the last season that long serving league secretary, Ken Ferguson held the position in an honorary capacity. Ken was an employee of the NSW Railway and with 24 years continuous service for the league, decided not to recontest the position. He was 55 and thinking of the need to consolidate his superannuation and other government entitlements.

The then president of the NSWAFL, Alf Snow (pictured top) said of Ken “In this state the name Ken Ferguson is synonymous with Aussie Rules . It is difficult to estimate the value of Ken’s work for our game. In my opinion the greatest single factor in keeping the game of Australian football going during the dark days of 1941-42 was the enthusiasm and work which he put into the task.”

Ken’s retirement came at a time when the league was moving into the appointment of a permanent secretary (general manager) with offices at Trumper Park, Paddington. Ken declined the role but with his shorthand and typing skills, he remained on in the minor position as Minute Secretary.

So as the league moved into a new period it did so with a brand new secretary, Jack Holman, who was almost an unknown in Sydney football. Also new was the shipping executive president, Wilf Holmes, from Western Australia.

Besides this the league adopted a new management system where all power and authority was vested in the office bearers and an elected board of management.

Some on the Board had served in previous administrative positions with the league while others were new to the job. They met every Monday Night during the season.

Prior to this club delegates held sway on major decisions of the league. This system, adopted in many leagues and associations throughout the country, does not always produce a fair and balanced view on issues because of possible club bias.

The other former sub-committee which was morphed into the management was that of league finance committee. This was one group which did have some power.

1960
So the league sailed into 1960 with virtually a new team and new structure.

It appears though that the treasurer was not keeping up his job and the finances became a mess. It was recorded that for half of 1961 “receipts had not been written up and bank deposit slips did 1969 Hart, Felstead, Ferguson & Hayes thumbnailnot show particulars of deposits.” After the league treasurer resigned, his replacement was scathing in his report on the league’s administration.

The clubs were part funding the fulltime secretary’s salary of almost $29,000 (in today’s money) along with the Australian Football Council. The latter though stopped payment when the state of the league’s finances were revealed. This resulted in the suspension of  the secretary. In August 1961 Joe Boulus was appointed temporary league secretary, on a salary of $650.00 (in today’s money) per week, plus expenses. This continued until one week after the grand final. By November his salary had dropped to $277.00 a week. Some in the league thought the organisation did not need a fulltime employee and were not in favourinf the continuance of the position.

Ern McFarlane, for years a Newtown FC stalwart who replaced Wilf Holmes after only one year at the helm said of season 1961 that it was “the most turbulent and troublesome in the history of the NSW League.”

However, like many disasters, “from chaos comes order.” But it took its time.

Deficits
From 1956 certainly through to the mid 1960s the league consistently recorded deficits. The period of 1960-62 was particularly challenging and one would imagine any normal business in a similar situation would have been declared insolvent. 1960 – £473, ($13,1107 today) 1961 – £619 ($16,782), 1962 – £543 ( $14,768).

By 1966 Ferguson had retired from his clerical position with the Railway and was appointed to the post of fulltime secretary of the league. He was honest, meticulous with an eye for detail. Although aging, the very experienced Ferguson held his own at the league and the game again began to move through another era.

The days of deficits were over. The league had the financial support of the Australian National Football Council and the Western Suburbs Licensed Club who in particular, poured thousands into supporting the game and its administration in Sydney.

The last picture is a unique combination of Sydney heavyweights from the 1950-60s.  From left, Syd Felstead, long term St George president and league vice president, Bill Hart, league president, the grey haired Ken Ferguson and on the right is Eastern Suburbs Club legend, Roy Hayes.

 

A LETTER ABOUT SYDNEY FOOTBALL

Bruce AndrewWe have come across a letter apparently written by the secretary of the NSW Australian National Football League Advisory Board in 1958 to the secretary of the Australian National Football Council (ANFC), Bruce Andrew (pictured).  Click here to read.

The NSW Australian National Football League Advisory Board was a group set up by the league, ostensibly to advise them on the direction they should take on various issues and other associated subjects.

Society president, Ian Granland, a former secretary of a Sydney club and later CEO of the NSW Football League said “When I first started going to league meetings in 1966, I saw the Advisory Board as a bunch of old blokes who formerly had an active interest in the game but were virtually put out to pasture on a committee which, from my understanding did not do much.”

“Some of its members were formerly on the league executive and they also managed to rope in businessmen from interstate who had an interest in the game but were not actively involved in Sydney.”

“I was only 17 when I attended these league meetings at their 64 Regent Street Chippendale rooms and at first I found it all quite daunting and at times, intimidating.  I knew of the Advisory Board but I really never saw that committee have any influence on the game.  They probably got free tickets to games and were invited to special events for their effort.  Other than that, I felt their contribution was negligible.”

These monthly meetings were for club delegates and in the old days it was some type of achievement to be elected one of the two club delegates where you got to represent and speak on behalf of the club.  In my case, there was no-one else!  Normally about 50 attended these meetings and at that stage of my path in football I just had to sit and learn.  The way in which football in Sydney is administered these days, such meetings do not occur.

The letter we have published is not signed but was probably written by the then secretary of the Advisory Board, Bill Wood who was the president of the Western Suburbs Club from their re-admission to the league in 1948 to 1953.

He is quite candid in his remarks to Andrew, a former premiership wingman from 1928, who held the quite unique distinction of being a vice president of Collingwood at a time he was playing.  He was ANFC secretary from 1950-76 and made several trips to Sydney in an effort to find a way to better promote the game.

Incidentally, it was Andrew who arranged for the ANFC to purchase land in Cairns in 1957 which would go on to become the multi million dollar complex, Cazaly Stadium.

However back to the letter.  In it Woods says how the game did not show any chance of progression or development in Sydney and cautioned Andrew from having the ANFC invest money into Sydney other than help with the appointment of a permanent fulltime secretary (general manager).  It must be said here that the ANFC did not have bundles of money, their access to money was restricted.  It was the major leagues in other major states that had or had access to finance.

What ‘football’ failed to do then was to get the Melbourne clubs, or VFL, to capitalise on the 1956 changes to the NSW Liquor Act which permitted the granting of an infinite number of liquor licenses to clubs, where they could install poker machines by investing in Sydney clubs to achieve this end.  For the first twenty years or so after that date, poker machines were virtually an untaxed source of insurmountable income; almost a license to print money, if the clubs were administered correctly.

Woods says in his communication what is still common in Sydney and for that matter in a number of leagues and clubs throughout Australia “…. and it generally falls to one or two officials in each to do most of the administration”  However he goes on to qualify his opinion in stating “I do not for one moment hold the view that the officials elected to the League over the years have been or are incompetent, but rather the opposite, the weakness being due to their inability to give sufficient time to carry out all the duties associated with their various offices.”

Football has changed in Sydney but probably needs more to increase its profile.

One subject the Society has been encouraged to pursue is to document exactly why Australian football failed to take on in Sydney and to some extent, Queensland.  But this is another story and one officials have in their diary to undertake, perhaps after the publication of the book on football in Sydney during WWI.

Will China Receive A Football Congratulations?

1969-08-03 Sydney Football Record smallAre you old enough to cast your mind back to 20 July 1969 when the US landed a man on the moon in the Saturn V?  Yes, you remember, “The Eagle has landed” and “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”

Most of those who can, are able to recall where they were that day, a date akin to the Kennedy shooting or maybe some other major world event that, for some reason, you are able to pinpoint your whereabouts way back in history.  Unable to?  Well, don’t let it worry you, most of us who read this can.

The other day our staff were delving through some old Sydney footy records and came across mention of this momentous occasion.  At the time, the world was abuzz with the euphoria of it all, even in football circles.

The then ANFC, Australian National Football Council, ostensibly the ruling body for the game in the country for almost 100 years, felt that they should recognize this great achievement by the United States Government so on 21 July 1969 they sent a congratulatory telegram direct to the President of the United States, Richard Nixon.

We have copied the article from the footy record and it is published above for your edification.  Click the image to read.

Now the point is, seeing China has only just landed a craft on the moon, will they receive the same recognition from the AFL?

If you missed it, here is a very recent news release:

“China landed an unmanned rover on the moon, making the Asian nation the third country after the US and the Soviet Union to touch down a spacecraft on the lunar surface.

The probe, carrying a rover dubbed Jade Rabbit that will survey the moon’s geology and natural resources, landed at about 9 pm Beijing on Saturday, the Xinhua News Agency said. China’s achievement comes 47 years after the Soviet Union performed a soft landing of its Luna 9 spacecraft on the moon.”

LOST OPPORTUNITIES AND WHAT COULD HAPPEN WITH PERSISTENCE AND PLANNING

The Sydney Football League, NSW AFL, AFL Sydney or whatever title you want to give it, and its had a number of changes over the years, has really made few ground break decisions in its 124 year history.

In many cases the officials who ruled the game simply missed the boat.

The licensing laws only permitted a certain number of licensed clubs to operate in NSW up until the mid 1950s and this number did not vary.

Despite this and following WWII, Frank Dixon, who captained and coached the South Sydney club in a very successful period in the 1930s was appointed vice president of the league.  He was later to become a successful NSW coach.

Dixon talked the executive into him approaching the then, Australian National Football Council for a loan of $10,000 to establish a licensed club in Sydney.  He was a man of vision.

Dixon, a staunch Labor man who ended up Deputy Lord Mayor or Sydney City Council, just so happened to travel to Melbourne on the train with prime minister, Ben Chifley.  He returned with the guarantee of the $10,000 but a nervous executive in Sydney went cold on the idea and it never went ahead.

In 1948 three new clubs were admitted to the league, Western Suburbs, Balmain and Sydney University.  Wests were the only club to go on taste success.  They played off in successive grand finals of 1952-53 but had to wait until 1963 until they won their first flag.  Neither Balmain nor Sydney University clubs could boast success until much, much later.

In the meantime a team from Illawarra joined the competition in 1949-50 but the travel and their lack of success accounted for their departure.

This was a time when six clubs dominated the competition, Eastern Suburbs, Sydney Naval, Newtown, St George, North Shore and Western Suburbs.  And it was a time when the league should have bit the bullet and formed two divisions.  It didn’ t.

This was particularly the case in the early 1960s when Uni had dropped out but replaced by Liverpool and a team from Bankstown.  Again they should have travelled down the two division track but failed to act.

In 1960 however they did introduce a dramatic change to Sydney football when they reduced the number of players on the field to 16.  This was thought to produce better on the smaller Sydney grounds and perhaps encourage the formation of new clubs and reduce the instances of backing up to a minimal.

Another reason was that initially the Australian National Football League were going to conduct their centenary carnival in Melbourne with teams, 16 aside.  This decision was reversed early in the season.

The purists were enraged with this change and mid-season clubs forced the hand of the executive to return to the traditional sixteen aside.

As you can see opinion was divided as to course the league should take.

Liverpool joined forces with Bankstown in 1962 then two years later encouraged Parramatta to join and form a new club, Southern Districts.  This of course eventually failed but what it did in particular was rob a team playing Australian Game from the then far western suburbs.  Parramatta was playing out of Mona Park, Auburn and like other clubs came into the Sydney competition raw, with no actual football experience.

It was around the same time that efforts were being encouraged to form a licensed club for Australian football in Sydney.  They had enough members, sufficient commitment and had identified premises at 224 Riley Street Surry Hills, a former hotel which was then trading as a private hotel (boarding house) as a potential site for the club.

The prime mover in this action, Arthur Davey, unfortunately died and so without a leader the whole issue fell flat.

Eastern Suburbs had a licensed club at Bondi Junction but over capitalised in their additions and failed.  North Shore went all out to gain a license in the premises of Polonia Northside soccer club in Walker Street North Sydney.  Unfortunately this too failed.

St George at least made it to the licensing court but were refused their bid for a license at Olds Park on some technicality.

Despite all this, there has been some success in Sydney football and this was quite recently.

Garry Burkinshaw, the man in charge of Sydney footy soon realised there were problems when he took over the reigns in 2007.

He listened to the gripes, he looked how they do it in soccer and most of all, studied Sydney football.

Burkinshaw maintained that Sydney footy was not as tribal as it is interstate.  Players come to play their game and go.  They don’t stick around for the next game and they certainly don’t stay all day.

He decided the answer was divisionalisation where teams from various clubs would be best suited playing against each other.  So, apart from the Premier League competition, a reserve grade team which might have battled in the senior division was dropped to third or fourth division in the new setup.

He took advice from clubs and said there was no real opposition to the model.  He got members from each club in a room and put his proposition.  It took over three months in the planning and together with colleague, Bob Robinson, they introduced a competition which has, for the most part, extremely successful.

There are more teams winning games and all but St George, Camden and Illawarra clubs, from twenty four participating in the Sydney league,  have participated in finals.

This new and novel competition has promoted success in other clubs too.  Penrith who were down to one team now boast three, North-West are fielding more sides along with Camden and their a four new clubs now participating in the competition.

This new system leaves it open for established teams to field more teams and enthuse new or junior clubs to field senior teams.  The way is open for more clubs but most particular, nearly all competitions are competitive.

The downside to divisionalisation is that clubs MUST be particularly organised.  Three teams could be playing at three different locations so all players must commit themselves to turn up, each team must be a self contained unit: umpire (if required), goal umpire, runner, water boys, manager, runner etc.

At least one Sydney initiative has succeeded.  Change can be so very difficult to introduce.

Top photograph shows Frank Dixon, the lower image is of Garry Burkinshaw.  The documents are taken from the Football Records of the day.